Just like a vehicle, you have to maintain your tent if you want it to last. If you don’t take care of it, you will more than likely need a new one soon. Take care of it well, and it will last almost forever!
Cleaning your tent
Don’t try to go the easy route and throw your tent in the washing machine; this can damage your it. The agitator could actually tear your tent. The heat of the dryer can damage the material as well. The best way to clean your tent is by hand. Use a mild detergent and a non-abrasive sponge or rag and gently scrub the soiled areas. This is especially important when your tent has been exposed to sand, silt, bird droppings; well you get the idea. You also want to avoid any harsh household cleaning products. Pre-soaking products, bleach, and spot removers; these products will damage the tent’s waterproof coating.
Cleaning Mildew & Mold
Hopefully, you’ll never have to do this. But even the most seasoned campers have to deal with mildew and mold. How do you know if it’s there? Typically, there is a musky smell and some discoloration. Use an enzymatic cleaner to stop the growth of mold & mildew. Your goal is to stop the growth because continued growth of mold and mildew will leave a permanent stain and smell. There are also the health ramifications of sleeping in a moldy tent. The gear cleaners that are available are either spot cleaners or submersive. Monitor the time your tent is submerged. Prolong exposure to these cleaners can also damage the waterproofing properties.
Cleaning Pine Sap
If you get sap on your tent, it can be a hassle. Sap isn’t necessarily an end game. You can gently clean it with mineral spirits being careful not to scrub too hard or you can damage the waterproofing. Another option is to sprinkle some powder on the sap and simply move on. After time and more and more sap, your tent can look freckled, but that’s not really a big deal.
Zippers & Poles
Don’t neglect cleaning the zippers and poles. Simply brushing off the zippers and poles before storage will go a long way! Adding a dry lubricant formulated for outdoor gear will prolong the life of your zippers.
There is no more important rule than NEVER STORE A WET TENT. If you get nothing else from this article, please remember this. There is no such thing as too much drying time. A wet or damp tent will breed mold and mildew and can ruin the wall and roof materials. As soon as you get home from a trip, pitch your tent in a shady area or inside to let it air out. If you don’t have the space to pitch the tent, drape it over something to air out.
Store your tent loosely in cool dry place. The fabrics work best when they’re able to relax. Sure storing your tent in a stuff sack or the bag it came with is better for space savings, but a loosely stored tent will let be able to breathe and not be as stuffy.
Avoid storing your tent is really hot or damp places. A car trunk is not a good option as much as it sounds good to be “ready to camp at any moment”. The heat can damage the materials. Store your tent in an air tight bin or container if you live in a tropical or moist area.