Plenty of us have been in this situation; you finish up your camping trip and pack up your tent without properly drying it out. A few weeks/months go by only to discover that the tent smells moldy. You might wonder, is it safe to sleep in a moldy tent? Let’s find out.
It is okay to sleep in a tent that has mild mold in it for a day or two. However, it is not recommended to sleep in such a tent long-term. Carefully inspect if it has visible signs of mold or moldy smell. It is especially dangerous if you are allergic or have asthma. Mold can cause respiratory issues, allergies, and other health problems.
Sleeping In a Moldy Tent
If cleaning the tent right away isn’t an option, here are some things you can do to make it safer. Leaving the tent to air out for a few hours is a great start. This will help reduce the number of mold spores in the air and make it easier to breathe.
Corticosteroid nasal sprays such as Flonase reduce airway inflammation by reducing swelling inside the nose. Antihistamines like Zyrtec and Claritin (available over-the-counter) are also excellent options. They will calm irritated immune systems and help with symptoms such as runny nose, watery eyes, itching, sneezing, and coughs.
Suppose you’re looking for an alternative method to treat your symptoms without medication. Nasal irrigation with warm water can flush down any lingering spores in your nasal passages and provide comfort from congestion. Portable nasal irrigators like NeilMed Sinus Rinse are great or you can use a neti pot if you have one.
Why Does Mold Grow in a Tent?
Humidity is the primary cause of mold growth in tents. Mold spores are everywhere but need a humid environment to thrive and reproduce. If your tent is stored somewhere with high humidity—a damp basement or closet—it’s ideal for mold growth.
The other factor at play here is air circulation. When condensation forms on the walls of your tent due to humidity, it needs somewhere to go; if there’s nowhere to escape, it will remain inside the tent and create a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Poor air circulation can also occur when you store your tent with the poles still inserted. This will prevent fresh air from circulating through the interior of the tent.
What is Mold?
Mold is a type of fungus that grows in moist or wet environments. It typically appears black, gray, white, or greenish-brown on surfaces, including walls, flooring, furniture, and clothing. The most common types of mold growth include Alternaria (a common outdoor allergen), Aspergillus (found indoors), Penicillium (often found on food), Cladosporium (commonly found on plants and other organic materials), and Stachybotrys (a type of black mold).
Mold thrives in humidity levels above 55% and temperatures between 32–120°F. While some types of mold do not cause health issues, others are known to cause allergies or infections when inhaled or touched by humans.
Common symptoms associated with exposure to certain types of mold include coughing, sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, asthma attacks, and headaches. If you experience any of these symptoms after exposure to an area with visible mold growths, then seek medical attention immediately.
In addition to causing health issues related to allergies and infections, some molds produce toxins that can be hazardous, even at low concentrations. The most common toxin-producing molds are Stachybotrys chartarum (also known as “black mold”) and Aspergillus Versicolor. These toxins can enter your body through inhalation or skin contact and can cause severe health problems such as memory loss and respiratory illnesses.
How To Prevent Mold Build-Up
Cleaning the tent, letting it dry out, and storing it in a cool, dry place will help prevent mold from growing.
Clean Up The Tent
One of the best ways to keep mold away is to clean your tent before packing it away after each use. Make sure the tent’s interior is free of dirt or debris, and ensure that you have removed all the food particles that might have been left behind during your camping trip. When you’re done cleaning, make sure to let the tent dry completely before packing it away. If you don’t allow it enough time to dry out all the way, any remaining moisture could lead to mold growth.
Dry It Out Properly Before Packing
In addition to cleaning your tent before storing it away, you should ensure it’s completely dry before packing it. If you don’t allow your tent enough time to air out, moisture can build up inside and create an ideal environment for mold growth. To ensure that your tent is completely dry before storing it away, hang it outside on a sunny day or set up a fan in front of the open door and windows of the tent to help speed up the drying process.
Where you store your tent when not in use is just as important as how you take care of it while using it. Try not to store your tent in humid areas like basements or outdoor sheds where excess moisture could cause mold growth. Instead, opt for drier locations like closets or storage boxes with less humidity to help keep moisture away from your tent fabric.
How To Clean a Moldy Tent
Clean with Soap and Warm Water
The first step towards restoring your tent is to clean it thoroughly with soap and warm water. This will help remove any dirt or debris that could be contributing to the growth of mold. Make sure you really scrub those areas where the mold is present, don’t leave any residue.
Spray with a Distilled Vinegar Solution
Once you’ve cleaned your tent with soap and water, spray down the entire surface area with a distilled vinegar solution. The acidity in the vinegar will help kill off any remaining bacteria or spores that may still be lingering. Let the solution sit for at least 30 minutes before wiping down the tent with a damp cloth.
Clean With Some Lemon Juice and Salt Solution
Lemon juice is an effective natural cleaner that can remove any traces of mold or mildew on your tent’s surface. Mix together equal parts of lemon juice and salt in a gallon of water. Use this solution to rub away any stubborn areas where mold may have taken root. Be sure to rinse off the lemon juice/salt mixture afterward so that no residue remains on your tent fabric.
Wipe Down Your Tent
After all the steps, give your entire tent one final wipe-down using a damp cloth or sponge. Make sure all traces of dirt, debris, or mildew have been removed from its surface fabric. Finally, let your tent air dry completely before packing it up for storage or use again.
What Not To Do
Be mindful if you intend to clean your tent with a hydrogen peroxide-based cleaner, as this can discolor and somewhat damage the fabric. Additionally, bleach should not be used to clean mold or mildew off your tent fabric, as it can damage the material and leave behind a harsh smell.
You shouldn’t use a machine to wash and dry your tent. This could lead to shrinking and other damage to the fabric. Always try to “manually” clean the whole tent. Also, don’t pack other dirty items with the tent. People often forget they have to clean the camping chairs as well.
Sleeping in a moldy tent is not recommended, but it won’t be the end of the world if you do. It is important to take proactive steps to prevent mold from taking hold and damaging your tent fabric, such as cleaning it regularly and ensuring that it’s completely dry before packing it up for storage. Following these tips will help keep your tent in good shape and ensure safe sleeping conditions during your next camping trip.