Learn how to clean and repair your tent with our handy guide. Your tent is your constant companion on your outdoor adventures, and like you, it can get scraped up and dirty. Unlike yourself or your clothes, however, you can’t throw your tent in the shower and wash it with body wash, nor can you throw it in the washing machine for a quick and easy rinse. To ensure that your tent continues to provide you with the best possible performance and sheltering you on all your expeditions, taking care to clean and repair it properly is key.
Cleaning Your Tent
While your tent requires very little consistent work, let’s start by talking about the handful of occasional tasks you should observe to keep your tent tidy and whole.
- The Shake-Out: Before packing up your tent at the campsite, open the flaps and then turn the tent on its side or upside down to shake out any pebbles or pine needles that could lead to abrasions in the fabric.
- The Air-Out: Once returned from your trip, reassemble your tent in a shaded, dry place and let any musty odors or lingering moisture dissipate before you put the tent away for an extended period of time.
- Zipper Care: Occasionally, use an old toothbrush to brush sand or pebbles out of the zipper so that the fine grains don’t wear away the teeth of the zipper. If there is dirt caked on, dip the zipper into water before brushing.
- Poles and Stakes Maintenance: Similar to zippers, fine dust and sand can wear away these tent components. Every few trips, wipe down poles and stakes with a damp cloth.
When It’s Really Dirty
If a camp trip rainstorm leaves your tent spattered in mud or you find smears of grease or ash on the fly, a washing machine will only make matters worse. Instead, use these techniques to remove the unsightly marks and keep your tent in mint condition.
- Check for Manufacturer’s Instructions: Check the tent and follow any instructions on cleaning provided. If there are none, proceed to the following:
- Scrub: Scrub the stain with a non-abrasive sponge, mild, fragrance-free soap, and lukewarm water.
- Rinse: Rinse thoroughly in a tub with cold or warm (not hot!) water. You might need to drain and refill the tub several times to get out the soap and grime.
- Air Dry: Hang the tent somewhere out of the sun until it is completely dry and can be put away again.
Repairing Your Tent
Although finding a tear in your tent can almost feel like a tear in your heart, don’t worry! Fixing your own tent is totally within your ability. Let’s learn how.
- Avoid debris inside: As we talked about earlier, small pebbles and dirt can lead to wear and tear, so be sure to take off your shoes outside the tent, use a tent footprint, and shake out the tent when you’re done using it.
- No animals allowed!: Keep any furry friends outside – whether well-meaning pets or hungry rodents who chewed their way in to get a tasty treat, claws and teeth are bad for your tent. So, for your tent’s safety (and your own! – bears, am I right?), store all food properly, either in your locked vehicle or by following “bear bag” procedures – hanging food in a bag from a high
- Avoid the pokey stuff: When choosing a site for your tent, take care to keep it far from pointed branches and thorny bushes. Also, clear the space you plan to pitch your tent ahead of time so you don’t have a pine cone rubbing away the waterproof lining (and poking into your back) for your whole stay.
- Don’t weather the storm: Many tents have been destroyed by strong winds, so if an impressive storm rolls in and your vehicle is nearby, it might be worth you and your tent’s while to spend the night in the car.
Steps for Repair
Tears are common but are also, fortunately, very easy to fix.
- Wipe down the area around the tear with a cloth and rubbing alcohol.
- Cut out a piece of repair tape just slightly bigger than the torn area and round the edges.
- On a flat surface, carefully place tape on the outside of the tent around the tear and peel off the tape backing.
- If the tear is on mesh, use a special mesh repair kit – these come with mesh sticker tape, so line up with the hole, take off backing, and press down.
- Give both types of repairs a full day before using or packing away.
Fixing Leaky Seams
A leaky seam does not mean the end of your tent. Try these steps before looking at the new models.
- Wipe down seam with a cloth and rubbing alcohol.
- Paint over seams with liquid seam sealer.
- Give seams a full day to set before using or packing away.
Bracing Broken Poles
Broken poles are the one fix that you won’t be able to make as good as new. Try these techniques to get you through your camping trip and then either accept your wonky, patched pole or buy a new one. Camping tip – always pack duct tape!
- Slide a pole repair sleeve – those small, mysterious tubes that came with your tent poles that we never know what to do with – around the two snapped pole pieces and duct tape together. Your pole might not collapse as nicely as it did before, but it will still be dependable.
- In an emergency, use a stick, tent stake, or a comb as a splint in conjunction with duct tape to give you support. When you return from your trip, buy a pole repair sleeve or a new pole.
Tents Are Ready!
Now that you know how to care for your tent and troubleshoot any tent-related catastrophe, you and your nylon refuge will be ready for even more exciting times as you get outside. You and your trusty tent will be ready for anything nature throws your way. Remember that proper storage will also prolong the life of your tent and other camping gear.