There are countless reasons to love camping out in nature with a good old-fashioned tent. From simply being able to bond with friends and family who join you to being able to be one with nature, there are endless reasons why people decide to go camping. No matter what your reason is, there are some facts of camping that always remain the same.
For some people, this means that bugs will inevitably bite them, no matter the season. For other people, this might mean that the tent you use ends up smelling just a little bit off whenever you use it.
If you find that your tent isn’t smelling the way that it should, there are a few routes that you can take to try to air the tent out a bit.
Before you can air out your tent, there are a few things you will want to know about it first, as some of these methods might not be applicable for certain tents. For one, you should have a good idea of the care instructions that the tent manufacturer provides. These should be your base guidelines for how you handle any tent stenches.
You should also make sure that you know what kind of washes can be used with your tent’s materials. Unless otherwise stated by the manufacturer’s guidelines, you can often use the same kind of scrubber that you would use for a car.
These are all things to keep in mind before you attempt to air out any tent that you have owned.
1 – Using a Fabric Deodorizer
While the efficacy of this method depends on how strong the stench is, it is often a very harmless way to try to air out your tent. It should be the first thing you try for any mild stench, as sometimes a funky smell can simply be caused by nature itself.
This is also one of the simplest methods that you can employ to clean out your tent. First things first, you will want to open the tent inside-out and hang it on a pole. This will allow you to reach all the smelliest spots in the tent, although you can always spray the outside as well if needed.
If you don’t have a pole available, you can prop it up on some tall chairs. Last-case scenario, you can just wipe it down on the floor of your house.
Once you have done this, you can spray the tent with a fabric deodorizer of your choice. You should then let the tent air out from morning until evening so the deodorizer can soak into all the fibers of the tent. If you are keeping the tent outside, remember to secure it so nothing happens to it.
Just remember that airflow is key, so you don’t want it completely touching the ground. By the end of the day, your tent should be smelling like the deodorizer you used and should be free of any funky smells.
2 – Using Soap and Water
For this method, you will want to make sure that you have a scrub brush that you would use on a car. Preferably, it will have a long handle and short bristle.
You will also want to have some non-perfumed soap as well. While you can certainly use perfumed soap, keep in mind that it can and will attract bugs to your tent and this is something that no camper wants to experience.
Once you have your soapy water and your scrubber, you can gently but thoroughly scrub down the entirety of your tent, both inside and out. If your tent has a waterproof coating, you will want to be mindful of that and purchase a cleaner that won’t damage it. Otherwise, this method is about as simple as it sounds.
After you have washed it down, you will want to let it air dry and then you will be good to go, assuming the smell doesn’t linger.
3 – Using the Washing Machine
There are two things to be said about this method. For one, you should only use it very, very sparingly. Even the gentlest cycle can tear a tent’s seams, depending on how it was made.
Secondly, this is where you will need to check the manufacturer’s guidelines to make sure that you are even able to wash the tent in the washing machine. If you cannot, then you should stay far away from doing so.
If your tent is already old and its age is showing in its seams, you should also avoid this method, even if the manufacturer says that you can wash it.
Assuming that you can wash the tent in the washing machine, you will want to turn it inside out so the dirtiest part of it is the part that gets washed. To make sure nothing gets caught, broken, or tangled, you will also want to make sure that all of the zippers are zipped all the way up.
From here, you should put the washer on a gentle cycle in warm-cold water. If you can, you should find a synthetic fabric cleaner to use in place of detergent. Never, ever, use fabric softener on a tent.
Once the tent is out of the washer, you should spray it down with a waterproofer to play things safe. Always keep in mind that this should only be done once or twice in a tent’s entire lifetime, and only in the most severe cases of funky tent scents.
4 – Using Mold or Mildew Remover
If you know that the stench of your tent is coming from mold or mildew, then you are in luck, as this is quite easy to clean out.
First things first, you will want to make sure that you are not damaging the waterproof coating of the tent. This means that you should be looking for a cleaner that is known to work with a tent’s coating.
Generally, enzyme-based odor eliminators work best for this, and there are several out there that you can choose from.
Once you have the cleaner, you will want to fill a tub (or any container large enough to completely submerge your tent in) with cool water. You should add as much odor eliminator as is recommended to remove the smell, using more depending on just how smelly the tent is.
After the odor eliminator has been added, stir it into the water. As for your tent, you should unzip every zipper and open up all the flaps before submerging it into the solution. You should keep it there, letting it saturate and soak for about 10 minutes or however long the odor eliminator recommends.
Remember that once you remove the tent, you should not rinse it off. Instead, you should hang the tent up so it can air dry. Before you know it, you will have a fresh-smelling tent that is ready for your next camping adventure.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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