Camping can get pretty dirty.
I can’t count how many times I’ve come home from a camping trip with just about everything I took covered in mud, dirt, dust, and other bits and pieces of vegetation.
So while you’re throwing the rest of your stuff in the washing machine, you might be tempted to chuck your tent in there as well to give it a good wash.
But is this a good idea?
Can you wash a tent in a front-load washing machine?
Or any type of washing machine for that matter?
Technically you can (in a front-loaded machine), but we absolutely do not recommend it!
In this article, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the risks and dangers of washing a tent in a washing machine. I’ll also go over how to wash a tent the safer way, and how often you should wash your tent to keep it fresh and clean all the time.
Let’s get started!
Can You Wash A Tent In A Washing Machine?
Technically, you can wash most tents in a front-loading washing machine.
However, you really shouldn’t.
While the ease of loading your tent into the machine and getting it nice and squeaky clean at the push of a button might be tempting – try to resist the urge.
Washing your tent in the machine can cause severe damage that you won’t be able to repair.
If it’s an expensive tent, I’m sure you won’t be too thrilled if you end up having to throw it in the trash. And that’s a very possible scenario if you choose to risk machine washing your tent.
If the washing instructions on your tent explicitly state not to machine wash it, I personally wouldn’t risk it.
Now, I recognize that not everyone is going to take that advice on board. Some people will read this and still decide to run it through the machine and hope for the best.
And I’m not going to lie – it could come out completely fine. Or it could come out completely destroyed.
That’s the risk you’re taking!!!
If you do decide to go ahead and machine wash your tent, make sure that it’s a front-load washing machine and not a top-load machine. Top load machines use agitators or impellers that’ll almost certainly damage the material on your tent.
You should also always make sure that your tent has enough room inside the machine. Oversized, industrial front-load washing machines are your best bet, if you can find one. Put the tent in by itself, without any clothes or other laundry.
Run your tent through a gentle cycle at the lowest possible temperature, with a slow spin cycle. The cycle for delicates like wool or silk is a good way to go.
And, finally, make sure to use a gentle, non-detergent soap that won’t be too harsh on the tent fabric. Nikwax Tech Wash is a good option.
If you don’t want to risk damaging your tent in the washing machine, the best way to get it looking clean and sparkly again is by hand washing it.
To do this, you’re going to need the following items:
- A large bucket or bathtub
- A mild, non-detergent soap
- A sponge and a soft bristle brush
- A source of running water like a garden hose or tap
Giving your tent a good, thorough wash by hand is simple.
All you have to do is follow these easy steps:
Step 1: Fill Your Bucket Or Tub
Fill your bucket or tub with water and add some mild soap to get some bubbles happening. A few drops should be enough. If you put too much soap in, it’ll take forever to rinse your tent out afterwards.
I recommend using cold water. If your tent is extremely dirty, you can use lukewarm to warm water, but make sure it isn’t too warm or it might damage the tent fabric.
Step 2: Soak Your Tent
Next, place your tent inside the bucket or tub and submerge it completely in soapy water.
Give it a good swish around to make sure every nook and cranny gets wet.
Let it sit in the water and soak for a couple of minutes before you proceed to the next step.
Step 3: Scrub The Surfaces
Take your sponge and give the entire tent a good scrub inside and out.
If you’re using a sponge that has an abrasive side, use the non-abrasive side so that you don’t scratch the fabric of your tent.
Step 4: Spot Clean Problem Areas
If there are any parts of your tent that are particularly dirty or stained, use a soft bristle brush and some extra soap to spot-clean those areas.
You can also use a soft bristle toothbrush for this step.
Whichever kind of brush you’re using, just make sure that the bristles are super soft. Hard bristles could scratch or even rip your tent, and you don’t want that.
Step 5: Rinse Thoroughly
Once you’ve given the tent a good, thorough scrub and you’re satisfied, drain the water from your bucket or tub.
Run the tent under running water until you’ve washed all of the soap out. If you accidentally put too much soap in your water, this could take a while. But it’s important that you keep rinsing until there are no more bubbles.
Step 6: Air Dry
Finally, hang your tent up to air dry.
Never put it in a dryer – it almost certainly won’t survive.
Avoid hanging your tent up in direct sunlight. Instead, find a shady spot away from the sun’s harsh UV rays.
And last, but definitely not least – always make sure that your tent is completely dry before you store it away. If there’s any moisture left in the fabric when you pack it away, it’ll be covered in mold then next time you pull it out of storage. Peeuw!
How Often Should You Wash Your Tent?
The less frequently, the better.
Washing your tent by hand is the best way to do it, but you definitely don’t want to be doing this all the time. Overdoing it can cause your tent to wear down quicker than it should, and it can cut down its lifespan by quite a bit in the long run.
Instead, try and keep your tent as clean as possible, so that you don’t have to wash it as often.
Avoid wearing shoes or eating food inside your tent, and always make sure you use a footprint or groundsheet to protect your tent floor and keep it clean and dry.
I like to hose down the outside of my tent at the end of a camping trip. This is a good way to give it a quick clean, without the risk of damaging it.
Just make sure that you give it enough time to dry out completely before you pack it away.
So, there you have it.
Washing your tent in the washing machine is never a good idea. But, if you absolutely have to – make sure it’s an oversized front-load washing machine.
Otherwise, you’re much better off washing your tent by hand.
To find out how to remove mold from a canvas tent, check out this article we wrote. It’ll show you four great methods to get your moldy tent looking like new again.
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