How To Clean A Tent That Smells: Follow The Most Effective Tips And Tricks!

How To Clean A Tent That Smells
Clean A Tent with Smells

After unpacking your tent, you may notice a pungent and unpleasant smell. It hinders and delays your next camping trip. It happens mostly with cheap and low-grade tents. But, if you do not adequately care for your tent, a highly-priced tent would also show the same result. That’s why you must know how to clean a tent that smells. There are many reasons why tents release such bad odors. Lack of proper maintenance is the primary one. Now, if you are thinking of how to clean a tent that smells, you have clicked on the right article! You can solve this problem at home only by following basic remedial measures. It will save you money from buying a new tent. For better camping you need to wear good clothes. Here you can  find What clothes to sleep in when camping?

Reason Behind Smelly Tents

Some common reasons for a tent to develop a stinky smell are stated below.

Mold And Mildew

Most people usually prefer their camping trips in the wild and wet regions. The bottom lining of the tents is made waterproof with polymers. But after camping, the tents are simply left away for a while. The wet surface lining of the tent reacts with air and develops mildew and mold. These molds can release smelly gas and foul odors that helps in making a smelly tent.

Bacteria and Microbe Attacks

The tents are made of synthetic fabrics. Airflow is limited inside the tents. When used and damp tents are kept confined for a long time, microbes and bacteria create colonies. It ultimately results in spreading a bad odor inside the tent.

Moisture Buildup

When you leave your tent wet for a long time, the trapped moisture on the edges creates a pungent smell. Water can get trapped inside a tent in many ways, besides camping in the rain. From the morning dew to the air condensation, when soaked up, allows the moisture to build up inside the tent. It creates an unpleasant odor by developing mildew and makes a stinky tent.

Tips And Tricks To Remove Smell

Here are some tips and tricks to clean a tent and make a tent smelling fresh by removing odors.

Getting Rid Of Mold And Mildew

Required Things: Clean Water, White Vinegar, lemon juice solution, a large container(bathtub), sponge.

Estimated Time For Cleaning: 20-30min

Estimated Time For Air Drying: 8-10hours

  • Firstly, pour the vinegar, lemon juice, and water into a large container. Mix the solution thoroughly.
  • Soak down your tent thoroughly inside the solution. Create swirls in the container for the solution to reach every corner and edge of the tent. 
  • Next, pull the tent from the container and let the solution off it.
  • Rinse the entire tent with clean running water using a garden hose.
  • Check for the deposition of molds or mildews inside the tent.
  • Pour some white vinegar into a spray bottle.
  • Spray the white vinegar directly on the deposited molds and mildews. 
  • Wet your sponge in the vinegar solution.
  • Rub gently on the molds thoroughly using the sponge till the molds are completely gone. 
  • Finally, rinse the moldy areas with pressurized water using a garden hose.

Deep Clean Your Tent

Required Things: Running clean water, dish soap, liquid detergent, sponge, or soft clothes

Estimated Time For Cleaning: 20min

Estimated Time For Air Drying: 6-8hours

  • First, select a large open area to complete the tent cleaning process.
  • Take out your tent, spread it, and unzip it to open up every edge. 
  • Remove all the dry specks of dirt and stored debris inside the tent. 
  • Pour some liquid dish soap into a sponge and scrub the tents. Put a little pressure while scrubbing out tough spots. 
  • Do not use bleach, strong acids, or any other unauthorized stain remover to wash your tent, as it may rupture its delicate fabric and mesh. 
  •  Pour a decent amount of liquid soap into a large container and mix it with clean water.
  • Soak the entire tent inside the soap mixture. Create swirls inside the container for spreading the soap mixture in every corner of the tent. 
  • Pull up the tent from the container and let the soap get off of it.
  • Scrub the entire tent with a soft wet sponge. 
  • Clean up the corners and edges of the tent properly, as these spots build up moisture and mold.
  • Now, rinse the tent thoroughly with pressurized running water using a hosepipe. 
  • Get rid of the soap mixture from the tent completely.
  • Lastly, hang up the tent in a shady area and let the tent soak in water by air dry with a continuous wind flow.
  • It may take more or less 6-8 hours to completely dry. Do not dry the tent in automatic washing machines or under the sun. The sun’s rays may hamper the temper of the tent’s fabric.

Deodorization Of Your Tent That Smells

This process will explain the method of  how to clean a tent that smells, especially for removing the bad and stinky smell from your tent.

Requirements: Compatible deodorizer, Bathtub, or large container

Washing Time: 30min. 

Drying time: 3-4 hours.

  • First, fill up the bathtub with clean water.
  • Add the deodorizer as required in the tub and mix it well.
  • Prepare your tent by unzipping and opening the flaps of the tent
  • Submerge the tent inside the solution for a while. Let the solution reach every corner of the tent. 
  • Do not rinse the tent with water. 
  • Finally, hang up the tent so that there remain no folds. Allow it to dry naturally by air.

Eliminating the Poly-urethane Odors From Your Tent

Requirements: Large container/Bathtub, common dish soap or mild detergent, isopropyl alcohol, or 98% Ethanol, sponge, dry cloths, running clean water

Washing Time: 1-2hours

Drying time: 14 hours

  • First, in a large container, pour warm water at a temperature of not more than 50-60 degrees Celsius.
  • Pour 6-7 drops of liquid soap into the container and mix it well.
  • Soak the entire tent inside the container. Before that, open the tent by unzipping the doors, windows, ventilators, and flaps. 
  • Scrub the damaged underlying polyurethane coating using a wet sponge and isopropyl alcohol. Check for the residues of polyurethane before going to the next step.
  • Use the tent fabric sealant to cover up the polyurethane coating. Use it to seal the floor properly and Tentfly.
  • Set it aside in an open space with continuous airflow for 6-7 hours. 
  • The dry air would stick the sealant film firmly in the tent fabric. And thus, the tent will become reusable properly.

Determine why the tent smells.

Determining why the tent smells and removing odor is mandatory. Used tents, when not cleaned or dried properly, creates a smell. The use of food or moisture trapped inside the tent is the primary reason for the bad smell. 

Foods get attacked by fungus and develop mold very quickly. Again, moisture and trapped liquid inside the tent helps to develop fungal colonies if left untreated for a long time. The tents went uncleaned and undried in a confined area, producing a pungent and stinky smell.

How to prevent tent odor

If the tent liners and fabric gets permanently damaged, they’ll become completely useless. Therefore, prevention from the attack of moisture, molds, and bacteria is better than applying remedies in the future. Follow the steps to prevent the musty and mildew smell from growing inside your tent. 

  • Always try to set up your tent in a dry and uniform space. If possible, avoid grassy areas. You can buy an extra tent underliner to protect the floor from moisture. 
  • It is better to avoid using tents in heavy rains. Rainwater easily gets trapped in the tent and gradually develops mildew and molds. 
  • Keep the inside of your tent dry as much as possible. Do not spill water or other drinks inside the tent. If spilled, quickly dry the place using soft and dry clothes. 
  • Keep your shoes and socks outside the tent. Sleep with a clean and dry pair of clothes inside the tent. 
  • Do not enter any sort of food items inside the tent. Food remnants cause fungal attacks more quickly than anything else. 
  • Use a tent air freshener or an odor eliminator to eliminate tent odors.

Should you clean your tent in a washing machine?

Tents are made with synthetic soft and meshed fabric. As a result, they cannot withstand the rough washing process of a laundry machine. Hence, dry laundry powders used for regular clothing are incompatible with tent fabrics. 

Tent fabrics get ruptured or, even worse, permanently damaged after being washed in the laundry machine. Besides, the swirling inside the machine loosens the stitching of the tent edges. The floor bed coated with polyurethane gets damaged by the detergents. For all these, cleaning tents in a washing machine is not recommended.

Should you go to Soap or Natural?

Soaps are better for cleaning purposes. The fabric of the tent can withstand the cleaning process using soap. It will be even better if the soap is in liquid form. Soap solutions can deeply clean the tents. 

However, natural cleaning agents such as acetic acid, vinegar, and lemon juice can clean the tents. These can kill mildews and mold effectively. The natural fragrance of lemon removes the musty smell of molds from the tent. Therefore, you can use soap and natural cleaning agents to remove bad odors from the tents.

Why does my tent smell like vomit?

You may have noticed a powerful smell coming from your tent, which seems like the smell of vomit or urine. Even if your tent is clean enough and has not encountered molds, the vomiting-type odor may be present. 

It happens because of the damaged and peeled polyurethane coating on the floor bed. That means a thin layer of polyester urethane covers the tent’s flooring. So, it enhances the water-repelling capability of the tent. Therefore, the tent becomes high-quality and water-resistant. This polyurethane deteriorates after a long time of use which causes a smell like vomit.

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Final Thought

Camping is a great outdoor activity. It helps you to connect with nature and keep your mind fresh and alive. Tents are essential pieces of accessories for camping. And the tents made for camping come with a high price tag. 

You cannot use a tent that is smelly and dirty for camping. It will be unpleasant for you and dangerous for your health as well. That is why you must know how to clean a tent that smells. Maintenance of tents requires nothing much. You can easily clean and remove molds that cause the smell from your tent. 

It will not only keep your tent long-lasting but will also save some of your bucks. And thus you can continue going on distant tours and campings along with your reliable tent.

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