There are many, many different aspects of camping that people tend to love and appreciate. From meeting new like-minded people on the same campgrounds you are staying on, to simply being closer to nature than you can get in any city, there is a lot to love about camping. The one thing that many people do not enjoy, however, is keeping their camping gear in the best condition possible.

Out of all the different types of camping gear, it should typically go without saying that it would make sense to wash your tent regularly, right? The truth is that there is actually a fair amount of debate out there on whether or not you should even be washing your tents at all, let alone doing it on a regular basis.

You might not realize it when you are first getting into camping, but there is actually a lot to think about when it comes time to wash your tent. From how you go about washing the tent, to determining if you need to purchase any special treatments for the tent, you will realize that there are actually many different things to consider.

Arguably one of the most important things to note about trying to make sure that your tent is clean is trying to decide if you give your tent a bath, or if you stick it in the washer and then the dryer for a set amount of time.

While there might be a considerable amount of disagreement over how often you should wash your tent, just about every single person in the camping and outdoor community can agree on one subject, and that is the fact that a tent should never, ever go anywhere near a washing machine, for whatever reasons you may have.

The Problem with Tents and Washers

Tents actually have quite a few different aspects to them that you might not think about at first, especially if you have owned the tent for a long period of time. For instance, you might not realize that your tent has one or even several different types of waterproofing treatments that help make it a home-away-from-home. Putting your tent in the washing machine is going to strip the tent away from these treatments, essentially making your tent useless.

While there are certainly waterproofing treatments that you can buy and purchase to spray on your tent, there are other problems that washing machines pose. Another example is that, even on the gentlest cycle, washing machines still have more than enough power to tear the seams of your tent completely apart, rendering it even more useless.

Even if you had the talent to suture and seal those seams together again, there’s a good chance that the tent will have received damage from other problems that commonly occur when you try and wash a tent. For some people, there simply isn’t enough space in the washing machine itself for the tent to go in. This means that the spine of your tent can break, ensuring that you will never get a good use out of your tent again.

For the most part, it is generally recommended that in an optimal situation, you should never use the washing machine and dryer to get your tent as clean as possible. Unfortunately, situations in life aren’t always the optimal one, meaning that most professionals recommend never washing the tent in the washing machine more than once or maybe twice per year at the most. Because of this, there might come a time when you decide that the benefits outweigh the risks and it is time to put the tent in the washing machine.

Since there are so many inherent dangers that come with this, you will need to know what to prepare for, what materials you will need, and what exactly you should be doing.

How to Wash Your Tent with a Washing Machine

First things first, there are a few things to note about using the washing machine as a way to clean your tent. If you choose to do this, make sure that you have full-strength UV-blocking and weather-proofing treatments that you can spray onto the tent when it is done coming out of the dryer. Also make sure that you have the rest of the materials to get the job done in an efficient manner.

You should also make sure that you are using the right type of washing machine to get the job done. If you are going to need to wash your tent at all in the washing machine, you should only ever use commercial-sized front-loading washers. These are the only acceptable washers that you can use for your tents, using the term “acceptable” very lightly.

You will want to use tent-specific washes to ensure that your tent gets as clean as possible. Once you have obtained those, you will want to use warm water in the washing machine and you will want to put the cycle on the most delicate, gentle cycle that you can customize the settings for. With that being done, you will want to hope for all the best when you start the washing machine.

Once the tent has finished its time in the washing machine, you will somehow need to dry it out. Chances are that if you are not willing to thoroughly clean the tent by hand, then there is also a good chance that you will not have the time to wait for your entire tent to air dry. Because of this, you are probably going to want to consider putting the tent into the dryer.

Can You Put a Tent in the Dryer?

The short answer to this is absolutely not, you should not ever put your tent in a dryer. If putting a tent in a washing machine is harsh enough on the tent, then putting it into the dryer is only going to be several times worse, and there are a few different reasons for this.

For one, any of the protective coatings that may or may not remain from being put through the washer are absolutely going to get destroyed. Additionally, the heat from the dryer will only cause more damage to the seams of the tent, shortening its life span significantly. Finally, just like with washing machines, the spin cycle of the dryer is going to cause the seams to completely break, if they haven’t already.

If putting the tent into the washing machine runs the risk of making the tent unusable, then putting the tent into the dryer is going to solidify that risk. If you need to dry out your tent, for whatever reason, before you plan for your next camping trip, the best way that you can do it is through air drying.

As you might be able to imagine, air drying your tent is going to take a considerably longer amount of time, but the results will be much, much better if executed properly. If you want to make the most out of your tent while you still have it, you will want to consider washing the tent by hand and then letting it dry in the breeze.

Before you can do that, however, you will first need to have the proper materials to get the job done. Thankfully, these materials are not at all difficult to obtain.

Gathering the Materials

Luckily, there aren’t too many materials you are going to need to get the job done. The worst part of it is going to be the manual work that is required to ensure that the tent gets as clean as possible. Aside from that, cleaning your tent is an extremely easy process.

As with anything, you will want to begin by gathering the materials that you are going to need to get the job done. You are, understandably, going to want to make sure that you have a specialized tent wash that caters to the needs of your tent. You can think of this as being the detergent that would typically go in a cleaning solution.

You are also going to need to make sure that you have a vacuum cleaner that you can use to get as much of the debris out of the tent as you can. Not having dirt and grass left laying in the tent will help it out when it comes to cleaning it out and preparing it for your next camping expedition.

You are going to want a towel and a sponge, as this is the best way to not only rub the specific wash into the tent, but it will simply be a great way to spread that wash further and deeper into the tent. The more of a thorough job you can do with your hands, the more chance there is that nothing will go wrong.

Last, but most certainly not least, you are going to want to make sure that you have a place with sufficient space to let your tent dry out. This could be hanging up in your backyard, or it could be taking up a room that nobody uses. No matter where it goes, it needs to go somewhere with air currents when it is trying to dry.

Now that you have everything that you are going to need, you can begin getting ready to clean your tent so that by the time you are ready to go camping again, you will have a fresh and like-new tent awaiting you.

Getting the Tent Cleaned Out

Whether you have a canvas tent or a traditional nylon/polyester tent, getting it cleaned out is an extremely simple and straightforward process. The one main downside to it is that it can take quite a bit of time for everything to dry out as it should.

First, you need to give the tent a rinse. This can be in the shower, bathtub, or even in the shower with a hose. No matter where you choose to get the job done, you can be rest assured knowing that your tent will be better-looking before you know it.

Here, you should apply your specialized tent wash to your tent. This will do its job, whether that is strengthening, protecting, or repairing any damage to your tent, and you will be ready to move on to the next step.

From here, you will want to begin washing the tent as you would wash anything else: you lather it up with soap and water. With the soap from the tent wash and the water from what you were rinsing it with, you will often have more than enough material to cover the entire flattened out tent.

Once you have lathered everything up with soapy water, you will want to rinse things out once again. This time, you will want to be particularly certain that you are doing a thorough job getting as much dirt, as many stains, and in general, as much removed from the tent as you can without damaging its protective coatings.

Once the tent has been fully rinsed out, you can now begin the drying process. With that being said, you should also have a good idea of what to do if your tent is canvas, as this is a tough and durable material that many people enjoy using on their tents.

Canvas tents are typically where you see vacuum cleaners being used to get rid of all the dirt and grime that has accumulated in the small crevices between fibers of the canvas. If you can manage to get a brush handle attachment for your vacuum cleaner, then you can expect the job to go just as smoothly as it can.

Generally, all you will need to do to clean out a canvas tent is to vacuum it. If you need a bigger or a deeper cleaning session, you can always submerge it, use a cloth and some mild soap, and spot clean from there. If you notice mold or mildew growing on your tent, you will need to move in a different type of cleaning direction and use vinegar to help kill off the mold.

No matter what kind of tent you have, you can rest assured knowing that you will be able to clean it before it comes time to go camping again. Whether you choose a lesser-approved method of cleaning your tent, such as by washing it in the washing machine, or you choose the typical cleaning method, your tent will be thoroughly cleaned out in a quick and timely manner. This leaves you with a tent that you will be ready to use again when the weather turns perfect for camping.

Author

I have a bachelor's degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies...I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house.

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