How to clean your tent
By definition, tents are used in the outdoors and unfortunately that means they get dirty.
Mud, tree sap and bird droppings on the flysheet are among the major hazards that have to be dealt with by campers, while cooking stains and grubby hands can make a mess of the inner tent.
And perhaps the biggest headache of all is mildew, which can make your tent smell and stop it from being waterproof.
As tempting as it might be to ignore these issues, you’d be making a mistake. As well as being unpleasant to look at, they can cause long-term problems that could eventually leave your tent unusable.
Here are some top tips for cleaning your tent and helping to extend its life.
- Start by spreading the flysheet out flat on the ground or, if you have the space, pitching in your back garden. Brush off any loose dirt and clean the affected area with a sponge. Smaller tents could, in theory, go into the washing machine, but it's not something we'd recommend.
- Always use a proprietary tent cleaner, NEVER a detergent or washing up liquid as these will strip off the waterproof finish.
- Cleaning and reproofing materials from brands like Storm, Nikwax, Grangers Fabsil and Fenwick's can be found at most camping shops.
- Stubborn marks like tree sap, birdlime or fatty cooking stains are a real problem. Spray the affected area with stain remover to break down the acid and fats in these stains. Rub over the treated area with a sponge to help remove staining and then rinse thoroughly.
- Dusting tree sap with talc and then rubbing it off is often suggested as a way of dealing with the problem, but we’ve always found this has limited results. Another method is rubbing the resin with an oily substance, such as peanut butter or mayonnaise, but again we get better results from simply using a tent cleaner.
- Bird droppings are particularly unpleasant but are easily removed by brushing off if dry or gently washing away with a mild soap or a tent cleaner. Rinse well well with clean water.
- Mildew is a nightmare. Using neat bleach to remove the spore marks is not even an option – it will remove the fabric colour! The best approach to mildew is to prevent it forming in the first place by always packing away your tent dry. But if mildew spores are present, they need to be treated quickly to prevent any further spread. Sponging down with a weak solution of a sterilising fluid such as Milton is best and will help reduce the musty aroma but it’s unlikely to remove the stain. Ensure that the treated area is allowed plenty of time to dry before packing away.
- After cleaning the flysheet you will need to re-proof it. Suitable products can be purchased from most outdoor shops. See our tips here for tent proofing and general maintence
- Try to wipe the worst of the mud off tent pegs as you pull them out of the ground. On returning home, give them a wash in the sink.