If you are like me then you enjoy some camping no matter what the terrain is like. Some terrain can leave you with a pretty dirty tent. The deserts have high winds that kick up dirt and dust that constantly brush up against your tent and end up inside of your tent. The mountains and forests have rain, mud, bugs, sticks, and debris that end up inside of your tent or attached to the outside. The beach has sand that builds up inside of your tent along with wet salty water that provides a smell that lasts for a long time.
The point is that tents get dirty and if you have a dirty tent then you have got to do something about it. You might have wondered “Can you put tents in the washing machine?” Surely it would be the easiest way to clean it. I wondered this at first when I realized that my tent needed to be clean, and so I did my research and this is what I found.
So, can you put tents in the washing machine? You shouldn’t put your tent in the washing machine because washing machines are too harsh on the tent. Doing so could damage the tent’s seams, mesh, and coating.
A washing machine will most likely damage your tent because the wash cycles are too severe for the tent to handle. The good news is that you can still easily clean your tent in the old fashioned way.
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Why You Shouldn’t Wash Your Tent In The Washing Machine
Tents are tough, they can survive out in the changing elements such as the sun, snow, rain, wind, etc. Unfortunately, they aren’t tough enough to survive in a small steel container that thrashes around for about an hour. Tents are designed to be lightweight and portable shelters. The same things that make a tent great to take camping make them bad for being in a washing machine.
The seams of a tent can be damaged inside of a rough washing machine cycle. Even gentle cycles aren’t gentle enough for a tent in most circumstances. The seams of a tent are often called “seam taping” and they are responsible for sealing up small holes that are created when the different layers of a tent are sewn together. If the seam taping is damaged or comes off in the washing machine it will mean that your tent will not keep water out when it rains. This pretty much renders that tent useless because weather can be unpredictable and any amount of rain will ruin your camping trip if your tent is unable to keep it out.
The mesh on your tent is responsible for allowing proper airflow and venting inside the tent. This is often the most fragile part of a tent. This material would most likely break inside of a washing machine and large holes would develop in the mesh. This renders the tent useless in the sense that now bugs can come in whenever they want to. It is also unsightly to look at.
The coating of your tent also plays an important role and could be damaged by the washing machine. This coating is what prevents a tent from being soaked in water. It is notably the most important waterproofing feature of a tent. The rough spinning cycle of a washing machine could crack this coating and render this waterproofing feature useless.
So it is just a bad idea to throw your tent into a washing machine to clean it unless you want to throw it away afterward and go buy a new one. Luckily, washing the tent properly isn’t all that difficult and doesn’t require much time.
How To Properly Wash Your Tent
Method 1: Inside In Bathtub With Sponge
You will need:
- Empty Bathtub or Shower
- Nonabrasive hand soap or tent specific soap
- Soft Sponge
Start by doing a quick cleaning by vacuuming, or sweeping out the inside of the tent. Then, wet the entire tent down with water. Next, begin to apply soap to the soft sponge and rub all areas of the tent with the sponge. Finally, rinse off the soap completely in the tub and then take it somewhere to dry. It is okay to leave the tent in the sun for a little bit, but try not to leave it outside for multiple days because prolonged UV exposure is bad for tents. A clothesline would be ideal for drying the tent but draped over a wall or over some chairs works as well. Be extra careful not to put the tent on a sharp surface like a chain-link fence. Once the tent is completely dry you can properly store it.
Method 2: Outside With Hose And Sponge
You will need:
- Nonabrasive hand soap or tent specific soap
- Soft Sponge
This method is basically the same as in the shower or tub except you are outside and using a hose. Start by doing a quick cleaning by vacuuming, or sweeping out the inside of the tent. Then, wet the entire tent down with water. Next, begin to apply soap to the soft sponge and rub all areas of the tent with the sponge.
Finally, rinse off the soap completely in the tub and then take it somewhere to dry. It is okay to leave the tent in the sun for a little bit, but try not to leave it outside for multiple days because prolonged UV exposure is bad for tents. A clothesline would be ideal for drying the tent but draped over a wall or over some chairs works as well. Be extra careful not to put the tent on a sharp surface like a chain-link fence. Once the tent is completely dry you can properly store it.
How Often Should You Wash Your Tent?
You should only wash your tent as often as you see fit. I wouldn’t give it a certain time interval because tents see different usage by different people. They are also exposed to harsher elements at different rates by different people. So you should only need to wash your tent thoroughly when the tent either develops a foul smell or there is obviously caked-on dirt, mud, etc.
However, you should do a quick general cleaning after every usage. Firstly, you should clear out anything that is left inside of the tent before you put it away. This will prevent any damage from foreign objects when the tent is to be stored. Next, you want to clean out the interior of the tent by removing any sand, dirt, dust, leaves, rocks, etc. You can do this by either sweeping the inside with a regular broom and dustpan, or you could turn the tent inside out and shake it thoroughly (shaking it out is best done with two people).
Additionally, when you are done quickly cleaning the interior, try to remove any caked-on mess on the bottom of the tent. The bottom of the tent is obviously going to most likely be the dirtiest part of the tent. Try to remove any major things that might be stuck to the bottom and when you roll the tent up for storage, fold the tent in a way to prevent the bottom of the tent from touching other parts of the tent.
So you should only need to really wash the tent at your own discretion when it smells or there is a lot of caked-on mess. This could be a couple of years in between washing depending on its usage. You should also do the quick cleaning after every use to ensure the longevity of your tent.
How To Properly Store Your Tent After Washing
Storing your tent properly is the next step after washing it. Never store your tent long term unless it has been properly dried out. Not doing so could lead to mold and mildew, and a foul odor on your tent. Obviously, if you are just leaving a campsite and your tent is still wet then you can temporarily put it away, but remember to take it back out to dry completely when you get home.
The ideal way to store your tent isn’t actually in the bag it comes in. Those bags are too tight to allow the fabric to breathe. If possible, store your tent more loosely rolled than what the bag you bought it in allows. You can and should lightly cover it with a dry cloth or towel to prevent dust from building upon it. Not having the tent in a completely sealed bag will help it to last longer and better help the fabric from becoming moldy or mildewy due to trapped unseen moisture that might still be in the tent even if it seems to be completely dry.
Store your tent inside if at all possible to keep it from being in the elements at all times. A garage or shed would be ideal if you don’t want to bring it into the house. The tent poles should also be stored in a way to reduce the tension on the shock cords that are inside of them. Proper storage of the poles will prolong their life as well, which is essential to make the entire tent functional. Store your tent clean and it will return the favor by lasting for a long time.
Don’t be tempted to just throw your tent in the washing machine because doing so will most likely damage the tent’s seams, mesh, and coatings. You can properly wash your tent outside with a hose and sponge or inside your bathtub with a sponge. You shouldn’t need to wash your tent thoroughly every time you go camping because the tent is designed to be a little dirty. Storing your tent properly after it has been washed is just as important as washing it in the first place. Follow these steps and your tent will last you for many more camping trips to come.
My Favorite Camping Gear
- Air Mattress: click here to check out my favorite on Amazon.
- Tent: click here to see my favorite tent available on Amazon.
- Sleeping Pad: click here to check out the one I love on Amazon.
- Sleeping Bag: click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.
- Camping Stove: click here to see the best camping stove on Amazon.