Clean Your Tent – 4 Ways to Deal with Mold and Mildew

Mold mildew tent

There is nothing quite as alarming as seeing spots of mold or mildew on your tent. It is a sign that your tent was either still wet when you stored it or that it was not placed in the best of conditions. Of course, none of this really matters when you are faced with having to remove these stubborn organisms from your tent.

Fortunately, many people have faced this problem and have come up with ingenious ways of dealing with it. This article deals with the most successful ways of ridding your tent of mold and mildew.

A Few Words of Warning

Before you get started, there are a few things that you need to know about. These points are imperative to ensuring that your tent is properly – and safely – cleaned of all of the mildew and mold. They are as follows:

  • It is imperative that you start your cleaning the moment that you notice the mold or mildew has set in. You should not wait as the problem will only get worse. If the growth is in its early stages, there is still a chance that you can save your tent. However, if the mildew or mold is left unchecked, it can permanently damage the material it is growing on, rendering your tent utterly useless. This is why immediate action is the best.
  • Do not machine wash your tent. It is unappealing to think of managing all of that fabric by yourself. However, putting your tent in a washing machine is just going to damage it further, perhaps beyond repair. Washing machines are meant to be quite aggressive with the clothing, pulling and turning it in various directions. The tent fabric may be unable to withstand this, and this could cause it to stretch or tear. On a similar note, you should never machine dry your tent either. A bathtub is a great place to wash your tent if you are looking for some extra room.
  • Do not use bleach! The most logical way of getting rid of mold or mildew may seem to spray bleach on the problem. Bleach, even its diluted form, is simply going to do more harm to the tent fabric. The surface of tent fabric has been meticulously treated to ensure that it has all of the qualities necessary for camping shelter. Bleach will cause all of these treatments to deteriorate. On top of all of this, it will undoubtedly discolor the fabric as well.
  • You should be extra careful if your tent is made of canvas. Most home remedy treatments and even commercial cleaners are meant for other materials. Therefore, you should double check that the treatment is safe to use on canvas.
  • Don’t let the tent soak for too long. Some remedies do call for you to soak the tent for a certain amount of time. While short periods are fine, don’t let the tent be submerged for hours on end, let alone overnight. This method, too will cause all of those treatments to breakdown.
  • Wash the tent out thoroughly if you are using commercial detergents, especially those with a soap-like consistency. Do not let any of the residue remain. Rinse out the material a couple of times in fresh water to make sure that no particles have remained.
  • Always spot test any remedy that you are going to use. Try it on a small portion of the tent first and then wash it out. If there are no negative results after a while, you can continue with the remedy on the entire tent.
  • If you are going to brush the tent, make sure to use the softest brush possible. Even with sponges, you should not use the abrasive side of the sponge to clean your tent. Avoid using too much pressure when you are scrubbing the parts with mold as this can destroy the top layer and even weaken the fabric.

DIY Remedies to Get Rid of Mold and Mildew

1. Vinegar Treatment

You will need:

  • Soft bristled brush
  • Sponge
  • Vinegar
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Water

The first thing you will need to do is to brush the tent while it is still dry. You don’t need to brush the entire tent just the spots where the mildew is particularly apparent. This is so that you can get rid of as much of the mildew as possible straight away. Dilute a quart of vinegar in warm water.

To this mixture, stir in about half a teaspoon of dishwashing soap – no more. Using the sponge, gently wipe down the entire area. You need to make sure that all of the material is treated. Once you have thoroughly cleaned it, it is time to focus on the severely affected spots.

Dip your soft brush into the solution and scrub these spots. You shouldn’t use too much force or you will cause tears. Then, make sure that is dried completely before you put it away.

2. Lime Juice and Salt Remedy

You will need:

  • Technical fabric cleaner
  • Sponge
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 gallon of water

Before trying out this remedy, you are first going to need to clean your tent thoroughly. Since tent fabric is very specific, it is vital that you use technical fabric cleaners. A good option is Gear Aid ReviveX Pro Cleaner. This way, you don’t have to be concerned about doing any undue damage to the tent surface.

If you cannot get a technical fabric cleanser, make sure that whatever you do use is a non-detergent. Rinse out the tent thoroughly and then dry it completely. Then, mix the lime juice, salt, and water together. Then, using the sponge, you can spot treat the mildew spots.

Since you have used a commercial cleaner, the mildew or mold that has yet to show should be destroyed. Then let the tent dry completely before you decide to put it away. When using commercial cleaner it is important to follow the instructions printed on the product.

3. Use Professional-Grade Cleaners

Sometimes, home remedies may just not cut it and you may need something a little stronger. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of products out there on the market that have been specifically created for tents. There are some options, however, such as the Iosso Mold and Mildew Stain Cleaner. It doesn’t contain chlorine or other forms of bleach.

Therefore, you don’t have to worry about damage or discoloration. It is also non-toxic and biodegradable. This product comes in powder form and if used in full, can cover 450 square feet of fabric. You will have to dissolve the powder in the water and then either clean the entire tent or spot clean. The solution should be left on for about 15 minutes and then rinsed thoroughly. The tent should then be fully dried before putting it away.

4. Odor Reducing Treatment

The only thing worse than the mold or the mildew is the smell that it leaves behind. As you are probably aware, it is not easy to get rid of this smell. Most products and treatments simply mask the smell instead of getting rid of it.

If you find that all of your previous attempts have failed, you may want to give Gear Aid Mirazyme a try. It is a microbe based cleaner that is activated with water. It targets the bacteria that is causing the odor and eliminates it completely. This deodorizer is excellent at getting rid of other smells too so it is worth it to keep it around the house.

Not only is Mirazyme incredibly effective, it is also free of fragrance. So once you have used it, you don’t need to worry about insects being drawn in by the scent.

Tips for After You Clean the Tent

There are a few things that you should do once you are done cleaning off your tent. This will help to make sure that the treatment is as effective as possible.

  • Perhaps the most important thing that you can do is to completely dry the tent. Do not put the tent away unless you are absolutely certain of this fact. If you neglect to check this, you are just inviting the mold and mildew to grow once more.
  • When you are drying your tent after the treatment, make sure to do so in a shaded area. This is so that you don’t expose the tent to any more UV rays than absolutely necessary. You should avoid trying to dry the tent in a moist or humid area.
  • Regardless of how gentle you might have been, there is a good chance that the waterproof layer on your tent is gone. This means that you will have to reapply it once you are certain that all of the mold and mildew has been removed. There are several products that are capable of doing this. Nikwax, in particular, has a wide range of waterproofing products. If you are looking to take care of two problems at once, you can try the Nikwax Tent and Gear SolarProof Waterproofing Spray.

How to Prevent Mold and Mildew from Growing

The best way to deal with mold and mildew is to avoid it in the first place. So, how can you do it? All it takes is a little bit of effort once you are done with your camping trip.

There is always a possibility that you are going to get caught in a shower of rain while you are camping. After all, that is why your tents are waterproof in the first place. It is best not to let the water or the moisture linger on the tent’s surface for too long, however. Make sure to wipe it down once the rain has ceased. This should be done for the inside of the tent as well as the outside. Don’t forget, mildew and mold can grow on the inner walls as well so it is best to take of both these areas at once.

Of course, at some point, you are going to need to pack up your tent before it has the chance to dry completely. In this instance, you are going to need to unpack as soon as you get home. Now, it depends on just how long the wet material has been packed up. If it has been a short drive, you can simply hang the tent out to dry.

However, if it the moist tent has been bundled up for a while in a closed case or bag, you may need to take further precautions. Here, the best thing to do is to just wash out the tent completely. Even if the tent is completely dry, you should wash it if there are spots of dirt on it. Soil or any other dirt can act as the perfect environment for fungus, mildew, and other harmful agents to grow.

When cleaning the tent, the same rules apply as above. You shouldn’t put the tent in the washing machine, don’t use detergent soap, and avoid harsh chemicals. It is in your best interest to use an enzyme cleaner that has been specifically designed for tents. The aforementioned Gear Aid ReviveX Pro should work well as well. Enzymes work to specifically target the microbes that are responsible for the growth of mold or mildew. They work well against the spores that are not yet visible and stop the problem before it ever begins.

It is also important to store your tent in the right environment once it has dried. For instance, keep it in a clean, dry area preferably with lots of circulation. You should avoid moist or humid air that always mold and mildew to thrive. It is a good idea to check your gear every so often when you are not using it. This helps to eliminate the issues before they become too substantial.

These are the way that you can get rid of mold and mildew on your tent. With these tips, you will also be able to prevent the growth and proliferation of the microbes as well!


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