Can You Put a Tent in The Washing Machine?

A tent is one of the essential gears you can take camping. It is not a one-time-use product. You can use it for many camping trips if you can maintain it properly. When you have spent a few days in nature, your tent might need cleaning before storing it up until the next trip.

Otherwise, dirt might be stuck in your tent, which can harm the tent. That is why you should take proper care of your tent by keeping it clean.

Washing your tent might seem like a hassle, and you might want just to put it in the washing machine to clean it. But is it safe? Well, let’s find out.

Can You Put a Tent in Washing Machine? You Need to Know

Although it might seem tempting and easy, do not put your tent in the washing machine because it will destroy the entire tent. You might end up having the tent fabric stretched and torn, the seams and mesh broken entirely with the swirls of the washing machine. 

Using a washing machine is only helpful in shortening the lifespan of a tent. Tents cannot survive the intense spinning and agitation of a washing machine. Simply said, they were not designed for machine washing.

Nylon is the most common tent material. A nylon tent will probably stretch out and become thinner if you wash it in the machine. But this can deteriorate the tent quality and for that, you would need to replace the tent frequently. This will be expensive. 

The waterproof covering of nylon and polyester protects them from the outside, but they cannot tolerate any wash cycle or washing machines. This will cause damage to the waterproof covering and if this happens, it will not be able to protect you from rainwater. 

As mentioned before, washing machines can also destroy the UV coatings of a tent. UV coatings protect you from radiation. If it goes off, then you might get harmed by the radiation. And you know solar radiation is not good for your body. So, you have to wash in a way so that the UV coating stays on the tent.

There is an interior tent and a rainfly on most two-wall tents. So, it might seem safe to wash in the washing machine. But actually, it will harm the tent. And if this causes tears in your tent, then your tent will become useless. 

So, do not use a washing machine, even if the manufacturer’s instructions say you can. Also, never putting your tent in the dryer is a further piece of caution.

It is best to hand wash your tent if you want to use it for a long time. Tents cannot withstand vigorous cleaning. The best hand washing methods use gentle scrub brushes. You do not want to take the chance of destroying any of the mesh or fiber parts of your tent.

How to Clean Your Camp Tent?

On your camping adventure, your tent endures everything: rough terrain, harsh rain, or sunlight. It can get dirty, and the fabric will lose its color. So, you better clean your tent after the trip otherwise it will get more damaged, and there can be a bad odor coming out of it.

There are many ways and methods to clean your tent. You can choose any method that seems convenient for you. However, there are some basic ingredients you will need to clean your tent despite the method you follow. The ingredients you might need to clean the tent are- 

  • A non-abrasive sponge
  • Mild soap
  • Lukewarm water
  • A piece of a soft cloth or a brush
  • Washer liquid
  • Soapy water and Nikwax tech washer, etc.

However, ensure not to use harsh chemicals while washing your tent as this may harm your tent fabric.

You can just clean your tent with the basic cleaning steps.

  • First, you need to unzip all the tent zippers. 
  • Then make the inside of the tent outside. 
  • After that, you need to shake it properly so the loose dirt and debris fall out.

There are some waterproof coating areas and protective coating areas on your tent, which you can wash with soapy water. Although a polyester tent is quite sturdy, keep in mind that these areas are extremely, you should use cold water instead of warm, and non-detergent soaps to clean them.

If you have any specific spot that is hard to clean, you can use a soft cloth or brush to scrub the area with mild soap. But otherwise, you do not need to scrub the entire tent. 

Next, you can soak your tent in lukewarm water in a bathtub or a large bucket. But make sure not to harm the tent poles and seam seals. You can immerse the rainfly and let it soak for some hours. It will wash the dirt away.

After some time, you can drain the tent to make the soap disappear. Then, set the tent outside in a shady area and leave it to dry for some hours. And this will leave you a clean tent.

How to Clean Your Tent with Mold?

If your tent has been exposed to rain on your camping trip, it will need a good wash after you return home. Damp polyester tent fabric can cause mold, and a funky smell can come from it. 

The best DIY trick for removing mold and mildew odors from your tent is vinegar combined with lemon juice. You will want lemon juice, vinegar, and a large tub to immerse your tent. You can combine the warm water, vinegar, and lemon juice in your bathtub. You should let the tent soak in the mixture for an hour to eliminate the bad odor.  

Due to its acidity, vinegar can work as a mold and mildew killer. When combined with lemon juice, it creates a poisonous cocktail that can kill microorganisms and eliminate odors. Additionally, the lemon juice will prevent your tent from smelling like pickles.

However, do not immerse the tent for any longer than instructed to prevent the waterproof polyurethane coating from degrading. Also, use protective sprays on tents and allow them to dry completely before storing them to avoid mold and mildew from growing.

Also, mold may grow on damp tent fabric, giving it a musty smell. You can use a professional enzyme cleanser to clean a tent that is infected with mold. To prevent eroding the waterproof polyurethane coating, ensure not to soak the tent for too long. Otherwise, it can harm the material of the tent.

Cleaning the tent might damage the mesh, and cause leaks. You need to repair the damages and fix the leaks before they become a bigger problem and make your tent useless.

Related: Why do you need to heat the tent?

How to Clean Your Tent with a Bad Odor?

Due to being damp for several hours, there can be a funky smell or foul odor in your camping tent. To get rid of the tent you should wash it properly. You will need a sizable tub, warm water, and a sizable quantity of mild dish soap to eliminate this odor.

In a big tub, combine warm water and mild detergent. Immerse the tent for an hour or more in the mixture. Take the tent outside, then carefully scrape the surface with a soft brush. You may get rid of the polyethylene layer by doing this. Before packing the tent for your trip or storage, carefully clean it and allow it to dry completely. However, if your tent is a pop-up tent, then you can try the lemon juice and vinegar mixture spray to clean off any foul odor from it.

While at the camp, when you smell any foul odors, you can always use a tent air freshener to mask the smell for some time. However, make sure not to use any fruity fragrances as they can attract animals and insects which might disturb you. 

It is preferable to use an odor remover made for tent camping. Enzymes in these goods are activated when combined with water. The enzymes operate to get rid of unpleasant smells.

Read more: How To Wash Hair While Camping?

How to Store The Tent?

The most important rule of storing a camp tent is to store it dry. So, after you have returned from your trip, wash the tent first and then air dry it thoroughly. You can set it up in your backyard and lawn or any dry, cool space with enough sunlight to let it dry. If you do not have enough large space to pitch it, you can drape or hang it to dry.

Mold and foul odor do not only grow in tents from camping but also can grow due to lack of proper storage. Mildew develops on damp materials, giving tents a musty smell and deteriorating polyurethane waterproof coatings. Moisture also begins to degrade coatings over time chemically. A neglected tent needs significant intervention or replacement if it gets flaky, sticky, or smelly.

Do not store your tent in the stuff sack, although it is excellent for backpacking. The stuff sack is not so good for long-term storage. So, it is best to use an old pillowcase or mesh bag of compatible size.

Final Words

If you love camping, then caring for your tent is very important as you can not think of the outdoor without one. Cleaning, repairing, and storing are all part of the caring process of a tent. Caring for it will shelter you from the outside environment while you camp and make your experience more wonderful.


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