Does your tent smell bad enough to make Shrek cringe? Here is how to clean a tent that smells! Feel like this when you unpack that stinky tent of yours?
You are not alone, it is perfectly normal to have a stinky tent after a trip. After all, you not only sleep in that tent, you sweat, breathe, and track in all kinds of dirt and organisms. If the tent is comfortable for you, chances are it is comfortable for mold too. But do not worry! We put in the research and found the best ways to clean a tent that smells, hands down.
1. How to Clean a Tent that Smells: The Passive Approach
Here is the ideal way to sanitize that nasty tent. First, the best thing to do is to simply let the tent air out. Have you ever left a pair of sweaty socks out in the sun to dry? If so, you probably had the pleasant surprise of noticing that they smelled just fine. The same principle applies to your tent. Completely open that sucker up— unzip every element, splay it all out, and ideally let it hang from a clothesline. As the fresh air and sun bathe the material, it will be cleansed the old-fashioned way. Don’t believe me? Ben Franklin used to start every morning off with a “wind bath,” for the exact same reason.
2. Deep Cleaning Your Tent
Sometimes a little air and sun just isn’t enough. If after that process, you find that the tent still smells like a high-school boy’s locker-room before the days of antiperspirant, you may need to break out the big guns. What are these big guns? Why, Nikwax Tent & Gear Solar Wash of course. This specially formulated spray is designed to attack your tent’s stench at the source: the microscopic, organic particles clinging to the fabric. This material is water-based and biodegradable, without harmful fluorocarbons found in other cleaning products. Not only does this spray de-stink your gear, it will also protect your tent’s material from harmful UV damage in the future and enhance its waterproof functionality. It is ideal for that smelly tent, but will also work great for backpacks, umbrellas, boat covers, and the like.
To learn more about deep cleaning a smelly tent, check out the reputable REI’s instructional video:
3. Hang it up
You have probably noticed that water can build up and condensate in your tent overnight while you sleep, just like morning dew. This is especially likely as the temperature drops overnight or if you engage in any activities which, um, increase your rate of breathing… So how about some preventative maintenance to ensure your tent smells good the next day? Simply break the tent down each morning and hang it somewhere to dry—whether that be on a clothesline, over a tree branch, or on top of a hammock. Just avoid rolling it up if it’s still moist. Ideally, you have a tent fan with you to circulate air and speed up the drying process!
4. Store it loose
Between you and me, your tent probably didn’t stink when you first stored it. Maybe you knew you should let it air out, but you left it in your trunk and thought you would get to it later. That’s okay, just know for the future that the best way to deal with stinky tents is to prevent them from stinking in the first place! In addition to airing it out, as discussed you should not jump straight to stuffing it into a tent sack. If you have the room for it, simply let it chill out in a cool, dry place. Leave it loose and open, rather than crammed into a small bag. Otherwise, you will come to regret every little bit of moisture that remained on the tent, which will act as a nidus for mold, mildew, and odor. Don’t put it in a sack until you need to carry it for your next excursion. Do not leave it in your car, anywhere warm, or in that humid dank basement.
With these tips to clean a tent that smells, hopefully you’ll feel more like this next time you go camping:
Don’t have a tent yet, need a single person tent? Check out our review of the Lynx 1 mountaineering tent.