Are you someone who can’t bear stinky smell? Well, we can tell you that you are not the only one who feels that way. No camper likes to camp in a stinky tent.
Stinky tents can take all the fun out of a camping tent and instead of a trip to remember, you may end up with a nightmare you want to forget as quickly as you can. Now the stink in a tent doesn’t magically appear, as a matter of fact, it appears because of some wrong course of actions you may have taken.
Yes, you heard it right bad smell can be avoided just by some simple precaution who have to take sometimes. And also, even if your tent does stink, there are ways you can remove the smell completely. So, let’s dive right in to know How To Clean A Tent That Smells.
What Makes A Tent Smell?
A tent can get very stink sometimes and you may be left wondering what was the reason behind it. There can be several reasons because of which your tent can stink.
- Dirt may not be a direct reason for the smell but indirectly, dirt is a reason for the stinky smell in your tent. A tent may get dirty for several reasons like mud or throwing of garbage near the campsite or even because of food inside the camp.
- Mold or mildew is the main reason for the stink coming from your tent. These fungi can stink horribly if they are allowed to grow.
Molds and mildew start growing in a tent because of moisture. Since the tents come in direct contact with rain and sunlight, packing them off without drying treating them properly, can lead to moisture getting trapped and resulting in their growth.
If your tent had black, blue, or green spots and is not easily removable, it is because of the growth of mold. Mildew is white, gray, or yellowish and just like molds, they do not come off easily either.
- Polyurethane coating is given to a tent to make it waterproof and little by little, over decades of absorbing UV rays of the sun, they tend to breakdown and cause smelling in your tent. When this happens, however, it is best to just replace your tent with a new one.
These are the three reasons for your camp stinking and they can be avoided if you keep some things in mind.
How To Avoid Smell In Tent While Camping?
The main reason for the smell in a tent is because of fungi acting on the moisture. So, if you can prevent moisture in your tent, you will most likely prevent any sort of smell.
That is why, if you follow a few tips, you can prevent the stinky smell that a tent develops.
Clean Your Tent
We are not talking about cleaning a tent after it gets stinky, but just after it has been used for camping and has been taking a lot of rain. Every time you go camping in some dirty or rainy environment, it is very important that after you return, the first thing you do is clean the tent with fresh water and detergent.
As it is said, prevention is better than cure, so if you don’t let any dirt or stale water stay in your tent, your tent is more likely to last for a long time and get no foul smell.
Dry Your Tent
If you dry your tent, no moisture can get into the tent and hence no smell. After you are done with camping and your tent is cleaned with water and detergent, if you pack it instantly without drying it, it will catch a foul smell.
So, it is best to dry your tent not in an enclosed area like indoors but in the open under the sun. You can keep it under the sun for a day because it takes a while to completely dry out.
Make sure that fog and mist don’t fall on your tent though, then all your effort may go to waste.
Store Your Tent
After all the cleaning and drying, next comes storing. Now, when it comes to storing a tent, you can use two kinds of methods:
- Seal it Up: You can pack your tent away into a sealed container and it will guard your tent against moisture or pests. If you use this method, you also have to pack a moisture and odor absorbing object with the tent. You can use some rice in a cloth, or the commonly available naphthalene balls for this.
- Airy protection: In this method, you can store your tent in its original bag or any other space which is climate controlled. Space has to be maintained at a stable temperature and humidity. Places like a storage closet can be used for this method. A moisture-absorbing object isn’t necessary but you can place one for extra precautions.
Inspect Your Tent
Just cleaning and sealing is not enough for ensuring that no odor develops on your tent. Every six months or so, you have to check on your tent once to see if any fungi are developing in your tent or any smell is coming from it. In case there is, you will have to repeat the above mention steps.
If you don’t want to do any of that, you at least have to check on your tent three to four weeks before your trip, so that there is enough time to clean your tent.
How To Clean A Tent That Smells?
There are two types of cleaning required for a tent. One is if your tent isn’t dirty and one if it is. For both types of cleaning, we can tell you they are relatively easy and you can perform the cleaning all by yourself.
For Tents That Aren’t Dirty:
1. Vinegar: How To Clean A Tent With Vinegar
A common daily life item, vinegar can be your friend for this. In a container, pour water and vinegar in equal amount to make a solution, they pour it into a spray bottle and start cleaning with it.
For those who have a problem with the smell of vinegar, you can add some lemon juice to the solution to change the smell.
2. Scrub The Tent:
First pitch the tent on your patio or someplace where you can clean it. After that, you have to look for spots of mold or mildew. If you find them somewhere, you can just pour some pure vinegar on it and wait for one or two hours.
Other than that, spray the solution of vinegar on the entire tent and start scrubbing. A thorough cleaning will ensure that your tent cleans up properly. Use a soft brush or sponge for scrubbing and also be gentle so that you don’t scrub away the waterproof coating off your tent.
3. Drying After Cleaning:
Let the tent dry and see if the smell is gone, if it still smells you can apply a second coating and that should clear the smell completely.
Don’t use bleach as you would for other pieces of clothing, because that would clean away the waterproof coating right off and also hamper the fabric of your tent.
For Dirty Tents:
1. Soaking The Tent:
For a tent that is dirty and smelling, you will have to soak it first. You can fill out a tub or a bucket with water, add some mild detergent and some vinegar. Mix it nicely and put your tent in it. Let it soak completely and proceed to the next step.
2. Scrubbing While It Soaks:
Now you come to the hard part of scrubbing the entire tent. Remember to be gentle with the scrubbing because you don’t want to rub the waterproof layer off. You can use a face mask and gloves if you aren’t used to cleaning. It is also wise if multiple people can do this task together.
3. Squeezing The Water Out:
This can also be challenging because you have to do this step while ensuring that the waterproof layer doesn’t wear off. You have to start with the squeezing of the ends and slowly get to the center.
4. Laying Tent For Drying:
After that, you have to set the tent and slowly pour water, favorably by using a hosepipe, to take out all the soap from the tent. Then you can place it on your patio or the back of a truck and let it dry. You have to dry most of the water out but not completely.
5. Pitching The Tent For Drying:
When the tent is just a little damp, pitch the tent, and let it dry completely. This is done so that the tent dries out evenly and does not leave some places wet, which can become the hotspot for mold and mildew.
This should make your tent completely free of dirt and smell and you should be good to go for your camp.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Never be lazy and try to use a washing machine to clean your tent just like you would with other fabrics. This will take away your tent’s waterproofing ability and the next time you go camping, your tent will be like it has been dipped in water.
Other than that, the above methods are super effective and will work on 99% off the tents out there. Still, it is best to check out the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean the tent and dry it. It can be found either on the back of the pack inside which it came or as guided instruction.
Our advice is that you shouldn’t let your tent be dirty and stinky in the first place so that you don’t have to work so hard for cleaning it. A day of extra work after the end of your camp can mean less work for you in the future.
One Bonus Tip: If you are planning to go camping in winter you should check out How To Insulate A Tent For Winter Camping: 8 Tried & Tested Techniques
With that, we say goodbye, and don’t forget to send us your adventurous stories of camping through the comment section below.