Can You Wash a Tent in the Washing Machine?

Gear Tents

If you’ve ever come home exhausted after a camping trip, you might be wondering: can you wash a tent in the washing machine?

If you have a smaller tent, it’s tempting to put your tent straight in the washing machine. However, that may not be the best idea!

The short answer is: no, it’s not a good idea to wash a camping tent in a washing machine.

Is It Safe to Wash a Tent in the Washing Machine?

Process of cleaning color cloth in washing machine, stainless drum inside with wet towels, closeup, nobody

While it’s tempting to let your washing machine deal with the mess, it’s not a good idea. The main reason is that using a washing machine can cause some wear and tear to your tent and can stretch or even tear the tent fabric.

If you’re washing your tent in hot temperatures, you can damage the waterproof coating if the tent has one, making it less efficient at keeping the rain out.

We would not recommend washing your tent in a washing machine for this reason. However, if you want your tent to last, you’ll need to wash it by hand.

How Should I Wash My Tent Instead?

There are a few steps you should follow to wash a tent:

1. Remove Dirt

Mature man putting up tent

Sometimes, caked-on dirt and loose dirt/stones will get caught up in your tent. First, shake out your tent (ideally outdoors!) to remove the bulk of the dirt before washing it. You can use a handheld vacuum to make this process easier.

2. Spot Cleaning

Removing dirt and grease stains from clothes with salt

Identify the dirtiest areas of your tent and clean those first. You can use a soft cloth to do this. Using a scrubbing brush or similar may cause damage to the tent, so it’s best to go slowly and carefully.

3. Immerse the Tent in Water

Soaking tent. Dirty tent washing

The next step is to immerse the whole tent in water. The best place to do this is in your bathtub. Fill the bath with warm, soapy water, making sure to use a mild detergent. If there are any stubborn stains, this should help to remove them.

You can drain the water, rinse the tent, and refill it if you need to. Just make sure that you rinse the tent thoroughly when you’re done until all the suds have gone.

4. Dry the Tent

Parts of a tent drying on a handrails after rain

Drying out a tent is an important step. Put the tent out on a washing line or similar, allowing it to dry before packing it away completely. Make sure you check in the creases of the tent, as sometimes water can collect here. It’s vital to ensure that your tent is completely dry to prevent mold from forming.

5. Pack the Tent Away

man twists the tent

Carefully put the tent way in the bag it came with. Make sure to store the bag in a dry place, away from direct sunlight. This is because UV rays can damage materials and clothes, causing more wear and tear.

What Do I Need to Wash My Tent?

Woman holding bucket with different cleaning supplies at home, closeup

You will need the following items to wash your tent:

If My Tent is Moldy or Smelly, What Do I Do?

stains and black mold on tent that have been dried in the sun on a hot day

This can happen as tents can become damp quickly if not fully ventilated. If the mold is bad, you can use an enzyme cleaner or similar (just make sure to follow the instructions). Make sure you spend extra time cleaning the moldy areas and ensure that the whole tent dries properly before packing it away.

If your tent smells, you can use an odor neutralizer which will help to freshen it up.

What About the Poles?

Front view of open tent bag with poles and pegs placed on rustic wood

The poles are fairly easy to deal with. Just wash them with warm soapy water, and make sure you allow them to completely dry before packing them away in the bag they came in.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions about tent care:

What happens if I get sap on my tent?

Sap dripping from tree

Sap, a sticky substance that can drip from trees, is difficult to deal with if it lands on your tent. It’s hard to clean off as it is very sticky, and scrubbing one area of a tent over and over again can cause the fabric to wear thin. The only thing you can do is to soak the tent in a bath and carefully wipe it with a cloth until it comes away from the fabric.

How should I store my tent?

Draw string bag carrying camping portable gear

You should store your tent in a cool, dry room, away from dampness. You should also keep your tent away from direct sunlight, as UV rays can damage the bag or any fabric that isn’t quite covered by the bag itself.

When should I wash my tent?

Many tents in the Green lawn

You don’t have to clean your tent after every use. However, you may want to wash it when:

  • You’ve been camping near the sea (this is because salty ocean air can be corrosive to the outer tent material. If you’ve been beach camping, you should rinse your tent to make sure no saltwater remains on the outer layer.)
  • You’ve been camping in the sun (the sun can set dirt into the tent, making it difficult to get out if you leave it for a while)
  • If you’ve been using a campfire (this is to remove any leftover smoky odors that can linger after building a campfire)
  • You’ve been camping in wet weather (heavy rain usually means a lot of mud and dirt to deal with)

How can I repair my tent?

Accidents when camping. Tear on fabric

There are a few more things you can do to care for your tent.

To Sum Up …

Woman smiling and holding a sleeping bag on a camp site

We hope this has helped you to figure out the best way to wash your tent. While it’s time-consuming, it’s a good idea to wash your tent properly by hand to reduce the chances of damaging it.