How To Clean A Musty Tent

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.

  1. When dirt and filth naturally develop in a tent during a camping trip, the tent might become odoriferous.
  2. I’m referring to mold and mildew in this context.
  3. 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.
  4. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage describes the hazards of breathing mold and mildew spores.
  5. Third, you may be suffering from a bacterial infection.
  6. Bacteria, like mold, may grow on any surface, even on the ground.
  7. 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 mixed with lemon juice is an excellent DIY solution for getting rid of odors caused by fungi such as mold and mildew in your tent. You’ll need vinegar, lemon juice, a tub large enough to submerge 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 better is to set aside two to three hours. Once you’ve enlisted the assistance of a few friends, remove the tent from the cleaning solution.

At first, you can 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 help 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. Mold and mildew are attracted to moisture and food, which are both present in your tent and encourage their growth. 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

This should go without saying, but I’m embarrassed to confess that I’ve done it in the past simply to see whether it worked. In my defense, it was only a test, and I did utilize an old tent for the sake of the experiment. I’ll simply say that it’s not something I’d recommend. Despite the fact that the tent I used was ancient and not of high quality, I am confident that the findings would have been the same regardless of how high the quality of the tent was. Tents are just not designed to withstand the tumbling and spinning that occurs in washing machines.

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.

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.

The acid in the vinegar and lemon juice will destroy any mold or mildew spores, allowing you to use your tent once more without fear of contamination. 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.

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:

  • A gallon of white wine vinegar
  • Dish soap or detergent that is mild and fragrance-free
  • Bottle with spray
  • A 5-gallon bucket or big plastic tub large enough to bathe your tent in
  • Sodium bicarbonate or borax
  • A soft brush or sponge is recommended.

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

Now that you have gathered all of the necessary supplies, follow these procedures to thoroughly clean a stinky tent:

  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

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.

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!

Don’t make a big deal about it, though.

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.

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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. Continue the process until all soap residue has been removed. Allow your tent to dry completely before storing it! (See number one on this list.)

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.

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.

His nature as a dreamer who like to have his head in the clouds at all times makes the mountains an ideal environment for him. He hasn’t come across a phony summit that he doesn’t enjoy yet! Find out more about Andrew’s love of the great outdoors.

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

Most tents are polymer-coated to make them waterproof. Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can break down the polyurethane, leaving your tent with a urine-like smell.

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
See also:  How Many Tables Can You Fit Under A 20X20 Tent

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.

How to Clean a Tent That Smells

Only a stinky tent can completely spoil a camping trip, and this is one of those things. Many campers (particularly newbies) have experienced this problem, which is regrettably not uncommon. Your tent may emit a variety of nasty scents, ranging from dirty gym socks to something you can’t even recognize. These odors can linger and persist even after your trip has over. There is a possibility that you will have mold and mildew developing in your tent, which can be harmful to your health. Because of this, we’ll cover how to clean a stinky tent, as well as how to avoid a stench from growing in the first place, in the next article.

Exploring How to Clean a Tent That Smells

Who wants to spend time cleaning the tent every time they are preparing to head out on a camping trip? Check out these simple measures that will assist you in getting rid of the precise reason why your tent may be smelling, and be prepared to have your life changed! Make sure the tent is totally dry before storing it, and store it in a location where moisture will not be able to get inside. Even if you are fortunate and your camping vacation is not disrupted by rain, this does not imply that there is no humidity or that your tent did not become moist due to the dew in the morning.

Mold, for example, and the noxious odor that makes this cleaning work so unpleasant are just a few examples.

Here’s how you can prevent odors in your tent:

  1. In order to extend the life of your tent and keep it dry, consider investing in a footprint.
  1. Whether it’s raining or not, don’t forget about the dew and humidity in the morning. Prepare the tent by drying out any moisture and avoiding packing it up wet
  1. There are no shoes and no food permitted! It should be treated as a rule, and your tent should be kept free of any crumbs or dirt. Remember that it is far easier to adhere to this policy than it is to deal with mold caused by the food or moisture as a result of the policy.
  1. It is critical to thoroughly clean your tent before putting it away for the season. If you don’t clean up after yourself after a long vacation, what appears to be a 5-minute effort might develop into a time-consuming duty later on. Clean your tent on a regular basis during the camping season
  2. Remove any dirt or moisture from your tent as soon as possible to avoid the tiniest danger of mold or odor spoiling your vacation. The most important thing is to allow it to dry fully.

Try Not to Wash Your Tent in a Washing Machine

I used to believe that cleaning a tent might be as simple as tossing it in the washing machine and forgetting about it; I believed it would even be a life hack at the time. Spoiler alert: it was not the case. I’m relieved that the tent I used for my experiment was neither brand new nor pricey. It demonstrated the point that tents and washing machines were just not made to be together. Washing machines have the potential to harm your tent, and they are generally not suggested for large-scale goods made of delicate fabrics and fabrics.

Choosing Soap or Natural Cleaning Solutions

One method of cleaning a tent is to use a light detergent, such as dish soap, which is quite effective. There is no need to spend a lot of money on expensive brand soap; any generic brand will suffice! It is preferable to use soap that has a light to no fragrance, since any floral or pleasant scent will only attract bugs and bees, which is the last thing you want when on vacation. There is a simple DIY cure that I discovered and tested several times: simply combine vinegar, lemon juice, and water!

Washing Your Tent by Hand

Using a light detergent, such as dish soap, is an excellent method of cleaning a tent after usage. Any generic brand will suffice; there is no need to spend a lot of money on expensive brand soap. It is preferable to use soap that has a light to no fragrance, since any floral or pleasant scent would only attract bugs and bees, which is the last thing you want when on vacation!

Fortunately, I discovered and tested a simple DIY solution: simply combine vinegar, lemon juice, and water. Not only is everything organic, but it also does not leave a residue as soap and detergent do!

Removing Mildew or Mold From Your Tent

Not to worry if your tent has mildew or mold on it; there is a cure for this problem as well! All you need is vinegar and a small bit of lemon juice mixed together, and then spray the moldy spots with the mixture using a spray bottle. Natural disinfectants such as lemon juice and vinegar will be created by the acid in these ingredients. If you want the best results, let the tent sit for about 60 minutes before cleaning it thoroughly with a clean, non-abrasive sponge. Once again, your tent is in like-new condition and ready for your next camping vacation!

These are available for purchase on the internet.

Storing Your Tent The Right Way

Cleaning your tent of mold is hardly the best way to cap off a memorable camping trip! Check that your tent is dry before putting it away to ensure that you never find yourself in this scenario again! The same way that storing your sleeping bags is crucial, storing your tent is also important. The trick is to make certain that you do not simply pack everything up and forget about it until your next camping trip! If the weather permits, you should thoroughly clean and dry your tent outside. Although it will take longer to dry indoors, it will still function just fine.

It is possible to use baking soda bags to help keep the humidity level down, which will help reduce the likelihood of mold forming on your tent!

Never Deal With a Smelly Tent Again!

We hope you found these suggestions for cleaning a stinky tent useful. The following products are all excellent at removing or delaying the development of smells; however, it is crucial to confirm that each of them is safe for the specifictent you possess. Checking the cleaning instructions that should have come with your tent will help you to determine if this is necessary. If this is not the case, you may have to contact the manufacturer directly.

How to Clean Your Tent and Get Rid of Mold or Bad Odors

When you are camping in the great outdoors, there is something wonderfully rewarding about erecting a tent. Tents are incredibly adaptable and lightweight, yet they nevertheless provide us with adequate protection from the elements. They, too, have the potential to survive a long time, but only with appropriate maintenance and cleaning. Follow this instructions on how to clean a tent to ensure that you may use it for as many years—and outdoor adventures—as you possibly can.

General Tent Cleaning Tips

After a camping vacation that lasts several days or more, you should thoroughly clean your tent. However, if you just use your tent for brief camping excursions every few months, it will only need to be cleaned once every few months. Moisture, filth, and grime are the most difficult obstacles to overcome in order to maintain your tent in the best possible condition, therefore it’s critical to address these issues while caring for and cleaning your tent.

First, bear in mind the following basic suggestions for keeping your tent clean before moving on to more specific tent cleaning circumstances.

  • Remove any dirt that has found its way inside your tent by shaking it out or vacuuming it up. You should do this each and every time you use your tent, but at the absolute least, make sure you do it prior to putting your tent away for the winter. It is not recommended to pack and store a tent that is wet or moist. Set up the tent when you return home to enable it to dry entirely if it is not possible to let it air dry completely at your camping spot. Tents are typically easier to clean when they are taut and properly erected. Outer textiles should be washed by hand. Wipe the tent down with a mix of lukewarm water and mild soap, such as liquid hand soap, to remove any remaining dirt (avoid detergents or soaps with fragrances, which may attract insects). After that, thoroughly rinse
  • Soft, dry cloths should be used to clean the tent poles. When returning from oceanside camping vacations, this is a necessary step to take in order to remove salt spray and prevent against corrosion. It is not necessary to brush the underside of the tent fly. In some cases, the polyurethane waterproof coating put to the bottom of most tent fly might be damaged or removed as a result. You may clean zippers by briefly submerging them in water and drying them off if you’ve been camping in sandy or muddy conditions. If the zipper sliders are not cleaned regularly, they will wear out and eventually become inoperable. Tents should not be washed or dried in the machine. Both the agitator and dryer temperatures can cause damage to the fabric, as well as special coatings and seam tape, in the washing machine.

How to Clean a Tent with Mold

As mold and mildew thrive in moist or damp conditions, you should expect to find these unpleasant guests setting up camp in your tent at some time during your stay. Despite the fact that mold and mildew develop fast on damp textiles, this does not always imply that your tent is a complete loss. The best way to clean a tent that has mold or mildew depends on the amount of mold or mildew present. Sometimes all that is required is hot, soapy water; at other times, more harsh procedures may be necessary.

  1. Removing the mold and mildew from the tent material with a gentle brush is recommended. Wash the damaged area using a specialist cleaner, being sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. A solution of 1/2 cup Lysol to a gallon of hot water, or one quart vinegar and 12 teaspoon soap to five gallons of hot water, can be used as a DIY mold cleaning
  2. Rinse
  3. Allow for thorough drying of the tent.

If the mold or mildew has discolored your tent, you can remove the stain by following these steps:

  • The majority of fabrics may be cleaned using a non-chlorine bleach
  • Using 1 cup lemon juice and 1 cup salt in a gallon of hot water, you can wash colorful garments
  • However, this is not recommended. Utilize a solution of two teaspoons bleach to one gallon of water for cleaning colored materials.

How to Clean a Tent that Smells

Even after the tent has been thoroughly cleaned, mold and mildew odors may still be present. When it comes to how to clean a smelly tent, an odor remover such as Revivex or Mirazyme is your best choice. Follow the directions carefully to prevent harming the tent’s waterproof covering and other components. Allow plenty of time for the tent to dry completely, as it may take some time for the odor eliminators to fully activate. Another cause of foul tent odors will require a bit more effort. The underside of the tent flap and the tent floor are often sprayed with a polyurethane coating to make them waterproof, which is common on many tents.

This odour will have to be dealt with by stripping the polyurethane coating and applying a new one, which will take some time.

How to Clean a Canvas Tent

In order to clean a canvas tent in general, simply wash it down with water and wipe it off with a towel. Soaps and detergents have the potential to degrade the canvas’s water-repellent coating. After that, remove it from direct sunlight and allow it to dry entirely. If you need to know how to clean a canvas tent that has mildew on it, things become a bit more challenging. Unfortunately, once mold has penetrated the strands of the canvas, it is very hard to entirely remove it from the fabric. The good news is that you can keep it from spreading.

  1. To destroy the mold, spray the afflicted area with distilled white vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes. Dry well before scrubbing the area with a soft brush and a solution of 1 cup lemon juice, 1 cup salt, and 1 gallon hot water to remove any remaining residue. NOTE: Avoid using detergent detergents or bleach on canvas since they are harsh on the fabric and difficult to remove. Allow to dry completely before applying a canvas treatment, such as Dry Guy, to the clean, dry canvas.

Keep Your Tent Clean with Proper Storage

Don’t let all of your hard work keeping your tent clean go to waste by storing it in a way that allows dirt or moisture to seep back into the tent. Tents that have been improperly stored may need you to clean them from the ground up before they can be used again, and their lifespan may be reduced as a result. In the garage, you can store your tent safely and securely because it is dry and out of the weather. Tents and other camping equipment, on the other hand, can be cumbersome and difficult to store.

Adjustable straps allow you to customize your tent to your exact specifications, after which you can simply lift it out of the way with the touch of a smartphone.

You shouldn’t have to give up convenience in order to properly store your equipment, according to Garage Smart. Learn more about how our whole line of goods may make your life simpler right now. Previous Previous postNext Next post

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