Can You Put Tents In The Dryer? (How To Clean Your Tent)

Tents get wet, there is no way around that. You might have just come back from a camping trip and you got rained on, that’s never much fun, but you know you need to dry your tent in order to prolong its life and prevent any mildew, mold and funky smells from developing. You might be a little tired from the whole trip and might ask yourself “can you put tents in the dryer?” Today I hope to answer that question and more to help you make the best decision for drying your tent, keeping it clean, and prolonging its life for many more camping trips to come.

So can you put tents in the dryer? Never put your tent in the dryer. The excessive heat and tumbling could damage essential elements of the tent such as seams, mesh, and coating.

First, it is important to know why you shouldn’t put your tent in the dryer and what could result from doing so. Next, you should know how to properly dry out your tent before storing it. Storing properly is the next step, but make sure your tent is completely dry and somewhat clean. Follow these steps after each camping trip and your tent should last you a long time.

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Why Can’t You Put Tents In The Dryer?

It would seem that tents could stand up to anything. After all, they are your lifeline when you are out in the wilderness. Tents are built to shelter you from the elements, but they don’t do so well in man-made heat boxes. Dryers are often too much for your tent to handle and using one to dry your tent could mean the end of its usable life, so tread carefully.

The excess heat in a dryer can weaken the material of the tent and that could lead to rips and tears in the tent. Thinner material is more at risk such as the mesh windows, but heaters can get pretty warm and they spin pretty fast so everything is at risk. The mesh is responsible for proper air circulation while keeping bugs outside. Lots of tents have the metal stakes that the poles attach to and those could end up making rips and tears in the tent when tumbling in the dryer.

Even if the tent comes out of the dryer without rips and tears, the dryer could have distorted or warped parts of the tent from the heat. Excessive heat is dangerous to tents, even while camping you aren’t supposed to leave your tent in the direct sunlight all day (many of us do) But doing so on an extremely hot day in the middle of the desert could cause some serious distortion of your tent. The same is true on the inside of a dryer. If your tent becomes distorted then it could be impossible to pitch it correctly.

Another thing that the dryer could damage is the waterproofing features. Tents have seam taping that could be damaged or they could come off in the dryer and that would allow water to find its way inside your tent when it’s raining. The bottom line is that there is lots of potential damage from putting your tent in the dryer and you should just not do it if you want to continue using your tent for camping adventures. Luckily for you and me, there are proper ways to dry out a tent and they are easy.

How Do You Properly Dry Out A Tent?

The best (and pretty much only way) to properly dry out of a tent is to hang it up and let it air dry. You could also pitch your tent in a dry place and let it air dry that way as well, but hanging it up is easier and more effective. Some of the best places you can hang it up are outside (but out of direct sunlight) in your garage, in your basement, or in your bathtub on a shower curtain rod.

Wherever you decide to hang it up, it is best to extend it out as much as possible. You could also use a fan nearby to circulate some air in an attempt to speed up the process. Don’t think that it will completely dry super fast though, often there are still some moist areas in the seams and small crevices of the tent even when the majority of it is dry. I wouldn’t try using a space heater to dry the tent faster because it might be too hot and cause damage to the tent, stick with a regular fan just to keep air circulating.

It will take at least 24 hours to completely dry but the longer you keep it up the better. This, of course, depends on where you hang it up, the humidity levels, the air circulation, the temperature, etc. Be patient and know that the longer it stays out to dry the better off. Not only do you have to worry about the tent drying properly, but you might want to know about washing it too.

What About Washing Your Tent?

Just like you shouldn’t be putting your tent in the dryer, you also shouldn’t be putting it in the washing machine. I have written a bit more extensively about washing your tent and not using the washing machine in this article.

Basically, in order to wash your tent, you are going to need to do it by hand. I know it is a lot more effort than just tossing it into the washer and dryer, but your tent is your shelter when you are camping and you want to properly take care of it so that it can properly take care of you.

Just like with the dryer, the washing machine can damage a lot of the same things and so you should avoid using it for your tent. You can hand wash it outside using a hose or inside in your bathtub or shower. Both methods require a soft sponge to get off any caked dirt and grime. It is best to use a nonabrasive or tent specific soap to keep your tent clean before air drying it. Take a look at the link above to find out more details on properly handwashing your tent.

The good news is that tents do not need to be washed all that often, only if they are excessively dirty. It’s natural for them to be a little dirty because they are in constant contact with the outside. Depending on your usage, you might have to only wash your tent once a year. Any time your tent gets wet you need to fully dry it though, especially before storing it.

How Do You Properly Store A Tent?

The first thing you need to do is to make sure it is completely dry. A tent that is stored while still damp or has water trapped inside is at risk of mold, and mildew. This will not only make your tent smell very unpleasant but could also do some damage on its own to the waterproofing. When you put your tent away, try to put it loosely rolled and not super tight. The bag that it comes in when you buy it is great for carrying and transportation, but for actual storage, it is too tight and does not allow the tent fabric to breathe.

Where you store your tent is just as important as how you store your tent. If possible, store your tent inside out of the weather like direct sunlight or rain. Ideal places would be inside your house, basement, or garage. Sheds are okay too, but you want the area to be mostly cool and dry for ideal storage. Try to avoid hot or damp storage locations such as the attic, the trunk of your car, or outside. 


Never put your tent in the dryer, instead, you need to hang your tent up and allow it to air dry. Allow adequate time for your tent to dry, probably at least 24 hours. Keep your tent out of direct sunlight if possible when it is drying. You can use a fan to try and speed up the air-drying process, but don’t store the tent unless it is completely dry.

If you need to wash your tent before drying it then do so by hand and do not use the washing machine. Following the steps of proper washing, drying, and storing will prolong your tent’s life and allow you to experience many more camping adventures to come.

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Zachary Smith

Zach is an avid outdoorsman that loves going camping with his Prius every chance he gets. He also regularly enjoys hiking and fishing. When he's not outside you can probably find him writing about it on this website. See his full bio here

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