Can you wash a tent?

Sure you can, but it's not as simple as throwing it into the washing machine.

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Can you wash a tent?

Submitted by – Pamela S. Bonner – Akron, OH


Sure you can, but it’s not as simple as throwing it into the washing machine. Do that, and you’ll soon be shopping for a new tent, because machine washing –even on a gently cycle—will damage the fabric coatings, seam taping, mesh, etc. Tents, while miraculously tough when pitched in the wilds, are no match for a stainless steel cylinder filled with hot, soapy water and an agitator.

The good news is that tents don’t have to be washed all that often. In fact you can probably go a couple years between washings, unless it gets smeared with mosquito blood or starts to smell like a wet dog. When that happens, here’s what to do.

1)Pitch your tent in your yard on a nice warm, sunny day and remove all debris (pine needles, dog hair, Snickers wrappers).

2)Gather your supplies: a garden hose, a big sponge, a soft scrub brush (like you’d use with vegetables), a bucket of water and soap. (Nikwax Tech Wash is ideal, but you can also use a squirt of a mild dish soap like Palmolive.)

3)Using the sponge, simply scrub down all surfaces, inside, then out. You can use the brush for any stains or to really get into the corners.

4)Turn on the hose and thoroughly rinse the entire tent. Repeat until there’s no more soapy residue.

5)Make sure it’s staked down, and let it dry completely in the sun before packing.

6)The best way to tackle the fly is to spread it out on the grass and wash and rinse both sides, as described above. Then find a good place to hang it dry–a clothesline is best, but you can also drape it over a fence or a couple of lawn chairs.