Can You Wash A Tent In A Washing Machine? Cleaning Your Tent Safely And Effectively

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Written By Jay Clatworthy

Off Grid Camping contributor.

Can You Wash A Tent In A Washing Machine? Cleaning Your Tent Safely And Effectively

Can you wash your tent in a washing machine?

This is a big no. The rough movement of washing machines will do more harm than good for your tent.

Most washing machines are equipped with an agitator which is used to move the fabric inside the machine. This movement is too rough on the delicate fabric of your tent. It can:

  • Stretch or tear the fabric or the mesh
  • Damage the seams, the tape can come off during washing cycle
  • Crack the tent coating, which makes it useless

Can you put your tent in a dryer to dry it faster?

No, you can’t. Same as with washing machines, dryers do much damage to your tent. A dryer uses heat to dry the fabric and although convenient, this can damage your tent’s seams, fabric, and water-repellant coating. 

How can you clean your tent without damaging it?

Your tent is an important traveling companion. As such, you need to care for it properly.

To maintain the effectiveness of your tent’s ability to repel water, keep out insects, protect you from the elements, etc., you need to keep it clean and dry. Your tent has specific cleaning instructions attached, follow that before doing anything else.

You can clean your tent using a bucket, bathtub, or hose, but the steps are just the same:

  1. Remove dirt and dust

Before washing your tent, you need to remove dirt and dust. You can do this by:

  • Sweeping or vacuuming the inside of your tent.
  • Shake out your tent to get rid of any dirt or dust that was missed.
  • Spot clean any dirt stains on the fabric with a sponge and some water.
  • If your tent has sap stains, use mild dish soap to spot clean. 
  1. Wet your tent with cold or lukewarm water and use a sponge and a tent-specific wash to clean it

If the cleaning instructions allow, use a tent-specific wash to clean your tent. Otherwise, use cold or lukewarm water and a sponge. Whether using a wash or not, be sure to sponge all areas of the tent and give it a thorough rinse.

  1. Hang and let it dry

Do not put your tent in the dryer. You can safely dry it through:

  • Pitching your tent in a dry place and letting it air dry
  • Hanging your tent on a rod or clothesline 
  • You can speed up the drying process through an electric fan pointed at your tent. 
  • Avoid prolonged direct sun exposure as it can damage your tent.
  1. Store it properly once it is dry

Check to see if your tent is really dry. Never store your tent if it is still moist. A damp tent is in danger of mold and mildew. Fold your tent properly and store it away from direct sunlight.

  1. Reapply water repellent if needed

Most tents today have a coating of water repellent. If you notice some peeling in your walls or floor, you can reapply a coat of water repellant. Make sure to do the following things:

  • Your tent should be bone dry before applying water repellant.
  • Most water repellant products take 24 hours to dry so prepare a space to spread your tent for drying.
  • Be sure to apply the correct type of water repellant for your tent’s fabric. You can ask your tent manufacturer or outdoor stores in your area.

Can you use the usual detergent to wash your tent

Use only mild soap and detergent. You can also buy tent-specific washes from outdoor stores. Harsh soap can damage tent materials and the DWR (Durable Water Repellant) coating.

Most household cleaners and detergents are perfumed, avoid these as the perfume can attract insects and other animals. 

How often should I wash my tent?

Tents don’t need to be washed often, some general cleaning like sweeping, vacuuming, and spot treatments should be enough unless any of these situations happen:

  • A muddy camping trip
  • A trip near saltwater
  •  The tent smells weird

In the end, washing your tent depends on your discretion and how much you make use of it.

How can I keep my tent clean?

Keeping your tent clean is an important part of its maintenance. Here are a few things to do to keep your tent clean while you’re using it:

  • Remove shoes when entering the tent

Let your family members or fellow campers leave their shoes outside of the tent. This prevents dirt and mud from tracking all over the tent floor.

  • Use a ground sheet or footprint under the tent

Make use of a groundsheet under the tent as it prevents water from seeping through the tent floor and it minimizes the dirt and mud that you have to clean.

  • Keep a rug in front of the tent door

This prevents dirt and dust from getting inside your tent. 

  • Sweep inside your tent frequently

Keep dirt and dust from collecting inside your tent through frequent sweeping.