Canvas Tent Care: Everything You Need To Know About Looking After Your Canvas Tent

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Written By Jay Clatworthy

Off Grid Camping contributor.

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This guide will show you everything you need to know about caring for your canvas tent. It covers how to stop it from getting moldy, as well as finding out anything else there is. You won’t want to miss this if you’re thinking of buying one – or if you have one and are looking for some handy tips!

Canvas is a great material for camping, hiking, and travelling but should always be taken care of properly. It’s also a material that seems very cheap but is worth looking after and will last for many years.

What is canvas?

Canvas is a tough material for use in a wide range of applications such as backpacks, tents, and clothing. It’s very strong (can resist tearing) and doesn’t absorb water so it dries fast when you set up your tent or hang your clothes. It also has insulation qualities that help keep you warm.

Canvas is a natural fiber made out of plant fibers (usually cotton or hemp), with threads woven together. It’s also called cloth, fabric, or fabric canvas. There are 2 types of cloth to take note of when it comes to canvas – plain and twill.

How to clean a canvas tent?

This is the most important thing to remember when it comes to your canvas tent – although all waterproof materials should be treated in the same manner, it would be better not to use them if they are already wet. It will not only mean that you’ve had an unpleasant experience but more likely that your tent will never regain its former beauty or working abilities.

The best thing to do is to remove the shelter from the water and to let it dry at least for a day before giving it a thorough cleaning.

Canvas tents are fairly easy to clean, as long as you take care of the following:

  1. All the dirt has been removed. You can use a brush for this purpose. Don’t try and pull any bits of grass or dirt off with your fingers unless you want splinters in them. It would be better if you use protective gloves, but most people don’t bother. Be very careful if you choose not to, though, because grass and dirt can get ‘stuck in the canvas like no glue ever could take hold of other materials.
  2. Rinse it under the hose preferably, and then hang it up to dry. Do this as soon as you can after using your tent. If you don’t do this, you’ll be very disappointed if the next time you go camping, your tent looks like it needs a full makeover.
  3. Put on a few drops of detergent in a bucket of water and use a scrubbing brush or sponge to give all the areas that need cleaning a good clean – including the seams and make sure that no bits of sand or grit gets into them.
  4. Pat dry with soft cloths – never rub because this will cause rips and tears. 
  5. Once the canvas is dry, fold it up and put it in a bag.

It’s likely that your tent will appear to be in the same condition as when you first bought it.

How to remove mould from a canvas tent

If your canvas tent has been in storage for months or years, there is every chance that after a few days of camping, a mouldy appearance will start to develop on what was once pristine white. Mould is usually easy to remove. 

  • The best way of making sure that you do this is by using an industrial strength mould remover or an enzyme-based cleaner. It doesn’t have to be expensive – even if you use vinegar and water this should work for most purposes.
  • If you’ve cleaned your tent already, simply spray the area that has been attacked by mould with the vinegar and water solution. You’ll need to test with a small piece of the canvas first to make sure that there is no discolouration or other reaction.
  • Leave to dry completely in a well-ventilated room. It should be left for at least a day before it’s put back into use. Don’t let it dry in direct sunlight as this will also have an adverse effect on the tent fabric itself.
  • Once dry, give it another thorough clean and all will be as before you were forced to throw away your mouldy canvas tent.

If a mouldy canvas tent is flushed out with water immediately and thoroughly, it’s possible that there will be some damage to the fabric.

You can check for signs of discoloration or bleaching but these usually disappear after a short time.

Other Information You Need To Know about caring for Canvas Tent

Leaving your tent up in cold weather can actually damage it over time. While there are some damages that can be fixed, most smaller damages are irreparable and these sorts of issues will lead to increased wear and tear on your overall tent which will reduce its lifespan in the long run.

An even bigger issue that people need to remember is that they should always check their tents for wear and tear on a regular basis.

If you notice any sort of damage or signs of wear and tear, it is important to take immediate action and replace the area where the damage occurred with a different material. This prevents the tent from being damaged in the future and allows it to last much longer.

Finally, those who want their canvas tents to last as long as possible need to keep in mind that using the wrong materials can also reduce the lifespan of their tents. While canvas is great at keeping things dry, stuffing your tent with synthetic materials such as down tends to make it heavier and therefore more susceptible to wear over time.