How To Clean A Tent That Smells?

Camping is a lot of fun, but we can’t lie: it’s also a lot of work. No comforts, no excuses, and a lot of preparation.

One of the most important items of camping is certainly your tent: if you aren’t new to camping, you already know that storing it properly is highly important.

Not only do you want to avoid holes and damage, but you also want to avoid bad smells. In this article, you’ll learn how to clean a tent that smells.


Why can you have a bad smell from your tent?

One of the main reasons for smells is humidity. In particular, when you put away your tent for a long period – for example, during winter – in a closed container and the tent isn’t perfectly dry, almost certainly you’ll have it smelling when, in the next season, you pull it out from its container.

The good news is that there are ways to wash your tent and remove every smell. There are a couple of methods, and you can perform both on your own without the need for professional help.

How to Clean a Tent That Smells?

How to Clean a Tent That Smells

Here are simple ways in which you can clean your smelly tent:


Method number one is the most common, and it’s usually effective: it’s made by using water and vinegar.

You can take a big basin (one that can contain your tent immersed in water) and fill it with water and vinegar.

The smell of vinegar isn’t the greatest, but it’s very effective to remove the one left behind by humidity.

You can simply immerse your tent inside this solution, wash it carefully, and let it dry. When it is dry, sniff your tent: it shouldn’t have any smell.

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Sometimes, however, it can happen that the tent now smells of vinegar. You can simply wash it again with any soap of your choice so that the smell of vinegar will be removed.

There is also another case: that, even after you’ve washed with vinegar and then soap, your tent still has a smell.

This can happen, for example, if you store your tent in a humid environment for several seasons in a row. How can you fix it?

Baking soda

There is another method that is cheap and very effective against any type of smell: baking soda.

Such material is very porous: smells are captured within the pores, and as you remove the baking soda from a surface, the smell is taken away with it. So how to use baking soda to remove smells from your tent?

You can simply lay down your tent on a clean surface, cover it with baking soda and then wait. You need to let the baking soda do its job for a long time: one full day or, even better, two.

Then, you can remove the baking soda (with a broom first and then a vacuum cleaner), and this should be effective.

If the problem is serious and there is still some smell coming from your tent, you can repeat the process with the baking soda more than once.

3 methods together

All these methods, one after the other, are super effective when it comes to cleaning a tent that smells! And we hope you found this article on how to clean a tent that smells useful.


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Check Out These Useful Tips From Reddit Users

Cleaning a Terrible Smelling Tent
by u/MuddyGeek in CampingGear

How to Remove Mold & Mildew From Tents?

How to Remove Mold & Mildew From Tents

The growth of mold & mildew can arise on your tent if you pack it while it is still wet.

Mold & mildew keep growing unless you don’t treat them, and it also causes the tent to smell bad. Here are ways in which you can remove mold & mildew from your tents:


Depending on the intensity of the mold, you can simply use mild liquid soap and water to clean the affected area, or you can buy a specialized cleaner such as Revivex pro cleaner, starbite, etc. Here’s how you can get rid of the mold and the smell from the tent:

Things Required:

  • Cleaning agent or mild liquid soap
  • Tub of warm water
  • Sponge
  • Container

Estimated Cleaning Time:

30 minutes

Drying Time:

6-8 Hours

Cleaning Process

  1. In a container, add some warm water and a few drops of specialized cleaning agent or mild liquid soap.
  2. Dip a sponge into the liquid and treat the affected area gently.
  3. Now take a large tub full of warm water, add mild liquid soap into it and submerge the tent into the tub for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Rinse the soap residue off from the tent, and rub the tent very gently to get rid of leftover mold (if any).
  5. Now rinse the tent with clean water and leave it to air dry before packing it up again.

This method should be able to clean the tent effectively and remove the smell from the tent completely.


Deep Cleaning a Tent

Storing the Tent

Storing the tent correctly after camping and after washing is very important to avoid it from smelling again. Here are some tips that you should keep in mind:

  • During camping, do not pack up your tent while it is still wet; make sure you let it dry out completely.
  • If you had to pack up a wet tent, then clean your tent the first thing when you come back home.
  • After you have cleaned your tent, make sure you let it dry out completely before storing it.

Tips to Clean & Avoid Tent From Smelling

No one likes the horrible smell that comes out of tents, and you wouldn’t have to deal with it if you took care of some things.

Here are some kick-ass tips that will be useful to you for cleaning and avoiding smell altogether.

1. What causes a smelly tent?

The most common reason for smelly tents is dirt, mud, and grim that stick to the tent while camping.

If you do not shake off your tent before packing it up, then by the time you reach home, you will have a tent that looks bad and smells horrible.

So make sure to clean the dust, dirt, and everything off your tent while packing up.

The next reason for a smelly tent is sweat and moisture. All the activities, such as kayaking, hiking, etc., cause a lot of sweat.

And when you rest inside your tent after going on these adventures, the sweat and moisture from your body stick to the tent and cause it to smell.

Packing up a wet tent causes the most pungent smell, along with the growth of mold. So make sure you do not pack up a wet tent.

2. How to prevent a tent from stinking?

Prevention is better than cure. And if you do not want to go through the taxing pain of cleaning your tent, then here are some tips to prevent it from stinking:

  • Always clean the dirt and mud from your tent before packing up.
  • Do not pack up a wet tent.
  • Always inspect your tent after camping, and clean it the first thing if it is dirty.

3. How to clean a smelly pop-up tent?

A Pop-up tent, just like a standard tent, can smell, and immersing it in warm water is not the best thing to do.

To clean a stinking pop-up tent, you can create a mixture of water, vinegar, and lemon juice and put it in a spray bottle.

You can use this mixture to spray it on the tent and wipe it with a dry cloth to clean it.

4. Airing out a smelly tent

Even if your tent is not smelling or you didn’t have to wash it, we recommend you leave it in the air for a while.

This will leave no scope for bacteria to grow later. And if you have washed your tent, then air dry your tent, as it is the best way to get it dry without damaging it.

However, make sure you do not keep the tent under direct sunlight, as the UV radiation from the sun can damage the tent’s fabric and its coating.

5. Do not clean your tent in a washing machine.

Putting your tent in a washing machine is the biggest mistake that you can make.

This is because washing machines can damage the thin fabric of the tent, and it will surely damage the waterproof coating of the tent. So always hand-clean your tent and never use a washing machine.

Using a tent air-freshener

Sometimes no amount of cleaning removes the bad smell from your tent, and in such a situation, you may be tempted to use an air-freshener.

However, you should never use a normal air freshener as it may attract unwanted insects and other things. You should only spray an odor eliminator which is specially designed for tents.

How to Waterproof a Tent?

Wrapping Up

A smelly tent can be caused due to a variety of reasons, but there are ways to get rid of the smell and to avoid the issue altogether, as shared above.

We hope you found this guide on how to clean a tent that smells useful.


Is it safe to use bleach on a tent?

No, you should never use bleach to clean a tent, as bleach weakens the fabric of the tent, destroys its waterproof coating, and even leads to unwanted attention from crickets.

You can use plain water, mild liquid soap, or some natural ingredients to clean it.

Will cleaning a tent with vinegar weaken it?

Vinegar is caustic, which means it is able to burn or corrode organic tissues, so cleaning your tent with vinegar will weaken the tent’s canvas slightly.

Can I waterproof my tent again?

Yes, you can waterproof your tent again by applying a coating of DWR spray on it.

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