How to Clean a Tent With Mildew on It

How to Clean a Tent With Mildew on It
Packing up a tent when it is still wet invites mildew to grow between the tent fabric and waterproof coating. If the tent is not set up again and allowed to dry soon after it is packed wet, the mildew will spread and permanently stain and damage the tent walls. If this does happen, your tent can still be cleaned and the mildew killed. If the damage is not too great, the waterproof coating also can be restored.


Difficulty: Moderate

Clean the Tent

Things You’ll Need:
  • Nonabrasive sponge
  • Nondetergent soap (technical fabric cleaner)
  • Waterproof tent sealer
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup salt
  • Water
Step 1
Set up the tent in a dry place. This may be farther down the trail after rain has stopped or in your backyard after your camping trip.
Step 2
Mix a nondetergent cleaner, preferably one designated for technical fabrics, with water according to the directions on the container.
Step 3
Scrub the tent walls with the sponge and solution. This may not kill the mildew in the most visible places, but may kill any spores that are not visible on the tent yet.

Soak the Tent

Step 1
Mix a small amount of the cleaner with 20 gallons of water in a bathtub. About 1 oz. of cleaner should be adequate, but consult the instructions on the cleaner's container to be sure.
Step 2
Soak the entire tent in the bathtub. Swirl the tent gently with your hands to ensure all parts of the tent are affected by the cleaner. After swirling the tent, remove it from the bathtub.
Step 3
Hang the tent to dry. When the tent is halfway dry, set it up in the shade and allow it to dry completely.

Spot Treat Mildew Stains

Step 1
Apply the technical fabric cleaner directly to the mildew spots on the tent walls and scrub with the sponge. Set the tent up in a shaded area and allow to dry.
Step 2
Mix 1 cup salt, 1 cup lime juice and 1 gallon of water.
Step 3
Scrub the mildew stains with the solution and allow the tent to dry.

Repair Damaged Areas

Step 1
Remove peeling portions of the waterproof coating from the tent walls until the fabric is smooth.
Step 2
Apply waterproof tent sealer to the damaged areas. Evenly coat the area with the sealer.
Step 3
Allow the tent to dry.

Tips & Warnings

The cleaning process may not remove all mildew stains from the tent. However, it will kill all mildew spores, preventing further growth of the fungus and eliminating odors from the tent.
Never put your tent in a washing machine or dryer. The violent action of these machines can split seams and damage your tent's waterproof coating.

Article Written By Jim Jansen

Jim Jansen has been writing articles since 2005 and has been featured in publications such as "The River Watch," and also contributes to and LIVESTRONG.COM. He has a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing from Michigan State University. Jansen specializes in outdoor recreation and environmental topics.

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