How to Clean a Tent with Mold

Mold and its cousin mildew is the last thing you want on your tent. Mold, however, isn’t always obvious as it could easily pass as dirt or a typical stain. But if you notice spots or patches no matter how tiny, it’s worth checking them out.

If it’s a mold problem, you need to act fast before it renders your tent useless. We all know mold has the potential to spread quickly especially if the environment is favorable.

So, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see mold growths on your tent? Grab a bottle of bleach and spray it on the affected area? Nothing kills mold faster than bleach, right? Right, but never make a mistake of using bleach to clean mold off the tent.

While it’s effective on hard, non-porous surfaces like countertops, bleach can damage and discolor your tent’s fabric.

Before you try any remedy, test a small area of the tent, preferably somewhere less noticeable to make sure it’s safe for your tent. Be extra cautious if you are dealing with canvas tents. Also, never machine wash or dry your tent in a dryer.

Here’s how to clean a tent with mold safely and effectively.

Solution #1: The Basic Warm Soapy Water

You should start with the basic warm water and non-detergent soap. It might turn out to be all you need to get rid of mold and mildew from your tent.

1. Set up tent. It’s easier to clean a tent when it’s pitched.

2. Remove any loose dirt or dust around the affected area with a cloth, soft bristle brush or soft sponge. For canvas tents, use a stiff bristled brush.

3. Using the warm soapy water, wash the nylon/polyester tent using a sponge. Always use the non-abrasive side of the sponge. If you are dealing with a canvas tent, use the stiff bristle brush instead. But scrub the areas gently.

4. Rinse the tent off with clean water.

5. Allow the tent dry completely.

If this solution doesn’t work, it’s time to kick things up a notch with some homemade cleaning solutions.

Solution #2: The Magical Vinegar

Vinegar is referred to a cleaning powerhouse for a very good reason.

Mix ¼ cup white vinegar with 1 cup of warm water in a spray bottle or bowl.

1. Follow the above (2) steps of pitching tent and dirt removal.

2. Spray the mixture onto the mold-afflicted spots. Allow it to sit a minute before scrubbing with a sponge, cloth or brush (depending on the tent’s material as mentioned above). If you mixed the solution in a bowl, dip a sponge, cloth or brush into the mixture and work into the affected area.

3. Do not rinse. Let the solution do its magic.

4. Allow the tent to dry completely while fully pitched if possible.

If you are dealing with a stubborn mold or mildew, repeat this process.

Solution #3: The All-Natural Lemon

Lemon juice, salt, and water combo is another effective formula that can help remove mold from your tent.

Mix 1 cup of salt and 1 cup of lemon juice with 1 gallon of hot water. Follow the same exact steps described in solution #2 above. Repeat if needed.

I’ve read in some places about using the above combination and Lysol multi-purpose cleaner mixed with warmish-hot water. The lemon juice mixture is used to rinse off the Lysol solution. I’ve never tried this myself but, I would be up for it.

The only thing that worries me is the Lysol scent. It will attract bugs and other small insects to your tent. Also, some Lysol cleaners contain bleach. So if you decide to try this method, ensure the cleaner is bleach free before buying.

Solution #4: The Antibacterial Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is another great warrior against mold and mildew. This essential oil, also known as melaleuca oil, is naturally anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. So it stands a very good chance of winning this fight.

On the downside, however, it has a strong scent which might be a turn off if you are not a big fan of scents. The smell can even take days to dissipate hence attracting bugs to your tent.

It’s also a little bit more expensive than the other alternatives.

Keep in mind tea tree oils are not created equal. For desirable results, always go for 100% pure and natural tea tree oil. They are often packaged in dark glass bottles to prevent quality loss when exposed to light.

Mix 2 teaspoons of the essential oil with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle/bowl. Give it a good shake until the solution is thoroughly mixed.

1. You know the drill by now (wiping dirt off).

2. Spray or apply the solution directly on mold or mildew.

3. Do not rinse.

4. Allow it to air dry.

If the mold or mildew is still apparent, add white vinegar to the mix and repeat the procedure.

What Next?

After using these methods, there is a possibility you may have damaged the waterproof coating. You can test the tent to see if the waterproofing is compromised or just reproof the tent after it dries. Be sure the tent is completely dry before you do any reproofing.

There are many waterproofing products out there; make sure you get the right type for your tent. Also, read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before doing anything.

What About the Mildew Smell?

Everyone knows how annoying and irritating mildew smell can be. And the worst part? The unpleasant musty odor that still lingers around the tent after all the cleaning and drying.

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to get rid of mildew smell. Get the all-natural  MiraZyme. It’s one of, if not the best mildew odor eliminator around.

How to Prevent Mold and Mildew from Invading your Tent

• Before packing your tent, shake/sweep as much trash and dirt off the tent.

• Never pack a wet tent. Hang it to dry in the shade away from direct sunlight if the weather is favorable, of course. But if you must pack it wet for some reason, dry it out the first opportunity you get. Mold and mildew thrive on wet fabrics.

• Always store your tent in a cool, dry area, away from sunlight. It’s also wise to store it in a large breathable bag.

The best solution for mold and mildew is to take the necessary precautions to avoid it. But if it strikes, deal with it as soon as possible to prevent growth.

About Annie

I'm an avid outdoor person. Free spirit. Realist. Night owl. Documentary and music lover.

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