How to clean a tent that smells

Michael Balle Hansen by Michael Balle Hansen

You pull out your tent to make sure its all good and ready for your upcoming trip and ohh man it does not smell good. What happened?

Well, this typically happens when you don’t dry and clean your tent properly before packing it. So next time make sure you let it fully dry and clean any dirt or grime.

This will take a 1-3 days so make sure you do this early


How to remove smells from your tent

Now that your tent smells we’ll have to deal with it since “I told you so” doesn’t really fix the problem today.

First lets get some basic supplies. You’ll need the following:

  • Normal dish detergent soap.
  • Brush or sponge.
  • A large bucket. 5 gallon is ideal.
  • White Vinegar. A gallon is ideal.
  • Lemon to remove part of the vinegar smell.

Mix the vinegar and water with a ratio of 2:1 to 50/50 depending on how badly it smells. Then add some lemon to the water as well. Put generous amounts of dishwater soap in the water.

You now have 2 options

Option 1: Spray the tent with this liquid. This is good if you have select spots that smell and the rest is fine.

Option 2: Soak the tent in a bucket with this mixture.

Both ways work and it really up to you what you prefer and your housing conditions.


Let it sit for 1 hour

You now just let it sit and ensure its fully dried before packing it back up for your upcoming trip.

Then use a soft brush with dish detergent to scrub away any stains. Do not brush too hard as you might damage the water proof coating.

Rinse and repeat this until there’s no more stains.


Let it dry

The smell of vinegar should now be gone. If not you can rinse your tent with a hose, but be really careful to fully dry it before packing it up otherwise you’ll be right back to having a smelly tent again in no time.


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