Technically speaking, you can wash a tent in the washing machine but we strongly advise against it.
While it may be tempting to just throw your tent into the drum when it is covered in dust, dirt, and mud, it is never a good idea.
The agitation and pressure that is generated inside the washing machine can cause serious damage to the nylon fibers of your tent.
This could cause the seams to split, and the fabric or mesh to stretch and tear. There are many better ways to clean and care for your tent that are much more gentle on the material and will not cause damage.
Why can Tents Handle the Outside Elements but not a Washing Cycle?
The seams of a tent use a technology known as seam taping. This can very easily be destroyed by the aggressive movements inside a washing machine.
This will then mean that your tent leaks, or potentially even fall apart.
Washing machines are also likely to damage the mesh. This is used for airflow inside the tent. If the mesh was to break, it would ruin the effectiveness of the mesh in terms of keeping bugs and other wildlife out.
The coating of tents is made from a laminate-type material. Washing machines can reach quite high temperatures and this can lead to the laminate corroding.
This coating is what waterproofs your tent. Therefore, if it rains and the coating of your tent is damaged, the interior will get wet very quickly.
How to Clean a Canvas Tent
Your first step is to ensure that there is no dust and debris on the inside of your tent. Take it outside (if it isn’t already) and unzip all of the doors and windows.
Turn the tent inside out and shake vigorously to get rid of any loose debris. If there is still debris, use a vacuum to get rid of this.
If there are any particularly dirty areas of the tent, use a damp sponge and some dish soap to scrub these patches.
Do not use abrasive and other harsh cleaners (such as bleach) as this can damage the material. We do not recommend using laundry soaking liquids either.
Fill a large tub (such as a bath) with lukewarm water. Find a cleaning solution that has been designed for use on outdoor gear. Add some of this to the water.
Keeping your tent inside out, submerge in the tub of water. Make sure to include the rainfly too. Leave them to soak for an hour or so.
Once this time has elapsed, allow the water to drain out of the tub. Refill the bathtub with clean, lukewarm water.
Submerge the tent once more and move it around the tub to rinse the cleaning solution off. Continue to repeat this process until the water is clear and no soap remains.
How to Clean a Nylon or Polyester Tent
These are incredibly easy to clean and maintain. Generally speaking, you can just hose them down and this will do the job. If a deeper clean is needed you can follow the same steps listed above for canvas tents.
How to Dry a Tent
Take the tent outdoors and pitch it in a shady spot outdoors. Leave it here to air dry completely. This process should take a few hours.
Alternatively, provided your tent has UV protection, you can simply hang it on a washing line in a sunny area.
If it is pouring with rain and yet you need to dry your tent, don’t worry. You can drape it over a shower curtain and allow it to dry indoors.
>You can also lay it flat on a large table, but remember to flip it every few hours to allow air to circulate.
What if Your Tent is Moldy?
This is likely caused by you putting away your tent for storage while it is wet. This can lead to mold and mildew forming and a musty smell developing on the tent fabric.
You should add a commercial enzyme cleaner to the tub of water. Repeat the process listed above. Take care to read the soaking instructions on the enzyme cleaner and do not leave the tent in for longer than is stated.
If you leave it in for longer, you could potentially cause the polyurethane coating to deteriorate.
This is what helps keep water out of your tent, and so it’s not ideal to remove it if you want to continue using your tent.
An alternative to this is to make a solution of 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water. Apply directly to the moldy areas and leave to work for a few minutes.
Scrub the surface gently with a sponge to remove the mold and then rinse off any residual vinegar with warm water.
How Often Should You Wash Your Tent?
There is no real regularity for this, as it depends on how often and where the tent is used. If your tent begins to smell or has large patches of visible dirt, this is a good indication it could do with a quick wash.
That being said, we recommend shaking the tent out well and ensuring there is no debris or damp patches on the fabric before it’s put away.
How do You Correctly Store a Tent?
You should always allow your tent to dry completely before packing it away for storage.
We suggest storing your tent loosely folded inside a mesh bag or old pillowcase. This is better for long-term storage than the outer packaging it originally came in.
This is because the looser storage allows the tent fabrics to breathe and relax instead of being compressed.
You should store your tent in a cool and dry area. Try to avoid keeping it in the basement, attic, or garage of your house.
We also do not suggest leaving your tent in the car trunk as this is too unstable of an environment.