How to Clean a Moldy Tent – Easy DIY Methods

What’s worse than a dirty tent? A tent that is full of mold and smells. Most of us who went a few times on camping have suffered this problem. Luckily for you, we have a solution to your problem.

If you want to know how to clean a moldy tent, follow these steps:

  1. Inspect your tent to find mold. It comes in different shapes and colors, but usually, it looks like small black, blue, and green dots sprayed everywhere.
  2. Mold is a living organism, so you have to kill it. There are over pre-made solutions such as RMR-86, but you can mix some at your home as well. Most of the homemade stuff is based on vinegar and soap.
  3. If possible, detach the piece of your tent that’s been affected.
  4. Apply the mixture directly onto the mold.
  5. Let the mixture sit at least an hour (Unless it says differently on the label).
  6. Bring the tent outside so the spores don’t spread over your house.
  7. Gently scrub the mold until everything is clean.
  8. Avoid using bleach or strong detergents as they could damage your tent and cause discoloration.
  9. Rinse everything thoroughly with water.
  10. Allow it to air-dry for a couple of hours.
  11. After it’s completely dry, you can treat the tent with a waterproofing solution if you want.

This process is really simple and it will prevent the mold from growing on your tent. Make sure you check the tent every once in a while to ensure it’s clean. Especially if you have recently been camping and it was raining.

Mold loves moisture. If you don’t properly dry your tent, there is a high chance it will grow on your tent. This is even more likely to happen during warmer months.

Camping in nature
Image Source: Pexels

Why does mold grow on a tent?

It’s not just a tent, mold grows everywhere. The reason why mold loves tents is because of “good conditions”. Tents are often wet, stored in non-breathable bags, and that’s ideal for its growth.

Mold can be very dangerous if you are allergic to it. You should always inspect your tent for mold and if you spot it, clean it as soon as possible. The risk of health problems is higher in a moldy tent than in a house because the tent is smaller and less air flows around while you sleep.

Recommendation: We recommend using a tent with loads of mesh materials since it offers a high breathability which won’t allow mold and mildew to catch. You can read our guide about stargazing tents which are perfect choice if you don’t want to have problems with mold and seasonal cleaning.

Scientists see mold as a natural phenomenon. It causes biodegradation of natural materials, which doesn’t sound bad at first, but if it’s food or your tent… that’s kinda bad, isn’t it?

Mold on a tent
Image Source: NewCastleBeach

The same rules apply to your tent as in your house. Mold likes dark, wet ambient and it grows rapidly in it. It can spread through air and water as well.

It’s a cool thing to camp while the rain is falling. Those who haven’t done it, don’t know the special feeling it gives. However, with rain comes the opportunity for mold and mildew.

Since a lot of campers forget to air dry their tents, they get mold on them. Often, they put it in a closed bag that comes with the tent, which is usually a bad idea. Such bags are made out of non-breathable materials and since the tent is inside of it, it’s dark and mold grows.

How to prevent mold?

Let’s assume you have gone through our steps at the start of the article. Cleaning a tent will only temporarily solve the problem, you should take certain steps to prevent mold from growing once again. The first and the obvious step to prevent mold is to air dry your tent.

As previously stated, mold loves wet materials. When you return from camping, if the first thing you do is put the tent away, you are doing it wrong. ALWAYS let the tent air dry first.

By letting the tent air dry, mold won’t be able to grow on it and you won’t have to spend time cleaning it. Think about all the time you would save by simply letting it dry a bit before storing away.

The second important thing is to use breathable bags. Most of the bags that come directly with the tent are not breathable. That allows the mold to spread like crazy and it’s the cause of that awful smell that hits you once you unzip the bag.

Some of the good bags are made out of mesh material. It allows the tent to dry while allowing you to carry it around easily. Although, even if you have a mesh bag, always allow the tent to dry completely first.

Whenever possible, keep the flaps and windows open. Nowadays, most tents have mesh windows and entrances that you can leave open for extra air. This ensures that you have proper ventilation and no moisture can build up.

You should treat the tent as your house, clean the floors and let the fresh air come in every once in a while. If you remove the rainfly from your tent, don’t forget to let it dry as well. Some people forget to air dry rainfly, but remember, mold can spread easily.

How to clean the mold from a camping tent

If you are looking for a fast 11 step process, look at the top of the article. Otherwise, let’s get down into details.

As previously stated mold is a living organism, and it has to be killed. Actually, mold is a fungus that grows and spreads fast. It can have a nasty smell and it looks ugly as well.

Luckily for us, it’s easy to kill mold. When mold occurs in our homes, we usually mix water with bleach and that does the trick. However, if you put bleach to your tent, chances are that it’s going to destroy the tent color.

We guess that you don’t want that to happen. So what should you do? Use the stuff that’s less abrasive, but effective.

Cleaning steps

Before you apply any mixture to the mold, you should dry clean it. Use a small brush, a rag, or anything similar and GENTLY scrub the mold away. It would be wise to have a mask with you, whatever you use make sure that you don’t breathe in the nearby air after you’ve scrubbed it off.

Remember, this process should be done outside. Spores can spread easily and get into your house, and that’s a potential problem that you don’t want or need.

Once you got most of it off, you can apply a mixture to it. There are multiple items that you can buy online to kill the mold. Also, you could try to make a mix of your own from household items.

One example is vinegar. It works wonderfully against mold and almost any household has it. It’s cheap, can be bought literally on every corner, and generally safe for humans.

Put vinegar into a spray bottle, you don’t need to dilute it as it’s only approx. 20% acidic. It shouldn’t cause any discoloration and it’s proven effective against mold. Apply directly to the mold on your tent and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

 Image Source: Pexels

After this process, once again gently scrub all of the places where the mold is/was. Make sure you get everything out, it can easily survive and spread again if not cleaned properly.

Rinse everything with water a couple of times. Let the tent air dry and make sure that no moisture is left behind. It’s optional but recommended to treat the tent with a waterproof solution once it’s completely dry.

That’s basically it. The process is not complex, but make sure you store your tent properly to avoid getting the mold once again.

Stuff To Know Before Cleaning A Moldy Tent – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Do I need an expensive mold killer spray?

Absolutely not. Commercials sprays might work better than household items such as vinegar, but that doesn’t mean you should spend a fortune on it. Cleaning the mold is an easy process and doesn’t require expensive products.

2. Is mold dangerous?

Mold is very dangerous, especially if you are allergic to it. It can cause respiratory issues if you breathe in the spores that mold produces.

3. Why mold grows on tents?

In most cases mold will grow because the tent has not been properly stored away. Never store your tent if you can see or feel the moisture on it.

4. What kind of a bag is good to store a tent?

You should get a mesh bag because it’s breathable and allows the tent to stay dry.

5. What household items can be used to remove mold?

Vinegar is very good against mold. You can purchase it in almost every store as its a food item. You can also try to get rid of mold with soap and warm water, but if the mold has spread a lot, this might not be enough.

6. Can I use bleach to get rid of mold?

Bleach has been shown effective against mold, however, it might cause damage and discoloration to your tent, so we advise against it. If that’s the only thing you have, you should distill it with some water first.

About Antonio

I’m Antonio, a passionate traveler, and outdoor lover who’s running this website. I started this site to share my passion for camping, traveling, and bikepacking.

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