Let’s paint a little picture for you. It’s the new camping season and you go to pull out your tent to see how it held up during the off-season storage. While unfolding it, you discover that mold or mildew has grown on it.

Yep. That’s it. While we can’t say every camper has experienced this unfortunate problem, many of you have probably had to deal with mold or mildew on your tents at least one time or another. However, if you haven’t, or even if you have and still want to know different methods than what you might have done, then you want to know how to clean a tent with mold or mildew, right?

Here’s the good news, you’re in luck as we want to present a few different methods of going about it. Very briefly, you may have success ridding the mold on your tent with water and a specialized cleaner, with a bleach solution, or with a deodorizing formula solution.

Depending on how pesky the mold is, you may even employ more than one different method to attempt to get rid of it completely (including the odor).

How to clean a tent with mold

Photo by Cristofer Maximilian / Unsplash

We’re going to cover three different ways to clean the tent if it’s all molded up:

  1. Use hot and soapy water
  2. Use an old toothbrush and lemon juice
  3. Use an odor eliminator

Let’s jump straight into the first method which is using hot and soapy water.

1. Use hot and soapy water

If you’re lucky and the mold really isn’t that bad, you may be able to solve the issue with just hot and soapy water. Of course, you can also just try to use a specialized cleaner such as the Revivex Pro Cleaner to get the job done.

Either way, the method here is going to be identical to how you go about washing your tent. Here’s all you’re going to need to do:

  1. Fill a tub, large sink, or large container with warm water. It’s easiest to do this in a tub as you’ll have the most room to operate.
  2. Add roughly two fluid ounces of Revivex Pro Cleaner (or whatever specialized cleaner or soap you want to use).
  3. Submerge your tent in the soapy water and begin to hand wash the outer fabrics. Tackle the mold locations, as well. Also, be sure to avoid scrubbing the underside of the tent fly. You could wind up damaging the waterproof coating.
  4. Allow the tub to drain and then rinse off the tent until all the soapy residue is gone.
  5. Allow the tent to fully air dry.
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This is by far the most effective way of cleaning a tent with mold and mildew. I’ve written an entire article on how to properly clean a tent.

2. Use an old toothbrush and lemon juice

This method starts with something that you could also do with the previous method, just for the record. It’s a fun little hack and works surprisingly well:

  1. Using either an old toothbrush or soft brush, try to brush as much of the mold off as you can. It’s best to do this outside to keep the mold spores from getting into your house.
  2. Fill up a tub, sink, or container with a gallon of hot water and add ½-cup Lysol to make your solution.
  3. Wash the affected area of the tent in this solution.
  4. Rinse off the tent with a solution of one cup lemon juice, one cup salt, and one gallon of hot water.
  5. After being fully rinsed off, allow the tent to air dry completely.

Afterward, you can also bleach the mildew stain if you think it’s necessary. To do so, most fabrics will be able to use non-chlorine bleach.

For colored fabrics, it’s best to use a solution of one cup lemon juice, one cup salt, and one gallon of hot water. For color-safe fabrics, go with a solution of two tablespoons of bleach to a quart of water. Once done, allow the area to fully dry.

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When you’re brushing off the mold with either a toothbrush or a soft brush, make sure you’re outside to keep mold spores from getting into your home.

3. Use an odor eliminator

Basically, the idea is to deodorize your tent with an odor eliminator.

To do so, you’ll want to buy a product such as the Revivex Odor Eliminator. Anyway, here’s what you’re going to need to do:

  1. Fill a tub, sink, or large container with just enough water (using the temperature of whatever your product states) to fully submerge your tent.
  2. For every gallon of water, add one fluid ounce of Revivex Odor Eliminator (or whatever you bought), and be sure to mix the solution well.
  3. Before you place the tent in the water, unzip all the zippers and open all the flaps.
  4. Place the tent in the water and soak it in the mixture for a maximum of five minutes. The goal is to saturate the tent with the microbes in the deodorizing formula.
  5. Without rinsing the tent (you can still wring it out), allow it to fully air dry.
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This method should be used AFTER the tent is already cleaned to rid it of any stubborn mildew or mold odors that are still lingering.

How to avoid mold growing on your tent

Lichen On Concrete
Photo by Andrew Small / Unsplash

How to clean a tent with mold doesn’t even need to be addressed if you just avoid mold growing on your tent, in the first place. The good news is preventing mold from growing isn’t all that hard, and it really comes down to moisture control.

If moisture isn’t present, mold spores can’t grow. It’s really that dang simple. With that ideology in mind, here are the two vital ways to ensure that moisture isn’t allowed to factor into the equation.

We’ll be covering two ways to avoid mold from growing on your tent:

  1. Ensure that your tent is fully dry before storing it
  2. Store your tent in a dry and cool location

Let’s dive straight into the first method which is to fully dry your tent before storing it.

1. Ensure that your tent is fully dry before storing it

We’re not talking about ensuring that your tent is almost dry or 50 percent dried. No, you need to make sure that it’s 100 percent, fully dry before you even think about storing it away. However, how do you go about drying a tent? Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Find a place indoors or in a shaded location outdoors to manually set up the tent to allow it to air dry for several hours.
  • If that type of space isn’t afforded to you, you can also drape it or hang it in a location that you can find to allow it to dry (such as a bathroom shower stall).
  • Avoid drying it in direct sunlight, and it’s always going to be more effective to set it up on a warm and breezy day.
  • Avoid placing the tent in a dryer, especially on high heat. In addition to the high heat, the abuse of a dryer could end up damaging your tent. It’s just not a good idea, as tempting as it may be in the moment.

And though when you think of a tent you typically think of a traditional one, you may also have a shower tent. The sheer nature of a shower tent is going to warrant that you pay extra attention to it when drying it. Speaking of you should check out our list of the 10 best shower tents on the market.

2. Store your tent in a dry and cool location

Alright, so your tent is completely dry and ready to be stored. However, just because your tent’s dry as you store it, it doesn’t mean it’ll be immune to moisture if stored improperly. Some tips to keep in mind when storing your tent are as follows.

  • Find a cool, dry location: Damp or hot locations such as basements and attics aren’t the best choice for your tent. In a closet or possibly even in a garage are going to be much smarter storage locations.
  • Keep the tent loose: While the above tip is the most important for preventing mold, this here is also a nice tactic. Allowing the fabrics of your tent to relax and breathe by storing the tent in an old pillowcase or mesh bag will be better for them than storing the tent in the stuff sack it came with.
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If you feel like your tent is taking up a lot of space, I’ve written an entire post on how to properly store your camping gear at home.

Final thoughts

The goal is to prevent mold from growing. As stupidly obvious as that sounds, preventing it from ever growing will prevent you from needing to know how to clean a tent with mold on it, in the first place. We understand that sometimes you do everything you’re supposed to do, and you still find mold on your tent.

The good news is, as you saw today, there are a few different methods of mold and mildew removal that you can employ to tackle the issue. Most of the methods will also work for various other fabrics and camping gear too.

And on this topic, we encourage you to check out two other posts that we’ve already uploaded. We go into great detail to show you how to quickly wash a hiking backpack and how to thoroughly wash a sleeping bag.

If you enjoyed this read, we’re sure you’ll enjoy those two. At least, we hope you do!