Web Treasure Hunter is reader-supported. Some links may be affiliate links. We may earn a small commission if you purchase a product or take an action via these links.

Cleaning products in a bucket

How to Clean a Tent That Smells Before Your Next Camping Trip

Articles Home

A perfect vacation demands a perfect set up and camping is no exception. Your camping expedition at the best locations requires planning to ensure everyone enjoys their time in the great outdoors. Finding the best place to camp, group travel, hiking areas, and possible activities are just a few of the things campers must think about before beginning their adventure. If the trip is planned properly, the bonfire in the cold nights and sleeping under the picturesque canvas of stars is always a delightful experience.

Preparing for mother nature’s unpredictability often includes using tents specifically designed for inclement weather. For example, cabin tents perform well in the rain, but can be difficult to set up and take down. If your tent has gotten wet (yes, morning dew does count), it can lead to odd smells emanating from your tent.

One often forgotten aspect of maximizing your camping experience is tent maintenance. Specifically, a smelly tent is a big no-no. No matter how much you try to prevent it from getting filthy, outdoor camping can often lead to a dirty and smelly tent without proper care. Every time you unpack your tent you might be left bewildered by the foul smell it emits if you don’t take precautionary actions.

Here is a list of ways on how to clean a tent that smells without too much hassle.

Hang and Dry Your Tent

This is the simplest way to make your tent free of odor. The mild pungent smell that it might have accumulated on your last camping adventure can be done away with this simple task.

Open all the zippers and hang it on a rope such that there is enough space for air to pass through. You can also wash the tent and hang it on a rope. This is ideal if the smell is not that intense. Hanging it outside for a few hours will help you get rid of many causes of odd smells.

Washing and drying the tent after each use will wither away all the dirt and unnecessary moisture that might have accumulated on your tent. Keeping the tent in the open also ensures that the odor-causing bacteria are fully destroyed.

Sponge and WaterScrubbing and Cleaning Your Tent

If hanging your tent in the open did not help to blow away the foul smell, you can also use a soap and scrub to clean it. You can either pitch the tent or open it apart (whichever way you feel comfortable.) and apply a mixture of soap and water.

You should only use a mixture of cold water and unscented soap. Though using scented soap might sound tempting, it may damage the fabric of the tent. For more information on this you can refer to the manufacturer’s manual.

Rinse softly with a light sponge and make sure that all areas of the fabric are thoroughly cleaned. After you have rinsed the tent, wash it in a bucket of water and let it dry in the open. For most individuals this must do the magic. Ta-da!

Removing Mold and Mildew

If your tent has been infested by mold and mildew, it will take a little more effort to get rid of the stinky smell. The fungus causing the mold and mildew to grow must have seeped into your fabric. If this is the case, you need to apply something more effective than just a water and soap mixture.

The method of cleaning mold and mildew is somewhat like what we described in the earlier section. However, you need to use something that is more impactful in cleaning. Prepare a mixture of lemon juice, salt and water. Alternatively, you can also use a water and vinegar solution. Both will give the same results.

You would need to pitch your tent to make the process of cleaning easy and hassle free. Gently rub the fabric of the tent with the solution that you have prepared to remove the mold and mildew. The solution would dissolve the fungus that has caused mold and mildew to grow.

If you’re interested in a tent that takes the hassle out of setting it up, check out our review on the CORE 9 person cabin tent to see how easy it sets up and repels the weather.

Rinse the fabric in cold water and let the soapy liquid wash away. You might need to wash the fabric 2-3 times to make sure none of the moisture from the soap sticks to it. After washing it properly let it dry in the open.

Using a Safe Cleaner

The methods mentioned above must surely help you to get rid of the fungus that has attached to the fabric of the tent. But there are also several cleaning solutions that are available in the market which can help for those with stronger cleaning needs.

Some of these like Revivex Pro Cleaner, Mirazyme Odor Eliminator and Celina Tent Cleaner are easy to use and effective. They help to kill the bacteria, mold, mildew and algae that has stuck on to your fabric. And the best part – most of these are biodegradable too!

Whichever method you try out, one thing is necessary to remember. You need to completely dry your tent before you keep it back to store. Any residual amount of moisture can lead to regrowth of mold and mildew.

Important Tips for Cleaning a Smelly Tent

Blue and white bleach bottleDo not ever use bleach or any other harsh substances. It will damage the fabric of your tent and make it fragile instead of cleaning your tent.

Whenever you go camping, always remember to fold your tent in the morning. Most of the fungus that accumulates is due to the tent fabric getting moist. If you hang it on a tree after getting up in the morning, it will let the tent get dry. While this may not be possible for some of the more cumbersome tents (i.e. large cabin tents or dome tents), smaller tents can be hung up every morning without much problem.

Never use scented sprays to make your tent smell good. You can use a scentless deodorizing spray that will not have any negative impact on the fabric of your tent. The more natural you keep your tent, the longer it will last.

Ideally when the tent is not in use, you should keep your tent in a cool and dry place. Storing your tent often includes folding it and placing it back in its container. Packing it with moist items might encourage the regrowth of mold and mildew. To prevent this completely dry your tent before putting it in storage.