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Camping Basics: How to Remove Mold and Mildew From the Tent

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Moist damp canvas in a tightly closed area with warm surroundings is the perfect storm for mold and mildew to grow on your camping tent. Mildew is also one of the things that no one would ever tell you about camping. But, if your tent does have any signs of mold, you need to worry about it as it can be removed. In this article, we have listed everything right from the cause, effect, signs, and ways to get rid of mold and mildew.

It is a known fact that camping gear can quite easily become a victim of mold and mildew. But, to see spots of mold or mildew on your tent can be quite frustrating. This is because we all know that getting rid of it isn’t an easy thing. If you too are wondering how to remove mold, you first need to understand why it happens.

If your tent is not cleaned, dry and stored properly when you put it away mold and mildew can be a pesky problem. Imagine you have planned for an epic camping trip with your friends. But, as soon as you take out your tent, you find it covered in mold. But, why did it happen? It might have happened because the last time you went on a camping trip to the beach or a humid area; you simply dusted the sand off, wiped the floor and stuffed the tent in your bag.

What happens is that the moist air doesn’t evaporate before you stuffed the tent in your bag?

Know more here:

Cause and Effect of Mold

In case you are wondering how to get rid of mildew, you first need to understand its cause and what effect it can have on your tent. Mildew and mold can affect the tents made from synthetic or canvas materials. The major cause of mold on the tent is moisture from humidity, condensation, snow, and rain.

mildew on tent
Mildew on the side of a tent

All of these can leave your tent damp and even small amounts of moisture have the capability to leave your tent vulnerable to mold and mildew growth. They do not take much time to grow and can damage your tent beyond repair. Learning how to get rid of mildew can be extremely sensitive as they also pose certain health risks like triggering allergic reactions.

Signs of Mold and Mildew

Mildew generally manifests itself as rather dark or white spots. It can occur on all kinds of fabric ranging from polyester to nylon to canvas. Knowing how to remove mildew from fabrics can help preserve your tent and make it last longer. If nothing is done about removing mold then it would slowly destroy the entire cloth or gear. Also, as the mildew spreads, it might even leave a stain on the cloth which can pretty difficult to get rid of.

How to Remove Mold

The very first step of how to remove mold would be to use a soft brush to brush off the mold and mildew from your tent. Next, prepare a solution of half a teaspoon of dish soap and one quart of vinegar in 5 quarts of hot water. Rinse the walls and floor of the tent with this solution. Once washed, allow the tent to dry completely. Use non-chlorine bleach on the mildew stain.

For the color safe fabrics, use a solution of 2 tablespoons of bleach to a quart of water. For colored fabrics, use a solution of 1 cup of lemon juice and 1 cup of salt to a gallon of hot water. Allow the bleached area to dry completely. When your tent has dried completely, apply seam sealer or other waterproof sealants per the instructions of the manufacturer. Whatever you do, make sure that the tent has dried completely.

cleaning mold
Cleaning mold off the tent

Treatment to Reduce Odour

The only thing worse than the mold is the unpleasant odor that it leaves behind. You must now be aware that it isn’t easy to get rid of this smell. Most of the products and treatments simply mask the smell instead of getting rid of it. If you are wondering how to remove mildew smell, you could try odor eliminators which target the bacteria causing an unpleasant smell and eliminates it completely. You could also try leaving the tent outside in the sun with all the flaps completely open.

Remedies to Get Rid of Mildew

In case you are wondering how to remove mold, there are a few other remedies too that you can try.

Lime Juice and Salt Remedy

Before you try this remedy, you would need to clean your tent nicely. Use fabric specific cleaners to safeguard your tent against any damage. If you cannot get your hands on any technical fabric cleanser, make sure that whatever you do use is a non-detergent based. Rinse the tent thoroughly and allow it to dry. Now, mix 1 cup lime juice, 1 cup salt and a gallon of water together. Now, take the sponge, dip it into the solution and then begin to spot treat the mold. Once done, allow the tent to dry completely before you put it away.

Professional Grade Cleaners

When you search how to remove mold, various home remedies might pop up. But at times the home remedies might not be able to do their job and you would need something stronger to get rid of the mildew and mold. There aren’t many products in the market that have been created specifically for treating molds on the tent. However, there are a few which do not contain chlorine or other forms of bleach. This means that you wouldn’t have to worry about discoloration or damage. All you would need to do is follow the instructions of the manufacturer and then rinse your tent thoroughly.

mold treatment
Use professional cleaners for stronger mold

Important Tips to Consider When Treating Mold

  • Clean as soon as you notice mildew or mold on your tent. Thinking that you would deal with the issue later would only lead to worsening of the issue. It can damage the material permanently and thereby make your tent completely useless. In case you have noticed the growth in its early stage, there’s a better chance that you would be able to save your tent.

  • Remember to never use bleach. It might seem like the most logical solution then but would actually do more harm than good to the fabric. It would not only lead to discoloration but would also deteriorate the fabric as a whole.

  • Do not ever machine wash your tent. Washing machines generally tend to be more aggressive and twist, turn and pull the cloth in various directions. The tent fabric does not have the capability to withstand such force and therefore would either stretch or tear.

  • Be extra caution of canvas tents. Most of the commercial cleaners and even the home remedy treatments are meant for other materials. Hence, it is imperative that you double check that the treatment would be safe to use on a material like canvas.

  • Wash the tent thoroughly. This is if you are going to be using commercial treatments which have a soap-like consistency for removing mold. Consider washing in fresh water a few times so as to ensure that there’s no residue remaining.

  • Make sure that you are using the softest brush available. This is true with sponges too. Never use the rough or abrasive side of the sponge to clean your tent. Too much pressure must not be applied when you are scrubbing the parts covered in mold as this can destroy the top layer and might even weaken the fabric.

  • You must spot test any remedy that you are going to be using. Try it on a small portion of the tent first and then wash it out. If there are no negative results, continue with the remedy.

Tent Care

After you have returned from your camping trip, you would need to know more than just how to clean a tent properly to ensure that mildew or mold doesn’t grow inside it. Sweep out the dirt or shake it properly to clear out the debris which may harbor mildew and mold. When you are back at home, pitch your tent and wipe down the interior and exterior with fresh water. Once you are done with cleaning the tent completely, allow it to dry in a shaded area. Avoid drying the tent in a humid or moist area.

For more information on camping tents, read: Camping Basics: How to Repair a Tent.

Also, you might have of course been gentle with cleaning your tent, but there’s a good chance that you will need to know how to weatherproof a tent. This means that you would need to reapply sealants once you are sure that the mildew and the mold are gone. These days there are various waterproof sealants and tent waterproofing spray available in the market for that and you can choose according to what you feel is the best.

Clean tent
A clean tent benefits the whole family

Summing Up

The best way how to clean mold and mildew is to avoid it in the first place. As soon as you are done with your camping trip, make sure that you have cleaned it properly and have allowed it to dry before you put it away. Wipe the tent inside out to ensure that there isn’t any amount of moisture present in the tent. Even if the tent is completely dry, you should wash it if there are spots of dirt on it. Soil or any other dirt can act as the perfect environment for fungus, mildew, and other harmful agents to grow.

Follow the steps mentioned above and you will be able to get rid of mold from your tent forever!

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