How To Clean A Moldy Tent: 4 Tried And Tested Methods

Wondering how to clean a moldy tent? It’s a common question and I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been there. Summer comes around and you decide to unpack your tent only to find it’s covered with mold. 

Last year I packed my tent away in a bit of a hurry. There had been a storm but I (wrongly) assumed it had dried off just fine in the heat. Needless to say, I spent the rest of that day elbow-deep in cleaning products, trying to figure out how to get my tent mold-free in time for my trip.

As I’m now practically an expert in tent mold removal, I’m going to share my tried and tested techniques so you can clean your tent without wasting any extra time or effort. 


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10 Camping Essentials – Camping Gear & Accessories

Camping essentials so you have fun camping so you go camping more!

  1. Matches, lighter or flint to get your campfire started so you are always prepared.
  2. Reusable water jerry can with tap. I love that this one is foldable yet still super strong. 
  3. Comfortable camping chair. This one has a cooler bag and cup holder to ensure you have a cool drink within arms reach so you can sit back and relax.
  4. Portable gas camp stove to cook or reheat your favorite camping meals and stay nourished.
  5.  Axe or tomahawk to cut wood for your camp fire. 
  6. Jaffle iron to make delicious pie’s, panini’s, toasted cheese sandwiches and more around your campfire
  7. Heavy-duty gloves for handling items on your BBQ, grill or firepit safely.
  8. A long-handled shovel has so many uses from digging your car out of it gets bogged to moving coals around in your camp fire.
  9. Waterproof, quick-pitch tent with plenty of space for your gear and to protect you from the rain.
  10. Dirty gear bag that fits over your spare wheel so you can take all your rubbish with you.

How To Clean A Moldy Tent

Depending on just how bad the mold on your tent is and what products you have available, choose one of the methods below to revive your tent to its former glory. 

But before you get started, take a few minutes to get your tent ready for cleaning, it’s a simple step but you won’t want to skip it. 

Prepare Your Tent For Cleaning

To get your tent ready for cleaning, unfold it and give it a good shake to remove any trapped dirt. Next, carefully inspect your tent. You’ll want to identify the extent of the mold or mildew so you can better clean it. That way you won’t miss any patches only to discover them later on when you’re already at your destination. 

This is also a good opportunity to check for any tears, that your zippers work, and other general tent maintenance checks. 

How To Clean A Moldy Tent With Soap And Water

I find that mild dish soap and warm water works really well on light mold and mildew, plus it’s something you’re going to have on hand, so it’s usually the best method to get started with.

This can be done in your tub, shower, or outdoors. Add a small amount of dish soap to a bucket of warm water and gently rub your tent with a cloth or sponge. Rinse then leave to air dry. 

soap and vinegar to clean a moldy tent\

How To Clean A Moldy Tent With White Vinegar

White vinegar is a surprisingly powerful cleaning agent that is proven to remove mold, plus it is also inexpensive and you can buy it in any grocery store. 

Simply mix one part water with one part white vinegar in a spray bottle and spray on your tent’s mold patches. Leave it to soak in, then rub it with a sponge or cloth. Rinse well before drying. 

How To Clean A Moldy Tent With Lemon Juice

Lemons have high levels of citric acid which makes them a good natural option for cleaning mold on your tent. Mix one cup of lemon juice with a gallon of warm water and apply to your moldy tent. Let it sit for a couple of minutes before rubbing with a sponge, then rinse clean and air dry. 

How To Clean A Moldy Tent With An Enzyme Cleaner

If your tent has some really stubborn mold that is stuck in the fibers, canvas tents in particular often have this issue, then you may want to try out using an enzyme cleaner like MiraZyme or one of my favorites, this spray-on Probiotic Enzyme Cleaner

One word of warning, while you shouldn’t have any issues with most tents, enzyme cleaners can break down some PU waterproof coatings, so use them with caution and respect the manufacturer’s instructions on using this product. Don’t leave it to soak for longer than the stated time. Afterward, simply rinse and air dry. 

How To Remove Mold Stains On A Tent

If you have a light-colored tent, you may find that even though you’ve cleaned it thoroughly, those pesky black mildew spots still remain. You could just ignore them now that you’ve killed the mold but they are pretty unsightly. Here’s how to remove black mold stains from your tent.

How To Spot Clean Mildew Stains

To get the remaining mildew stains off my canvas tent, I used neat lemon juice. Squeeze some lemons and spray liberally over the stained area. Leave for ten minutes or so, scrub, then rinse and dry. 

lemon juice for cleaning a moldy tent

How To Deep Clean Mold Stains

If your tent has some serious black mold stains remaining after cleaning, you’ll need to take more serious action. The next step is to deep clean your tent by leaving it to soak in warm water with a specialized tent cleaning product. Bear in mind that you may need to renew any waterproof coatings afterward. 

I don’t personally recommend this, but, if all else fails and you are considering getting rid of your tent as it is so badly stained, you could try using bleach. If you have a colored tent, try color-safe bleach or non-chloride bleach for light-colored tent fabrics. This should only be considered a last-ditch option and you’ll also need to renew your tent’s waterproofing. 

How To Prevent Your Tent From Getting Moldy

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Now that you’ve got your tent squeaky clean, you’ll want to make sure that it stays that way. 

Clean Your Tent After Use

Always clean your tent after use. Yes, you’re tired and there are a million and one things to sort out after your camping trip. But, you’ll be doing yourself a favor in the long run. So, take fifteen minutes and give your tent a good clean over. Brush it down, remove any dirt, and spot-clean any sap or stains. 

Dry Your Tent Fully Before Storing

Next, leave your tent unfolded to fully dry. This is THE most important step to prevent your tent from getting moldy. Double-check that it is completely bone dry before you fold it up for storage. 

Use A Breathable Tent Storage Bag

Don’t store your tent in a plastic bag. Instead, opt for a breathable fabric bag or a mesh bag. This will help to prevent mold from forming while keeping your tent neatly stored. If you don’t have a suitable bag, use a large cotton pillowcase.

Store Your Tent In A Dry Location 

If you store your tent in your humid basement, it’s not really surprising that it ends up moldy. Make sure that you store your tent in a room or garage where there is no excess humidity.

Use Silica Gel Packs

This is my top tip to keep your tent and the rest of your camping gear mold-free. Pick up a bundle of silica gel packs and place a couple in your tent, sleeping bags, and other gear that you’re going to be storing for a couple of months. The packs work like moisture eaters absorbing excess humidity to prevent mold from forming. 

use silica gel packs to store your tent to prevent mold

How To Clean A Moldy Tent FAQs

Is It Safe To Sleep In A Moldy Tent?

For most people, provided you do not suffer from respiratory problems, sleeping in a slightly moldy tent is not particularly dangerous. However, you may be uncomfortable and the damp smell may prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Should I Throw Away My Moldy Tent?

Personally, I would try cleaning your moldy tent first with the above tips. If your tent is otherwise in good condition, it would be a shame to throw it away when a little elbow grease could restore it. Once cleaned, your tent will be mold-free but the black stains could still remain. If this really bugs you, you may wish to consider replacing your tent. Read my review of the best 4 person tents that you may want to consider replacing your tent with.

What’s The Best Mold Remover For Tents?

The best mold remover for tents is white vinegar thanks to its powerful cleaning properties and natural composition. However, dish soap or lemon juice also work well, as do specialized tent cleaning products. 

Can I Use Bleach To Clean Mold Off My Tent?

I personally would not use bleach on my tent, except as a very last resort. If you have a localized mold stain you could try spot-treating it with bleach. If you want to use bleach to clean mold off your tent, expect some discoloration and make sure you rinse, dry and renew your tent’s waterproofing afterward. 

Final Thoughts On How To Clean A Moldy Tent

Cleaning a moldy tent can be pretty tough work, especially if you don’t know where to get started. Now that you know the best ways to get your tent clean and mold-free, you can get to work cleaning!

In the future, make sure that you follow the above tips when storing your tent to ensure that it stays clean and free from mold. Just putting in a little extra effort after your camping trip will save you a lot of time and energy when camping season comes around again. 

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2 thoughts on “How To Clean A Moldy Tent: 4 Tried And Tested Methods”

  1. Pingback: How to Dry Out a Tent - Top Tips for Drying Your Tent Quickly - Five Star Campers

  2. Pingback: How to set up a tent in the rain. Plus practical tips to stay dry.

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