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How to Clean a Tent that Smells? Clean Tent Mildew Vinegar

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Are you also annoyed with the stinky smell of your tent while unpacking or dusting off? If yes, then this is the time to learn how to clean a tent that smells because the situation can get worsen with time and it can even damage the tent fabric.   

Here in this guide, we’ve also shared the complete method for how you clean a tent with mold. But firstly, take a look at different factors behind a smelly tent.

What Makes a Tent Smell?

Before going for the explanation of How to clean a tent that smells, you must be aware of the reason behind this smell. There could be several reasons due to which your tent can develop an unpleasant odour.


Dirt and grime are basically indirect but two of the most common reasons that lead a tent to develop a smell. They can find the passage of your tent in a number of ways, i.e. while taking your shoes in. These unwanted gifts not only result in developing an unpleasant smell inside your tent but also makes your tent looks unsightly.

On the other hand, When the sweating on your body combines with the dirt and grime on the floor, it makes really a nose wrinkling smell. Furthermore, you can’t avoid the accumulation of sweating on your body during hiking, backpacking, kayaking, or any other outdoor activity. Therefore, it’s better to frequently clean your tent to maintain a refreshing atmosphere.

Fungi (Molds and Mildews)

Molds and mildews are another common cause of stinky smell inside a tent. These fungal growths not only leave an unpleasant smell but can also be harmful to your health if left unchecked. Headache, irritation in the throat and lungs are some of the health-related issues that one person can suffer from, after inhaling these particles.

Most likely, they can appear if you roll over a wet tent without drying it off. Therefore, make sure that your tent is thoroughly cleaned and soaked, so there would be minimal chances for the growth of these fungi.

Breakdown of Polyurethane

Nowadays, most tents come with different features that support waterproofing and are made up of polyurethane. But, when these tents get exposed to intense ultra-violet rays, molecules of polyurethane start breaking down which develops vomiting or a urine-like smell. It can one of the reasons that your tent has developed the smell.

How to identify Mold, & Mildew on tents?

In order to identify them, firstly you have to differentiate between mold and mildew. Both are different types of fungus that can grow over damp surfaces and develop a quite unpleasant smell.

Mildew can be of grey, yellowish or white color and usually have flat growth over the surface. These are comparatively easy to remove and they can turn into black or brown color if not remove.

Whereas, molds are apparently fuzzy or slimy and grow in patches. As compare to mildews, molds can seriously damage the interior of any surface they’re growing on. It can be developed into different colors so you might find it difficult to figure out whether it is mold or not. Since it can affect the interior, therefore, removing mold from the tent is much difficult and complex.

Similarly, a method for removing both of them is also different and explained in the next section.

How to Clean a Tent that Smells – Effective Methods

how to clean a tent that smells

A stinky tent can be treated by using several disinfection methods but we’ve listed only the easiest and cost-effective ones.

Using Warm Water for Cleaning Your Tent

Hot water is always being used to kill bacteria, germs as well as allergens. But surprisingly, it can also effectively kills the fungus and remove its spores. We do not recommend you to use extremely hot water as obviously, it can damage the fabric of your tent.

You can follow these simple steps for tent cleaning:

  • Firstly, fill an open container or preferably a bathtub with warm water. You can use the campfire to warm the water and make sure that there is enough water that can thoroughly clean your tent.
  • Then, add an odourless soap or detergent into the water and soak the tent into the water for 5-10 minutes. Be sure that you’ve unzipped all the pockets, and zippers so there is no place left behind.
  • After that, dispose of the dirty water and fill the bathtub with fresh water and soak your tent again unless all the soap is gone. Now, hang it for drying infront of direct sunlight.

Air Drying

Air drying is simple, effective, and quite easy, as it doesn’t require any additional equipment. All you need is to air out from your tent by placing it on a well-ventilated area such as a clothesline, or some other surface. When you allow the air to freely move inside your tent, the odour can possibly blow away with the breeze. Remember, a thorough air drying can take up to 2-3 days, and also follow this method after washing your tent.

This method is particularly effective for tents whose odor comes after storing on wet surfaces, or with dirty clothes and stale food. However, if you see any growth of fungi such as mold and mildew, then this might not be the right method.

Using the Enzymes Cleaner

If despite using the warm water and soap, the stinky smell doesn’t diminish, then maybe some pores of mold and mildews are still there.

Specialized enzymes cleaner is also known as an odor eliminator, is one of the important products for your camping gear. Revivix is one of best-selling product and most importantly, it will cost your just a few pennies.

The composition of these cleaners includes different enzymes and microbes that kill the bacteria and fungi causing an unpleasant odor. What’s even more important is that these cleaners are biodegradable and don’t have any bad impact on the environment. But, we suggest you use gloves while using the enzymes cleaners. This ultimate source for freshening up the atmosphere of your tent has brought an easiness for all the campers.

Here’s how you should use it. 

  • Firstly, get a container and fill it with atleast 20-gallons of water. (Take more quantity of water if you’ve big-sized camping tent).
  • Now, add half-ounce of Revivix into the water and then soak the tent into this Revivix-mixed water for the next few minutes.
  • After that, leave it for drying over the clothesline or any branch of a tree for the next few hours. Once the tent gets to try, most probably, the odour will already have to diminish.

How do you clean a tent with vinegar?

How do you clean a tent with vinegar

This DIY hack is not new, rather it is being used for quite a long time for cleaning other things. For this method, you will need vinegar, warm water as well as lemon juice, and some patience.

Vinegar becomes a lethal combination when adds the lemon-juice and due to its easy availability, this mixture is widely used. Here’s how to clean a tent that smells with the help of a vinegar mixture.

·      For thorough cleaning to get rid of the smell

Take a tub and mix vinegar, lemon juice, and warm water in such quantity that a tent fully submerges in it. Now, leave the tent for soaking for at least 2-hours. 

·      For molds and mildews

If you just need to spot clean then you can make a cleaning solution and placed it in a spray bottle. Take one cup of water in any container and then mix ¼ cup of white vinegar. Now, this cleaning solution is ready to fight against fungal and bacterial germs inside your tent. Now, spray the solution over the infected area and gently scrub the surface with a soft-bristled sponge.

Can I use vinegar to clean a moldy tent?

Yes, vinegar can be used for cleaning a mold tent and it can even remove the smallest pores of molds that are invisible.

How does vinegar kill mildew smell?

The composition of vinegar involves acetic acid and due to the acidity, it has become a powerful mold-killing weapon.

Useful Tips for Removing Mildew Smell from Tent

  • Don’t overuse the detergent while cleaning the infected area because its composition has such chemicals that leave a really bad impact on the fabric.
  • Before treating the tent, make sure that you’ve read all the instructions and recommendations given by the manufacturers. Usually, it is written over the manual but you can also access the details on the Internet. If cleaning is not done according to the manual then it can also void the warranty of your tent.
  • Do not rinse the tent after soaking the tent into the Revivix-mixed water.
  • Before using the vinegar mixture, you must read out the instructions of the manufacturers.

How to Prevent Mold and Mildew on tents?

You can only prevent the growth of mold if you know different factors which are responsible for its growth. Out of all the factors, moisture is the most important one and thus reducing the moisture subsequently leads to lesser chances for mold mildew.

You cannot remove all the mold and mildews spores from the tent because some spores might not be visible. Most probably, the removed mold will grow again, if you cannot reduce the moisture within the tent. Hence, if you’re done cleaning the tent with smell, then your next step should be fixing the problem behind the dampness.

Important Tips:

Here are few things that can help you in preventing the growth of mildew in your tent.

  • Before going to implement any tips, you need to be aware that there should be atleast a 60% humidity level inside a tent. You can also purchase a piece of inexpensive electronic equipment, a Hygrometer that is used to measure relative humidity.
  • Dehumidifier can be used to effectively reduce the moisture from the air, particularly, if you’re camping in a hot or humid environment. It basically works on the principle of Peltier technology and has become a creative way for maintaining a healthy and refreshing environment inside the tent or any room.
  • Always make sure that the wet surfaces are cleaned and you must dry them with a cloth after every 1-2 days.
  • Look for ways that can increase the circulation inside the tent and maintain a fresh inside environment. For instance, you can use an outdoor floor fan or simply open the doors during daylight to make a passage for fresh air.
  • If you’re using a tent with ac then you will always have to be extra vigilant whether there is any leakage in a pipe or not.
  • A common mistake that every camper commit is to store their tent is such that it gets wet or acquire moisture. Due to this reason, you have to clean the tent frequently which results in reducing the lifespan of your tent. All you need is to have a proper water-proof bag and there is nothing to worry about.
  • A camper should always do the necessary research about his camping destination to figure out its climate conditions. For instance, if your camping destination often has a higher rainfall then bringing an ordinary tent would be a really bad choice. Instead, you should purchase only the best tent for rain and winds that comes with above-average built-quality and exclusive features.

How to Clean A Tent? Clean Tent Mildew Vinegar

Things You Need To Know Before Cleaning a Tent with Mold

1.   Can a tent be washed in a washing machine?

No, a tent should never be washed in a washing machine, particularly a nylon tent. It is due to the reason that a washing machine can stretch and tear down the fabrics of a tent due to flexing and abrasion. Similarly, a drying machine generates heat that can seriously damage your tent.

2.   How can I keep my tent smelling fresh when I’m out?

If you want that your tent smells fresh even after few hours then you need to make sure that it is thoroughly cleaned and soaked. After that, you have to dry it from both inside and outside. Also, you can pitch your tent into the direct sunlight, or hang it over the clothesline if it’s not bulky, for drying.

3.   Will It Damage the Waterproof Coating?

Yes, it can possibly damage the waterproof coating of your tent. Some people over-use the detergent which is quite harsh for the waterproof coating. Also, heavy scrubbing over the tent surface may also eat up the protective layer. Therefore, we advised you to use a small quantity of hand soap and a soft sponge while cleaning a tent.

4.   Is it safe to sleep in a tent with mold?

Except for very few species, molds are not dangerous because they are non-poisonous. However, if you’re allergic or a patient of asthma that it can make you sick. Furthermore, studies have shown that a person may experience irritation of the eyes, lungs, throat as a result of mold exposure. Therefore, we would suggest you first learn how to clean a tent with mold, then sleep inside the tent.

5.   How do you remove mold from a camping chair?

Oxygen bleach or liquidated detergent can be used to remove the molds or mildews from your chairs. Firstly, you will need to gently scrub the moldy area with a soft-bristled brush for 8-15 minutes. After that, wash the infected area with warm water and leave your camping chair to dry.

6.   What kills mold instantly?

The use of diluted bleach is considered the fastest way to kill molds on the floors and walls of your tent. In order to make this solution, firstly you will have to add one gallon of warm water into the bucket and mix it with one cup of bleach. Now, dip a soft-bristled brush into the solution and scrub the moldy area.

7.   Is it necessary to use lemon juice for cleaning the tent?

No, it isn’t necessary at all to use the lemon juice while cleaning the tent. It is basically used with the purpose to get rid of the pungent smell of vinegar. 

8.   What is the best way to clean a tent that smells?

I know that not everyone would remember to bring any specialized cleaner within their camping luggage. Therefore, the best way to clean a tent that smells is to combine two or three above-mentioned methods.

For instance, firstly you can clean the tent with warm water in a bathtub or container and by adding soap. Then, you can use air-drying method to further remove any kind of smell from your tent.

9.   Why I should not use bleach for tent cleaning?

Chemicals composition of bleach involves some harsh chemicals for the tent fabric. Using it can lead to weakening the fabrics, and ultimately, its lifespan will significantly decrease.

Final Words – How to Clean a Tent that Smells

In this guide, you have learned different methods to clean a smelly tent and also, how to clean a tent with mold. Since molds and mildews are prime suspects that cause this smell, therefore, we comprehensively explain everything that you need to know.

Let us know if you have any queries regarding the topic.

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