How to Clean Your Camping Tent: Professional Tips and Techniques

After exciting days exploring the outdoors, your tent invites you back each night with the promise of shelter and rest. But the joys of camping shouldn’t include sharing your space with accumulated dirt, grime and spills. A good deep cleaning restores your tent to like-new freshness while removing odors, allergens and bacteria. Taking proper care of your home away from home preserves performance and extends its lifespan. This comprehensive guide will teach you how to clean your camping tent effectively after trips and store it properly between adventures. With the right tools, techniques and tenacity, you can banish the mud and mildew before your next backcountry getaway. Let’s restore the sparkle to your trusty tent!

Assess the Dirt

Inspect your tent after a camping trip to assess how dirty it is before planning your cleaning strategy. Look inside and out for:

  • Loose dirt like dust, leaves, grass, sand
  • Stuck-on dried mud or clay
  • Food or beverage stains
  • Sap, bird droppings or grease spots
  • Mold, mildew, algae growths
  • Bug carcasses
  • Pet fur or human hair

Make notes on problem areas needing special attention. For mild dirt, a rinse and wipe down will restore your tent. Heavily soiled tents require more intensive scrubbing.

Set up a Cleaning Station

Choose an appropriate setting to clean your tent. Your yard, driveway or a campground car wash station works well. Select an area with:

  • Access to running water via spigot or hose
  • Adequate space to lay the tent out
  • A surface you can wet and clean on
  • Good ventilation to dry
  • No dirt or debris

Cover the ground with a tarp to protect your tent fabric during cleaning. Have all your supplies nearby:

  • Garden hose with spray nozzle
  • Sponges, soft brushes
  • Mild detergent or tent cleaner
  • Stain removers, degreaser
  • Large basin, tub, wheelbarrow or plastic kiddie pool
  • Ropes for hanging tent to dry

Remove Loose Debris

Before deep cleaning the fabric, eliminate surface debris by:

  • Using a soft-bristle broom or brush to sweep away any dirt, leaves, pine needles, etc.
  • Shaking out the tent vigorously to dislodge particles inside and out.
  • Vacuuming the interior and vestibules with a handheld vacuum.
  • Hosing down the exterior to rinse off dust and loosen caked-on dirt.

These simple steps prevent abrasive particles from grinding into the fabric during scrubbing.

Spot Clean Stains

Inspect inside and out for stains and problem areas needing extra attention. Catch them before they have time to set:

  • Gently blot wet spills right away with an absorbent cloth, no rubbing.
  • Spray on a stain remover or mix a solution of warm water, mild detergent and a splash of vinegar.
  • Allow solution to soak for 5-10 minutes to lift the stain.
  • Lightly scrub the area with a sponge or soft brush, then rinse clean.
  • Repeat if needed for tough stains like blood, sap or grease. Don’t oversaturate the fabric.
  • Avoid harsh chemical cleaners that may damage the tent.

Set Up for Scrubbing

Once the tent is free of loose dirt, set it up for cleaning. Follow these tips:

  • Pitch the tent on your tarp cleaning station. Stake down.
  • Unzip doors and windows fully and prop open to access all inside surfaces.
  • Remove any sleeping pads, cots, gear still inside.
  • Detach rain fly if possible and clean separately.
  • Prep your cleaning basin – fill with cool water and add a small amount of mild detergent like woolite or an approved tent cleaner solution.

Handle the Fabric Gently

Use a cautious approach when scrubbing the tent fabric itself:

  • Only use cool water to prevent damaging the waterproof coatings.
  • Mix detergent per label instructions – more isn’t better.
  • Agitate the fabric and lift dirt/stains with your hands rather than brute scrubbing.
  • Keep tent surface damp but not soaked to avoid waterlogging.
  • Rinse with plain water several times to remove all soap reside.
  • Skip the dryer! Always air dry your tent fully.

Focus on dirty foot areas around the door and vestibules. Remove caked mud carefully.

Clean the Frame & Accessories

Don’t forget the other components:

  • Wipe down the exterior tent poles with a wet cloth or sponge. Air dry fully.
  • Use a toothbrush or cotton swabs for zippers.
  • Hand wash stove jackets, window awnings, gear lofts separately in mild detergent.
  • Remove dirt from stakes by wiping down or spraying off.

Restore Water Repellency

Replenish durable water repellent (DWR) coatings after thorough cleanings. These wear off over time. Look for sprays made specifically for tent fabrics. Refreshing DWR makes water bead up and roll off your tent.

Let it Dry Completely

Never pack up a damp tent! Ensure it dries fully before stowing:

  • Take down the tent and lay out flat or hang to dry in the sun.
  • Rotate periodically and towel dry any puddles.
  • Use a fan to speed dry time if needed.
  • Allow at least 12-24 hours or overnight if very wet.
  • Check that seams, folds and corners are totally dry.

Proper Storage

Keep your tent clean between adventures with smart storage:

  • Let cool and dry out first at home if wet from rain or dew.
  • Vacuum out any debris, dirt, or food crumbs before storing long term.
  • Roll up loose, don’t pack tightly. Avoid creasing.
  • Store in a breathable bag or bin, not an airtight space.
  • Avoid hot places like attics or garages that get very hot and cold.
  • Never store a damp tent! Mildew will develop.

Special Case: Mold & Mildew

Musty tent odor, black spots or velvety growth signify mold or mildew. Treat ASAP before it spreads:

  • Pitch tent and allow sunlight and fresh air to kill mold spores.
  • Make a bleach cleaning solution: 1 tbsp bleach per 1 qt water.
  • Spray or sponge onto affected areas, allowing 5 min of contact time.
  • Rinse thoroughly. Repeat if needed. Let dry fully in sunlight.
  • Prevent future mold with proper setup, ventilation and storage.


Still have some questions about cleaning and caring for your camping shelter? Here are answers to some commonly asked questions.

  1. Can I put my tent in the washing machine?

No, don’t launder tents at home! The agitation and pressure water may damage fabric coatings, seams and waterproofness. Hand wash only.

  1. What’s the best way to clean the tent floor?

Remove loose dirt with a broom, then spot clean stained areas with a sponge, detergent and a gentle scrub brush. Rinse thoroughly.

  1. How should I clean the tent rainfly?

Detach the fly and clean separately from the tent, following the same process of rinsing, hand washing, rinsing again and thorough drying.

  1. What cleaning solution ingredients are safe for tents?

Mild detergent, vinegar, baking soda and bleach solutions (diluted) are tent-safe. Avoid harsh chemicals like ammonia, acetone or carpet cleaners.

  1. How can I prevent mildew from growing in my tent?

Set up a tent with good airflow, wipe condensation daily, and fully dry and air out tents between trips. Never store a damp tent.


As you neatly fold your tent freshly scrubbed and dried, remember the times it sheltered you through downpours, adventures, and nights under the Milky Way. A clean tent sets the stage for future escapes, ready to transport you far from the daily grind. Treat your home away from home with care, and it will last for seasons to come. Look forward to many more nights curled up within its haven, as the sounds of the wilderness lull you to sleep. Your next adventure awaits—and so does your faithful tent.



My name is Evelyn and I started Camping The Camp to combine my love of the outdoors with my background in environmental science. I hope you’ll find helpful as you discover the joys of camping. It’s more than a weekend trip - it’s a chance to disconnect from devices, reconnect with loved ones, and make memories to last a lifetime

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