How To Get Rid Of Musty Tent Smell

10 Tips for Cleaning a Smelly Tent

The weather is becoming more unpredictable. This time of year, the crisp, chilly nights invite you to start thinking about your next camping trip. You quickly notice that something smells like it came directly from the garbage can when you take your tent out of storage, and you ponder putting the tent in the same garbage can as the rest of your belongings. Wait. Consider the possibility that you might be able to salvage your stinky tent before you toss it out. A stinky tent may spoil even the most enjoyable camping experience.

I’ll give my suggestions on how to clean a stinky tent and how to keep your tent from becoming the stinkiest child at the campsite.

Tip1 – Preventing a Stinky Tent

Preventing a stinky tent is the first step toward ensuring that your tent has a long life and that you have many years of enjoyable camping. There are various items that should be on your preventative to-do list. Here are a few examples. Following each camping trip, you should take the following steps to avoid the growth of unpleasant organisms and to keep odors at bay.

  • Remove any debris that may have accumulated within the tent. Before putting the tent away, check to see that it is entirely dry. If you believe the water is dry, wait a bit longer for added assurance. Inspect the inside and outside of your tent. Investigate the area for any issues that might result in foul odors.

Tip2 – Determine Why You Have a Smelly Tent

The development of a fragrance in your tent that does not exude calm and tranquillity can be caused by a variety of factors. To properly eliminate the odor from your tent, it is necessary to identify the source of the odor first. Dirt and filth are the most likely culprits behind nose-wrinkling odors. Because camping excursions include a variety of outdoor activities, we end up with a lot of dirt and filth. Our shoes and clothes are soiled with mud and filth. It’s possible that you unintentionally brought an undesirable present from your pet into the house.

  • When dirt and filth naturally develop in a tent during a camping trip, the tent might become odoriferous.
  • I’m referring to mold and mildew in this context.
  • Mold and mildew form on the surface of the water, where they are plainly visible, as is the musty odor that wafts beneath your nose.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage describes the hazards of breathing mold and mildew spores.
  • Third, you may be suffering from a bacterial infection.
  • Bacteria, like mold, may grow on any surface, even on the ground.
  • Finally, a breakdown of polyethylene in your stinky tent might be the cause of the odor.

This is a rare event, but if it happens to you on your camping vacation, it might completely affect the experience. The breakdown of polyethylene will result in the stench of vomit or urine emanating from your tent, but there is a simple solution to this problem.

Tip3 – How to Air Out A Smelly Tent

If you have a bad tent smell, I have discovered that air can be a fantastic cleaning technique for getting rid of it. It is completely free and frequently performs flawlessly. Here’s how to properly ventilate a tent. I recommend taking your tent out of the bag a few days before your next big expedition to allow air to circulate through the fibers, eliminating any unpleasant odors that may have accumulated in there over the years. The most effective method of accomplishing this is to hang your tent from a clothesline.

Simply keep an eye out for any sharp edges that might potentially damage or tear the fabric of your tent’s walls.

Tip4 –How to Clean a Tent with Vinegar and Lemon Juice

Vinegar combined with lemon juice is an excellent DIY solution for getting rid of odors caused by fungus such as mold and mildew in your tent. You’ll need vinegar, lemon juice, a tub large enough to immerse your tent, and a little bit of time to complete this project. Fill your bathtub halfway with lemon juice, vinegar, and warm water. Submerge your stinky tent in the solution and allow it to soak for at least an hour. Even best is to set aside two to three hours. Once you’ve enlisted the assistance of a few buddies, remove the tent from the cleaning solution.

At first, you may hang the tent from a clothesline or place it on a table.

As a result of its acidity, vinegar is an extremely effective mold and mildew killer.

In addition, the lemon juice will assist to keep your tent from smelling like pickles.

  1. 14 cup of white vinegar and one cup of warm water are all that is needed. a cup of lemon juice, a cup of salt, and a gallon of boiling hot water

A spray bottle is filled with both solutions, which have been mixed together. I should point out that the majority of people identify bleach with the destruction of mold and mildew. However, while bleach can stop those nasty germs in their tracks, it is not recommended that you put bleach on your tent. Bleach has the potential to degrade the tent’s fabric, resulting in more difficulties in the future.

Tip5 – Saving a Tent that Smells like Rotten Eggs and Vomit

Furnace fumes and vomit are not scents that should be associated with camping excursions. Don’t be concerned if your tent smells like sulfur or if someone has forgotten where they put their food. You have the option to save it. In addition to having a foul odor, tents that are suffering polyethylene degradation will also have a rotten odor. You will require the following items in order to completely eliminate this odor: a large bathtub, warm water, and a generous amount of mild dish soap are all you need.

Immerse the tent in the mixture for at least an hour, and maybe longer.

Remove the tent from the ground and carefully clean the tent’s surface with a soft brush. The polyethylene coating will be removed as a result of this procedure. Finally, fully clean the tent and allow it to dry completely before packing it up for your vacation or storing it away.

Tip6 – Cleaning a Smelly Pop-Up Tent

Pop-up tents are popular among campers who are traveling alone or with a partner. They might also develop a foul odor. Cleaning tiny tents is necessary, although it is not as critical as cleaning larger ones. Using a spray bottle cleaning solution and popping up your pop-up tent is the most effective way to clean your pop-up tent. You may make your own cleaning solution, such as vinegar and lemon juice, or purchase a tent cleaner that is specifically made for tent cleaning. After spraying the tent with the cleaning solution, allow it to rest for about 30 minutes in a well-ventilated location.

Tip7 – Always Hand Wash Your Smelly Tent

We’ve spoken about a few different techniques to clean your stinking tent. However, I believe it’s crucial to point out that your two hands are the only equipment you’ll need for washing your tent. Tents are not designed to withstand vigorous cleaning. Hand washing with gentle scrub brushes are the best option. However, you must use caution when gently swirling your tent in the enormous tub of cleaning solution. The fibers and mesh components of your tent should not be damaged, and you should avoid doing so.

Tip8 – Never, Ever Use A Washing Machine

It is important to wash your tent on a regular basis in order to maximize its lifespan. Using a washing machine to demolish a tent is a simple and easy technique to shorten its lifespan. Tents are not designed to withstand the amount of spinning and agitation that occurs in a washing machine. They were just not designed to be washed in a washing machine. It is not necessary to use a washing machine even though the manufacturer’s instructions state that you should. Another bit of advise is to never, ever put your tent in the washing machine.

Tip9 – Use a Tent Air-Freshener

During your fantastic camping vacation, your tent will begin to smell, and you will have to get out of it quickly. An air freshener can be used instead of packing it up early in the morning. Caution should be exercised, though. Using a fragrant air freshener may draw the attention of undesirable visitors to your home. My recommendation is to avoid using Lysol or Febreeze products. It is preferable to use an odor remover that has been specifically made for camping tents. These goods include enzymes that are activated when they are combined with water.

The idea is to completely eliminate the odor, not merely disguise it.

Tip10 – Implement Post – Clean Treatments

Fellow campers, we don’t want to put in all of our effort into cleaning our tents just to forget to properly pack them up at the end of the season. Any camping checklist should include instructions on how to store a tent properly. After you have fully washed and dried your tent, make certain that it is absolutely dry. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this tip. Leaving any moisture in your tent may cause mold and mildew to grow, making all of your hard work in the field a waste of time.

Because crumbs are difficult to notice with the human eye, it is critical to properly sweep and clean out the tent before using it.

When storing your tent, don’t jam it into a bag like you would a suitcase. It is preferable to roll it up once you have certain that it is completely dry. Your tent should be stored in a cool, dry location so that it will be ready for you to use on your next camping excursion.

Long Term Care of Your Tent Dwelling

Tents that stink are never fun. They have the ability to swiftly detract from the enjoyment of a wonderful camping experience. Even though I have provided you with a few suggestions for eliminating odors from your stinky tent, I am unable to leave you without some extra recommendations for the long-term care of your tent. There are actions you can do to extend the life of your tent dwelling and ensure that you will be able to enjoy many more camping excursions in the future.

  • Waterproofing is a key step that must not be overlooked. While you won’t need to waterproof your garment after every wash, you should take the time to inspect the seams and fabric for any areas that require care before continuing. It is recommended that you waterproof your tent every two to three years as a general rule.
  • Store your tent in its original bag, or wrap it in a pillowcase if necessary. Pillowcases are excellent since they are loose and allow for plenty of air circulation. It has already been noted that you should not be in a hurry to load the tent inside the bag. When you roll up your tent, the tension is distributed uniformly across all seams and sections of the tent.
  • When going on a camping trip, choose a suitable location to put up your tent and take precautions during the setup
  • Before you begin to put up your tent for the first time, be sure you have read all of the manufacturer’s instructions. It’s possible that you’ll need to get acquainted with them again from time to time.
  • It is recommended that you practice your set up at home first. In the comfort of your own home rather than in the untamed outdoors, setting up your tent will be less stressful.

Rid Yourself of a Smelly Tent and Start Planning Your Next Camping Trip

Camping is a popular family activity for many people. The perfect time to get out and appreciate nature to its greatest extent, sleeping beneath the stars and cooking up your favorite camping foods. Each morning, stepping out of your tent and inhaling the fresh air is a wonderful experience. It is this sense of awe that makes all of the effort involved in caring for your tent worthwhile. Tents that smell bad might ruin the memories that you can form when camping. It has the potential to make you feel sick.

Using these simple techniques to clean your stinky tent can make a significant difference.

Stinky Tent? 7 Tips on How to Clean a Tent That Smells

Do you have a stinky tent? It’s not a problem! Here are some pointers on how to clean a tent that is smelling bad and may even have mold growing on it, which I hope will be helpful for you. You’ll even learn how to avoid anything like this from happening in the future if it does. It has been my experience that the best approach to clean your tent if you notice that your tent stinks is to soak it in a container filled with a mixture of lemon juice, white vinegar, and water. This solution will completely eradicate any unpleasant odors and will even kill mold and mildew spores if present.

The last thing you want to do before going camping is clean a tent that smells like old gym socks that have been hanging in your locker all summer!

In addition, at the conclusion of the post, we’ve included a video that walks you through the whole process of cleaning your tent from beginning to end.

Tips for Cleaning a Tent That Smells

It’s possible that you’re getting bored of cleaning your tent every time you pull it out of storage, so you should think about and eliminate whatever it is that’s producing the scent in the first place. When your tent stinks, the most typical explanation is that it has been exposed to too much moisture. Depending on how damp it was, you either put it away immediately or stored it in a way that allowed moisture to leak into the container during storage and transportation. Please keep in mind that just because it may not have rained during your camping vacation does not imply that your tent was not exposed to moisture.

If this small amount of moisture is not allowed to dry fully, it might be the catalyst for mildew or mold to begin developing on your tent, as well as the source of that musty odor you despise so much. Here are a few tips on how to avoid unpleasant odors:

  1. Purchase a tent footprint to use as a guide. Using this method, you may avoid having your tent damaged or rainwater pooling beneath your tent. If it does rain, or if there is morning dew, try to give your tent a quick wipe down rather than waiting for it to dry or packing it up while it is still wet and damp. Alternatively, if you must transport it damp, unpack it and allow it to dry as soon as you reach your next location. Never forget to allow it to dry
  2. When entering your tent, enforce a no-food and no-shoes policy. This prevents crumbs and moisture from going inside the machine and being trapped within. Moisture and food are the two elements that would enable mold and mildew to thrive inside of your tent
  3. Once you’ve returned home, don’t just throw your tent in the corner. After every lengthy vacation, make sure to thoroughly clean your tent. It is important to clean your vehicle at least once for each season that you take it out, especially if it is used largely for short journeys. As soon as you can, gently spot clean any unclean spots that have accumulated. Odors will be less likely to occur as a result of this. And, as usual, allow yourself plenty of time to dry once you’ve done a spot clean.
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Never Wash Your Tent in a Washing Machine

Obtain a tent footprint to use as a guideline. This prevents your tent from becoming damaged or rainwater from gathering beneath your tent. Rather of waiting for it to dry or packing it up wet, if it does rain or if there is morning dew, try to give your tent a quick wash down. If you must transport anything damp, unpack it as soon as you reach at your next location and allow it to dry. Don’t forget to allow it to dry completely; while entering your tent, enforce a no food or shoes policy. As a result, crumbs and moisture are prevented from entering and becoming trapped inside the appliance.

  • Do not simply put your tent away when you get home.
  • After every lengthy vacation, make a point of cleaning your tent completely.
  • As soon as you are able, gently spot clean any soiled spots.
  • Remember to allow plenty of time for drying after you have done a spot cleaning job.

Should You Use Soap or Go All Natural

Cleaning a tent may be accomplished in two ways. When I initially started looking into how to clean my tent, I discovered that all you need to do is wash it with a light detergent soap and air it dry. Dish soap was highly recommended by a large number of individuals. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on fancy products; the brand from the Dollar Store will suffice. If at all possible, choose a product with a light smell or perhaps one that is fragrance-free altogether. In addition, it is commonly recognized that perfumes may attract unwelcome creatures, such as mosquitoes, which is something you absolutely want to avoid at all costs.

After repeated attempts at cleaning my tent, this has become my favored approach.

Handwashing Your Tent

The cleaning process could take a bit longer if your tent is really filthy. In order to clean the unclean spots, you’ll need to put in a little elbow grease and scrape the regions using a soft, nonabrasive sponge. I prefer to use a spray bottle for this purpose. If possible, hand wash the outer textiles and avoid cleaning the underside of the tent flap, as this may result in damage to the waterproof coating. Never scrub too hard, and always be careful with it, since if you are too harsh with it, you might wind up harming your tent and ruining your trip.

When it comes to cleaning, keep in mind that tents are easier to clean if you are able to pitch them. Despite the fact that chemical solutions are available for spot cleaning stubborn stains on tents, I still prefer to use soap and water or a mix of lemon juice and vinegar to clear tough stains.

What if My Tent Has Mold or Mildew

If your tent was stowed away and it was still somewhat moist, there’s a strong probability that mildew, or even worse, mold, had grown on it during the storage period. It’s not an issue! You may use the same vinegar that you used to soak your tent in for this purpose. The only difference is that you’ll want to pour the vinegar into a spray bottle (without diluting it) and add some lemon juice to it before spraying the problem regions with the solution. Allow it to rest for around an hour before wiping it down with a gentle sponge.

Other options include using a mildew and mold stain remover such as Starbrite to get rid of the stains.

How to Store Your Tent Properly

Smelly tents are a camper’s worst nightmare, especially if mold is developing on the inside of them. The most effective method I’ve found for preventing this from happening is to ensure that your tent is entirely dry before putting it away. My method of storing my tent for the winter does not include of packing it up and loading it into my car while camping. As soon as I come home, I wash it thoroughly and hang it outside to dry in the sun, if the weather is cooperative. If the weather isn’t cooperating, I’ll set up the tent in my garage and let it dry for at least 24 hours, if not more, before packing it up for the season.

A couple of ArmHammer baking soda bags are also a smart option if you’re planning on keeping it in a location that’s prone to moisture, such as an attic, basement, or outside shed.

When your tent is not in use, this will not only keep it from smelling, but it will also assist to keep mold from forming on the surface of the tent.


I’m fairly confident that all of the recommendations in this post are safe for use with 99.9 percent of all tents currently on the market. However, before cleaning your tent, make sure to follow the cleaning recommendations provided by the manufacturer, especially if you plan on using any form of chemicals! Cleaning a stinky tent is not a pleasant experience, especially if you have to do it just before a much-anticipated camping vacation with your family. You already have plenty to accomplish in preparations for the trip without adding another task to the list.

4 Simple Steps to Clean Your Stinky Tent

HelloTrail is entirely sponsored by its readers. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of our expert-recommended links, we may get a commission at no additional cost to you. More information may be found here. Taking a breath of fresh camping air after a stressful week at work is the perfect way to decompress and reconnect with nature after a stressful week at work. You begin to gather your belongings: the food, the clothing, the sleeping bag – hmmm – what else do you need to take with you?

The moment you reach within noseshot of the shelter, however, your nostrils are stung by an unpleasant smell!

However, despite the fact that your tent seems to be clean, certain disagreeable scents have found a home among the fabric’s threads. Don’t make a big deal about it, though. I’ll show you how to clean a tent that has a foul odor.

How to Clean a Stinky Tent After Camping

There are a variety of procedures available for disinfecting and deodorizing your shelter. I’ve compiled a list of some of the more popular ones, arranged in descending order of effectiveness. Typically, only one or two approaches are required, but if you want your tent to smell very fresh, feel free to follow the instructions to the letter.

1. Let Your Tent Dry and Air Out The Odors

Prepare the tent for cleaning by hanging it in a well-ventilated place for a few minutes before you start using sponges and soap. While I use a clothesline, you may use the backs of four chairs, or something similar, if you don’t have one available. This enables for unrestricted circulation of air throughout the shelter. Okay, Andrew, that was simple enough, but how long should you let a tent air out before using it? Make sure that all of the forest debris has been removed from the tent and allow it to set for 2-3 days.

If you’ve just washed your tent, you may use this procedure to fully dry it out.

Mildew might develop in the tent as a result of moisture accumulation, and you’ll have to start the process over from the beginning.

2. Quick Scrub to Clean Dirt and Grime

Pitch the tent – believe me when I say that it is much easier to clean this way. Scrub any filthy surfaces with a non-abrasive sponge while using cold water and a mild, unscented dish soap to remove any stains. After you have cleaned the fabric, disassemble the shelter and put any pole supports, stakes, and other accessories to the side for later use or disposal. Allow your tent to dry completely before storing it! (See number one on this list.)

3. Warm Wash to Get Rid of Mold

Don’t get discouraged if your tent has mold. To clean your moldy tent, follow the steps outlined below. To clean up the stench, fill a bathtub or kiddie pool with warm water and unscented soap — I like the latter because it keeps the smell outside my house. Disassemble the tent and soak it in the pool for 10 minutes. Unzip all of the tent’s entrances, pockets, and so on. After that, drain the contaminated water. To rinse, fill the tub with clean water and empty it once again, repeating the process.

Allow your tent to dry completely before storing it!

4. Use Mirazyme Tent Cleaner

Although soap – or your homemade vinegar combination – may be effective in killing mold and mildew spores that have taken up residence in your tent, it is not always effective. In addition to handwashing, you may purchase an enzyme cleanser that is designed specifically for this purpose. The Gear Aid product has worked well for me in the past, and while I was a little concerned about the chemicals eating through my tent’s canvas, they worked perfectly.

Aside from that, it’s biodegradable and beneficial to the environment. Although it is recommended that you use protective gloves when handling. When diluted, use half an ounce of the enzyme cleanser for every 20 gallons of water.

Post-Clean Treatments

Once you’ve done cleaning the nasty tent musk from your clothes, you’ll most likely put them in a closet until the next time you go camping. Instead of calling it quits, think about including a few extra procedures into your post-cleaning routine to extend the life of your shelter and improve its overall quality.

Seam Sealing

In order to learn more about tent seam sealing, please refer to our dedicated article on the subject, which can be found at this link. The basic procedure is to apply sealant to every sewing stitch in the tent using a spray can or a brush, depending on the type of sealant you are using.

Waterproof/UV Protection

Along with waterproofing the seams, you may wish to waterproof the entire tent as well as the rainfly. Nikwax Tent and Gear Solar Proof is the product I choose to use because it is affordable and simple to obtain. Not only will it coat the tent in a water-resistant coating, but it will also protect the fabric from being damaged by ultraviolet rays.

Rare Bug Treatment: Permethrin

This chemical, when applied to any type of tent fabric or clothes (although it is not suggested for underwear or socks), will repel any and all bug pests. Although the application is only valid for six weeks, it might be quite useful if you are planning another vacation in the near future. If you decide to bug bomb your bunker, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and always wear protective clothing.

What’s Causing the Stink?

Now that we’ve learned how to properly clean a tent, let’s have a look at what may be creating the problem in the first place.

Dirt and Grime

The majority of the time, filth and grime may be seen. Despite the fact that these impurities are not the major source of your tent’s odor, it is necessary to remove them in order to prevent the material from wearing out.

Mold and Mildew

If these two fungi are not addressed with in a fair amount of time, they can become a significant problem. Tents with these pollutants have a musty and stale scent about them by default.

WrappingCleaning It Up…

Maintaining the cleanliness of your smelly tent might be time-consuming, but it is necessary if you want to extend the life of your shelter. Should this procedure fail, try the hand wash method and possibly a good soak in an enzyme bath to see if it helps. Make use of the chance to seam seal, waterproof, and bug bomb your tent after it’s all finished drying. As opposed to raising hell, simply remove the object! Andrew’s fascination with the outdoors began at a young age while growing up on a farm in the Midwest and going on family holidays to the West.

He hasn’t come across a phony summit that he doesn’t enjoy yet!

How To Clean a Tent That Smells

You were under the impression that yourtent had been properly stashed away.

If you take it out for the first time for a long camping trip, it stinks to high heaven! Do not be discouraged; you will be astonished at how quickly and simply the problem may be resolved, even if there is obvious mold or mildew. First and foremost, here are the supplies you’ll require:

  • Yourtent appeared to be safely tucked away in its storage unit. If you take it out for the first time for a long camping weekend, it stinks! If you have visible mold or mildew, don’t be discouraged
  • You’ll be astonished at how quickly and simply you can resolve the issue. Things you’ll need to get started are as follows:

The cleaning procedure

The procedure is basic, and it will not take a significant amount of time. It is all dependent on how horrible the tent smells at the time. For this reason, the simple and the difficult routes will be demonstrated to you.

For tents that are not that dirty

The procedure is simple, and it will not take a long time to finish. Really, it all comes down to how terrible the tent stinks. For this reason, the simple and difficult routes will be demonstrated.

  1. You should use white vinegar to your advantage– An entire gallon of the stuff costs less than three dollars at almost any cheap shop or grocery store chain. To begin washing the tent, fill the spray bottle halfway with water and vinegar and shake it up vigorously. If you wish to counteract the vinegar scent, you may also add around a quarter cup of lemon juice, although this is not required. If you want, you may use a disinfectant spray such as Lysol instead, but the vinegar solution is far more dependable and considerably more cost-effective overall. Sprays that are intended to disinfect can also have strong odors that may not be pleasant for all of the tent’s inhabitants. Alternatively, you may set up the tent outside on your patio, yard, or driveway. Remove any debris from the tent and look for any signs of mold or mildew on the inside. If your tent is free of stains but still has a musty odor, you may be able to spray it with your vinegar solution and allow it to dry in the sun for a few hours. If there is mildew or mold on the tent, you will still pitch it, but you will spray plain vinegar on the mildew and allow it to set for an hour before combining the vinegar solution with the water. Spray the entire tent with a 50/50 vinegar solution to keep it from being soiled. After an hour or two, scrub the stain away with a soft brush or sponge that has been soaked in the soap solution. Be delicate so that you do not remove the waterproof coating from the surface. Never use bleach on a tent because it can damage the fibers and cause the tent’s waterproofing to fail. Due to the fact that fragrances attract undesirable animals, it is best to avoid using them in your products
  2. Time required for drying– Once the tent has dried, you will no longer be able to smell the vinegar. If your tent continues to smell, a second application should be applied. Hopefully, the foul odor will have dissipated by this time
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Cleaning badly smelling tents

If the tent is really filthy, I recommend carrying out this task on a concrete surface such as a patio or driveway. Approximately half a cup of mild detergent and half a gallon of vinegar should be added to your bucket or tub after filling it approximately a third of the way with water. You may use one cup of detergent and the remaining vinegar to clean a big tent. After you’ve stirred everything together, pack your tent into the container. You may stir the cloth with your hands or feet, but be careful with your movements.

  • This stage should not be completed with a washboard; although the tent material appears to be strong, the waterproofing is not.
  • Allow for at least an hour of soak time in the tent.
  • It is also the longest.
  • If you have a large tent, recruit some people to assist you.
  • Then, laying the tent out on the pavement, wash out all of the soapy water that has accumulated.
  • Remove the rinse water by wringing it out.
  • One further method of wringing out the water is to lay down the tent and use an empty 5 gallon bucket or circular garbage can as a rolling pin to roll the water out.

Avoid folding, squeezing, ringing, twisting, or smashing the tent excessively.

Using a clothesline, patio furniture, metal fence, or even the bed of a truck, dry the tent once it has been thoroughly soaked.

In order to complete the drying process, take the somewhat moist tent and set it up.

It also gives you the opportunity to check for any stains that may require extra treatment with vinegar and soap.

After all, the tent appears to be in excellent condition, so you could assume you’ve solved the problem.

Nothing degrades a tent’s waterproofing more quickly than running it through the washing machine.

The washing machine will weaken the tent, and the expense of a laundry mat and waterproofing is far greater than the cost of a few drops of vinegar, some soap, and some elbow effort.

If you care for your tent properly, you may prevent this major cleaning task in the future. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Immediately after returning home from a camping trip, shake out the tent and spray it down with Lysol. Before storing it, allow it to air out and ensure that it is totally dry. Check to see that there is no dampness remaining within. Make a loose fold and put it in a suitcase, laundry bag, or other container with enough of airflow to prevent mildew. It is not suggested to use plastic tubs with sealed lids. To keep your tent dry and deodorized, place an open box of baking soda or borax inside it. It is also possible to use a de-humidifyingsilica gel product in the container or storage location if your environment has seasons of wetness or if your storage space has a tendency to become moist over time. Typically, you can get them in the laundry aisle of your neighborhood bargain shop.

A clean, fresh tent that is simple to maintain and operate is vital for your vacation camping adventure in the great outdoors. Make sure to bring your spray disinfectant with you as a precaution so that you may appreciate nature without the musty odor. Making a small investment of time to clean and air out your tent will not be in vain. While daydreaming about your upcoming weekend getaway, have fun with it.

How To Clean A Tent That Smells (Proven Methods)

Is the stink emanating from your tent becoming unbearable? Take back control with these tried-and-true ways for cleaning a stinky tent! In addition, you’ll learn how to determine what’s producing the foul odor and how to avoid it from happening again. Let’s get this party started!

Why Does My Tent Smell?

The most effective method of keeping your tent smelling fresh is to identify the cause of the aromas in the first place. You will be able to completely avoid the unpleasant odors in this manner. The following are examples of common causes:


Most of the time, dirt and filth are not the actual cause of a stinky tent. Filth created by spilt food, on the other hand, might result in mold and mildew, which can cause a tent to smell! Furthermore, excessive grime and filth is just unpleasant and gives the impression that your tent is neglected. If you enter your tent with your shoes on or if you bring snacks and food into the tent, you will most likely bring dirt and other filth with you.


In the event that you roll up and pack away your tent while it is still wet, or if you keep your tent in a damp and moist environment, you will almost certainly be met by mold and mildew the following time you go camping. Mold and mildew give your tent a stale and musty smell, which makes it uncomfortable to sleep in during the daytime. In addition, mold and mildew can create a variety of health concerns if left unattended.

Polyurethane Break Down

The majority of tents are polymer-coated to ensure that they are waterproof. It’s possible that UV rays from the sun will degrade polyurethane, leaving your tent with an unpleasant odor similar to that of pee.

Preventing Tent Odors From Building Up

The first step to having an odor-free tent is to prevent it from happening! Having determined the source of the scents in your tent, let us work to prevent them from occurring in the first place. What if I told you. It is moisture that is the primary source of tent scents. Moisture, whether it comes from rain, humidity, or storage in a wet environment such as a basement, encourages the formation of mold and mildew, which results in a musty odor in your tent. Storage in a clean, dry environment will help to keep your tent clean and fresh-smelling.

  • It’s important to clean off your tent if it rains while you’re camping and allow it to completely dry before packing it up.
  • What about dining inside your tent?
  • Aside from that, mold and mildew — not to mention pests – might find their way inside your tent through the opening.
  • This will assist in removing any little food crumbs from your tent, which can serve as a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

The bottom line is that keeping your tent dry and clean considerably decreases the likelihood of it becoming stinky. As an extra advantage, it minimizes the amount of time it takes to prepare for your next camping excursion!

How To Clean A Smelly Tent

There are a few various approaches that may be used to properly eliminate unpleasant odors from your tent. Depending on what’s causing your odor problem, you’ll need to pick a method (or many ways). Let’s figure out what the most effective odor-fighting strategy is for your situation.

Air Drying

Straightforward and effective, When air-drying your tent, all you have to do is set it up outdoors on a clothesline or other suitable structure, and let the breeze and sun take care of the smell. First and foremost, you’ll want to sweep away any dirt. In two to three days, your tent will have a pleasant scent about it. Good for: Tent smells that have developed as a result of being stored in a musty basement or having filthy garments left in them, as well as stale meals. If you observe any signs of mold or mildew, this remedy will not be effective.

Wash Your Tent

Has dirt or other filth accumulated on the outside of your tent, which might be adding to the awful smell? It may be removed in a short period of time by cleaning it away with clean water and soap. The most efficient way to wash your tent is either to do it while the tent is still pitched or to soak it in water and scrub it with your hands afterwards (do NOT attempt towash your tent in a washing machine). Regardless of the method you pick, the procedure is the same:

  1. To begin, spot clean any sections of the tent that are particularly discolored or difficult, using a soft-bristle toothbrush or other mild cleaning equipment
  2. Then proceed to the next step. Cleaning the tent: Wring out the tent well with a soft sponge and dish soap, paying particular attention to the seams and zippers, where dirt and mold may easily accumulate. Finally, you’ll want to carefully rinse away any soap residue from the tent and allow it to dry before continuing. You may either hang it to dry or leave it in a pitch to dry. Just make sure that your tent is out of the sun throughout the drying process and that you do not place your tent in the dryer to try to speed up the drying process

How to Clean a Tent (with Pictures) || REI Check out our full tutorial on how to clean a tent the proper way for a step-by-step procedure. Notably, if you intend to waterproof your tent, you should do so before allowing your tent to dry out completely. Suitable for: a wide range of odors. Cleaning is an important first step, whether your tent has a musty odor due to mold or mildew, requires a fresh layer of waterproofing, or is just dirty and in need of repair or replacement.

DIY Mold Removers

In the event that your tent has mold on it, warm water and soap may be sufficient to remove it. However, you may use certain common home products to destroy the mold, which will help to reduce the likelihood of it resurfacing.

Lemon JuiceSalt Method

  1. 1 cup of lemon juice, 1 cup of salt, and 1 gallon of hot water
  2. Mix well
  3. Serve immediately. Apply this solution to the mold spots on your nylon/polyester tent and scrub them with a towel or a bristle brush until they are completely gone. An alternate cleaning method for canvas tents is to use a stiff bristle brush. Follow the above-mentioned methods to clean your tent.

Vinegar Method

  1. 1 cup white vinegar to 1 gallon of water is a good starting point. Fill a spray bottle with the mixture and use it to spray the moldy portions of your tent
  2. Remove mold by scrubbing it with a sponge or, if you’re using a canvas tent, a bristle brush. Please do not rinse the tent so that the vinegar may do its magic on the inside of it. Allow the tent to dry completely outside in direct sunshine.

For more thorough information on eliminating mold and mildew from a tent, please see our tutorial on how to clean a tent with mold. This product is recommended for: Tents with mild to severe mold and mildew problems.

Enzyme Cleaners

It is possible that warm water and soap will not completely eliminate all of the mold and mildew. And even if they do so visually, the odor may still be there in the room. Depending on the severity of the contamination, you may require an enzyme cleaner to completely remove all of the mildew and mold, along with the musty stench. Revex is one of the most widely used enzyme cleaning solutions on the market. After you’ve washed your tent according to the directions above, you can do the following:

  1. Fill a big tub halfway with water (about 20 gallons)
  2. Combine with 1/2 ounce of Revivex to get a diluted solution. Open any tent flaps and unzip any zippers that may be present
  3. For a maximum of 5 minutes, soak the tent in the tub. Make certain that the tent is totally submerged and soaked. After the tent has been completely submerged, remove it and allow it to dry naturally. It is not necessary to rinse. Eventually, the stink will dissipate as the tent dries.

This product is recommended for: Tents with mild to severe mold and mildew problems. This is especially true if the musty stench persists after the clothes have been washed.


Another factor that contributes to a stinky tent is the breakdown of the polyurethane waterproofing, as previously noted. If your tent is exposed to sunlight on a regular basis, it will eventually succumb to the effects of ultraviolet radiation.

We recommendNikwax TentGear Solarproof as the best tent waterproofing spray because it not only waterproofs your tent, but it also provides UV protection to keep you safe from the elements. To apply Nikwax TentGear Solarproof, follow these steps:

  1. After carefully cleaning your tent, set it up (if it hasn’t previously been set up) and drape the rain fly over the top of it. Nikwax should be applied evenly to the exterior of the tent and rain fly. Once the cream has been applied for several minutes, wipe away any excess with a wet towel. Allow for full drying of the tent and rain fly before storing them

For additional information, please see our comprehensive tutorial on how to waterproof a tent. Good for: Tents that have a strong odor of urine or vomit. Tent Hacker is made possible by donations from readers. It is possible that purchasing through links on our site will result in us receiving an affiliate commission. Because I am an Amazon Associate, I receive money when people make eligible purchases.

Smell Fresh in the Wilderness: How to Clean a Tent that Smells

Many outdoor enthusiasts look forward to spending their evenings under the stars as they prepare for the next summer season. There aren’t many things that are more upsetting than bringing out your tent and discovering that it has a foul stench that permeates the entire room. It’s possible that you don’t want to accept that it’s coming from the place where you should be safe from the weather. You begin to visualize what it will be like to attempt to sleep while being surrounded by unpleasant odors that will swirl about you all night, and you begin to consider quitting the entire project.

See also:  How Many Plants Fit In A 2X2 Grow Tent

It is not difficult to get rid of nasty odors that have developed in some of your camping equipment.

What Causes the Smell?

First and foremost, it is beneficial to understand where the odor is coming from within your tent. We have to pack up our tent before it is entirely dry after a heavy storm or a morning dew, so we have to be quick. At other instances, it might simply be that your tent is beginning to show signs of wear.

Mold and Mildew

Mold and tent mildew growth are two of the most common causes for a tent to smell bad, and they can be difficult to detect. A fungal growth, they spread and reproduce by releasing spores into the environment. The result is that you never see them approaching until they suddenly appear everywhere and become quite noticeable. You can usually tell whether your tent is infected with mold or mildew by the unpleasant, musty stench that it emits when it is wet. It has an odor that is stale and ancient, as though the fungus are aging the substance.

It has the potential to have severe health consequences for anyone, regardless of whether they are technically allergic or more sensitive to them.

Polyurethane Breakdown

Another cause that can make your home smell even worse while not being as harmful to your health is the degradation of polyurethane, sometimes known as PU. There was no irony intended. Tents and a wide range of other waterproofed outdoor equipment are treated with PU before going on sale. This coat will persist for years, but it will ultimately begin to break down. UV light accelerates the degradation process and encourages the use of UV light in general. This implies that the PU coating on the rainfly will normally degrade more quickly and may necessitate further cleaning or waterproofing treatment in order to maintain its effectiveness.

Because it smells like a horrible blend of vomit and pee, this odor is easily noticed and diagnosed. Getting in touch with your manufacturer is one option for resolving this issue. Otherwise, continue reading for additional information on how to clean a stinky tent.

Time and Grime

Using it outside, on the other hand, usually does not cause it to smell too terrible and may not be as visible as the other factors. As you continue to use your tent, it is possible that it may become soiled or that dirt and dust will be packed into it. If you don’t frequently clean out your tent after your outings, it might develop a foul odor as a result of being packed in for an extended period of time.

Tent-Washing Tips

Before we get into the specifics of how to clean a stinky tent, let’s go over some general guidelines to make sure you’re on the right track. You will achieve better success if you pay attention to their advice.

Consult the Manufacturer’s Warranty

Some people live and breathe according to the manufacturer’s instructions and the terms of the warranty they have purchased. However, if we’re being completely honest, that’s one of the first things we toss away after making a buy. In order to ensure that your purchase is protected, it is recommended that you first read the manufacturer’s guarantee before doing any of the procedures listed above. If they void your warranty and you are still inside the warranty’s protection period, refrain from using them.

Never Use a Washing Machine

Do not assume that tossing your tent in the washing machine with your delicates would solve your cleaning problem. The mesh panels that are included with the construction of most tents do not hold up well in a machine wash. At worst, it may rip them to bits, while at best, it can render them less effective while also widening the openings for insects to get in.

White Vinegar is Your Friend

White vinegar is one of the most powerful cleaning agents available for use at home. It is capable of removing practically any stain and odor from virtually any cloth. Fortunately, this covers tent-related goods. The second outstanding attribute of white vinegar is that it is extremely cost-effective. Most retailers sell a gallon of milk for less than $3, which is an excellent deal. Due to the fact that it must be combined with water in order to be diluted, this is frequently sufficient.

Never Use Bleach

Before we get started, we’d like to point out that you should avoid using bleach. When it comes to cleaning, many people believe that bleach is the be-all and end-all solution. When it comes to your outdoor gear, you need to get rid of this mentality. bleach weakens the fibers of your outdoor material, and for the most part, this results in a significant reduction in the material’s use. The waterproofing of your tent is also destroyed, and the PU coating on your tent may begin to disintegrate more quickly.

Disinfecting: Chasing Away Mold and Mildew

  • Ingredients: biodegradable soap, sponge, tub, warm water and white vinegar (optional).

It is usually preferable to begin with the most simple solutions. If you suspect that your tent is smelling due to an infestation of tent mildew, fill a bucket halfway with warm water and a biodegradable detergent and soak it overnight. It should have the least amount of an impact on the amount of water repellency that your tent loses. If you already know that you’ll need a more powerful solution, you may make a 50/50 solution by mixing a tub of water and white vinegar together. Pour in a cup of lemon juice to make it smell fresher without overpowering the flavor of the dish.

Spot clean any visible spots with water and soap, using a sponge to get rid of any remaining residue. Fully rinse and allow all of the soap concoctions to air dry completely before packaging it away or moving on to step two of the process.

Step 2: Use a specialized cleaner

  • Sponge
  • Tub
  • Warm water
  • Revivex Pro Cleanser (specialty cleaner)

When it comes to cleaning a moldy tent, soap and water just aren’t cutting it anymore. When this occurs, it is time to bring out the heavy guns and utilize a specialist cleaner, such asRevivex Pro Cleaner, to clean the area. Follow the directions on the package to determine how much to put into a tub of warm water. The underside of the tent fly should be avoided if at all possible. The PU coating is very delicate in this area, and you don’t want to cause any harm to it. Finish the procedure by washing the tent well until all of the soap has been removed.

This procedure should take between 6 and 8 hours.

Step 3: Remove sap

Spray or wipe off the portions of your tent that have sap on them with isopropyl alcohol to remove the sap. Over time, sap can develop a strong odor because to the presence of ammonia. It also serves as an excellent breeding ground for fungal development, which might result in a moldy tent. Wipe them down carefully to remove dirt and grime without damaging the protective coating on the outside.

Get Rid of Polyurethane Odors

It is the same process that is used to get rid of mildew and mold that is used to get rid of PU smells. Warm water should be poured into a tub large enough to accommodate your tent. Add approximately five drops of the soap to the mixture. Then, throw your tent into the mixture and allow it to soak for two or three hours, depending on how large it is.

Step 2: Remove the PU coating

  • A scrub brush with soft bristles, isopropyl alcohol, biodegradable soap, water, and

After allowing your mixture to soak for a period of time, you should be able to completely remove the PU coating that is failing. Warm water, a few of drops of your biodegradable soap, and a few drops of isopropyl alcohol are mixed together. Make use of the soft bristle scrub brush to remove all of the old layer of paint. Use gentle pressure when scrubbing since excessive friction might create additional wear and tear on the tent’s fabric.

Step 3: Dry it off

To begin the drying process, use a dish towel to soak up any remaining debris and water that has accumulated outside the tent. It should be completely dry before proceeding to the next stage.

Step 4: Re-waterproof

Following your satisfaction that the previous PU coating has been entirely removed and the tent has dried, it is time to reapply the waterproof layer. The seams on your gear are the most susceptible areas, and they should be maintained with a great deal of care and attention. Waterproofing your seams is more of an art than a science, and it takes practice. In order to ensure that your tent is completely waterproof, you must carefully apply the waterproof coating to each of its seams both inside and outside.

Use a waterproofing spray to give a thinner covering to the remainder of your tent once you have completed working along the seams of your tent. Allow it to air dry for at least 24 hours before repacking it in its original container. GEAR AID Seam Grip WP (Women’s Protective Gear)

  • Waterproof sealant and glue in one convenient package
  • Repairing holes in tents and other gear on a permanent basis
  • It adheres to all sorts of cloth.

Deodorizing: Making it Smell Fresh

Despite the fact that your tent may be clear of dirt, mildew, and other filthy items, there is sometimes a lingering odor that persists. Using an enzyme cleanser to eliminate a mildew odor from a tent is the most efficient method of doing so. These are sometimes referred to as “odor eliminators” since they act to break down the residual components that are creating the stench without introducing any additional aroma to the environment. When you smell anything that you like, such as lemon or a flowery aroma, it is not a good idea to utilize it in your tent since it will attract insects.

Step 1: Make your mixture

Fill a bathtub halfway with warm water. It ought to be large enough to completely immerse your tent. Add the proper amount of odor eliminator to the mixture, according to the product’s directions. Due to the fact that it is designed exclusively for these sorts of materials, you may useRevivex odor eliminator. Gear Aid Odor Eliminator is a product that eliminates odors from your gear.

  • Naturally remove smells and other undesirable scents from the environment
  • It is gentle on all sorts of apparel and equipment. Works with a wide range of textiles

Step 2: Soak the tent

All of the tent flaps should be opened, and all of the zippers should be unzipped. Immerse the tent in the water for approximately 5 minutes, then remove it from the water. Make sure to submerge your tent as soon as you can in the combination you’ve produced. Microbes are frequently responsible for a product’s ineffectiveness. After being exposed to air, they begin to devour themselves, causing them to gradually lose their effectiveness. Remove your tent from the water, but do not rinse it. Instead, allow it to air dry and keep it out of direct sunlight as much as possible.

Prevention is Key: Storage and Future Use

It is all about prevention when it comes to keeping your tent smelling fresh for as long as possible. Follow these preventative strategies and methods if you have already dealt with a stinky shelter and don’t want to deal with it again, or if you are seeking for choices that restrict your exposure to smelly shelters.

Tip 1: Always air dry

When you are traveling, it is not always practical to let your tent to dry completely by allowing it to air dry. However, this does not prevent you from pulling it out as soon as you get at your destination and opening it up. Allow it to dry completely before putting it away until the next time you need it.

Tip 2: Store it properly

When you’re on the road, it’s not always practical to let your tent dry completely by itself. Nonetheless, you are free to take it out as soon as you reach home and open it up as soon as you choose. After allowing it to dry fully, you may store it for further use.

Tip 3: Use a tent footprint

Although it is not advisable for a traveler to carry along more materials, most campers may get away with a few of extra ounces of gear. Bring a tent footprint with you and make sure it is correctly set up below the tent. It prevents the bottom seams from being exposed to dampness and precipitation for an extended period of time.

Tip 4: Have a “no shoes” policy

Reduce the amount of dirt and grime that accumulates on the interior of your tent. No one should be allowed to enter the tent with shoes on. You may also consider instituting a no-food policy in order to prevent crumbs from falling.

Keeping the amount of both of these to a bare minimum helps to avoid future mold and mildew growth after your tent has been taken down and stored. If you do decide to allow these items within the tent, make sure to thoroughly clean it after each use.


When you store a damp tent, it is common for it to develop a musty odor due to fungal development, which can be unpleasant. Mold and mildew thrive in moist environments, such as those found within enclosed buildings.

Why does my tent get wet inside?

There are three possibilities for why your tent is becoming damp inside. The first factor to consider is the general level of humidity in the air. The second source of moisture comes from the extra moisture produced by bodies breathing in and out. The third possibility is that your tent is not sufficiently waterproof and that it will require more attention.

Can you use bleach to clean a tent?

No. When it comes to cleaning a tent, bleach is never recommended. In addition to weakening the strands of your tent’s fabric, it is a caustic chemical that swiftly tears away the waterproof coating on your tent.

Does sunlight kill mold?

Mold is killed by sunlight in its natural state because it cannot photosynthesize in the light. Heat is also effective in killing it. Mold can be killed by sunshine, but it takes significantly longer to do so than it does by conventional cleaning methods.

How should a tent be stored?

Ensure that your tent is stored in a waterproof container that will prevent wet from getting inside the tent. Storage in a dry environment with moderate temperature fluctuations is recommended, as is keeping it out of direct sunlight. All of these measures will help to avoid further disintegration of the UV-resistant and water-resistant coatings on your vehicle.

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