How To Clean A Tent That Smells

Posted On February 25, 2021

Camping is Fun activity but it also comes with so many backdrops. Hahaha You know what I am talking about. Stinking tent after camping is a pain in the ass. I understand tent smells like Vomit. Let’s look at How to clean a tent that smells in a more efficient way.

Sometimes even after eliminating mold and mildew, the tent still smells. It is often seen just by deodorizing the tent also eliminates the smell. But trust me that is not the effective way of cleaning. The process of deodorizing should be such that the tent must be kept in water and then apply the solution. But Knowing how the tent starts stinking is the first step.

How does the tent start stinking ?

The first that comes to mind is to start scribbling the tent in hot water. But even before that you should know what are the causes. It often seems the moisture gets stored in a seam allowing Mold & Mildew to grow. You need to check if someone left food in the tent ? Is your tent smell because of moisture


Mud and its particles- I am sure that is not the supplier of your smell in your tent. But it is really important to remove those. Firstly you should remove it from shelter

Mold and Mildew

These are basically 2 fungi which are really an issue. These Fungi needed to be dealt within a reasonable time limit.
This is one of the main reasons how you get the musty smell out of a tent.

This Fungi is an issue since it can also be spread-ed in your house. One of the disadvantages of going out for camping.


Polyurethane Coating Breaking Down (PU)

PU coating is applied on the inside and outside of the tent. It acts as a waterproofing agent for the tent.

When it starts breaking down it creates foul odor more or less like urine or vomit. It usually break down You can check out our How to waterproof a tent

How to clean a tent with Mold ?

We are going to talk about various best methods to cleaning the tent with MOLD. So you can have a great outdoor experience.
Drying the Tent and Air out the smell

Before even you start using the sponge and soap. Let it air out the tent in a well ventilated area. Tent Cleaning can be done in various ways. Some of the idea's to clean your tent smell in the best possible way.

Natural Method- Keeping the tent in air

Usually I use a clothes rope to hang the tent. If you don’t have that, spread the tent over the back of 4 chairs or tables. So that the air can freely move around the tent.

Make sure that the Forest dirt is out of your tent and keep the tent 2-4 days. Most times dirty odor simply flies off in the wind. If you have completed your wash then use this method.

It is advisable to keep it for a day more. Any moisture built can lead to foul smell/ mildew and the complete process has to be repeated. Using warm water with different combinations is a necessary substitute for killing odor causing bacteria.


Cleaning With Lemon Juice

Lemons contain citric acid which is really a great component that even cleanse our system. A simple formation of warm water, lemon Juice, and distilled white vinegar.

One of my favorite ways of cleaning the tent. However smelly the tent soaks it into the solution with lemon juice and vinegar, it washes out all your foul odor and even it kills mold and mild.

Soaking the tent in the mixture of lemon juice, vinegar, and water. Then you need little scrubbing if there is strain on the tent.

Cleaning With Dish Soap or hot Soapy Water ie Liquid soap

It is one of the best ways to clean the tent pitch. Use a mixture of unscented dish soap and cold water solution to scrub different areas of the tent with a non-abrasive sponge.
Once completing from all sides of the tent fabric, push down using a pole support accessories and stake off to the side.

Before storing make sure the tent is dry. One of the most important campers tip. It is advisable to use unscented dish soap. The reason is quite simple, lingering perfume will attract mosquitoes and unwelcome visitors in the wild.

Alternatively - during my research came also mild detergent soap could be use in applying on the dirty areas of the stinky tent.

The Odor eliminator Bath - Mirazyme

It is seamless to say that using vinegar mixture cannot always kill the mildew and mold that lies in your tent.

As you are doing hand washing. It is really nice to clean tent fabric with enzyme cleaner also.One of the most popular techniques - a shortcut used by campers using (formerly Mirazyme) enzyme based odor cleaner for cleaning the whole tent

It kills most of the odor producing bacteria, algae, mildew and mold through a combination of microbes and enzymes.
Initially I was really skeptical about it but after using it once I became a fan. I used more as additional resources to clean the tent fabric.

Alternatively you can use disinfectant like reviver pro cleaner, Lysol and create a solution.

Post Cleaning Treatment

Once you have completed the cleaning activity. It is advisable to take these treatments before stepping out for an outdoor trip.

Few additional waterproofing techniques after cleaning is necessary to increase the life and quality of the shelter. Tent waterproofing is already done in the manufacturing unit. So new tents will not require it.

Seam Sealing

We have gone really in deep in our post waterproofing a tent. Seam are the various different points where 2 pieces of cloth meet each other. So before using any brush or spray cover every stitch connection in the tent.

But it is really necessary to consult the manufacture of the product before trying out any of the methods.

Waterproof coating/ UV protection

Along with sealing the seam, you may also consider waterproofing the complete tent and rainfly. I personally prefer Kiwi heavy duty repellent and Nikwax ( water and solar proofing) as compared to any other brand.

It will do the most important things waterproofing the tent and protect the tent from UV light from damaging.

Bug Treatment - Permethrin

I really hate the bugs, mosquitoes, bees, flies, fruit flies in my shelter. It completely spoils the experience of the outdoors. After cleaning I always treat the tent with Permethrin.
Not recommended for socks & underwear. The chemical helps to repel all kinds of pests.

The application of the same only lasts for 6 weeks. It is a life saver for going out for a trip Before doing this treatment make sure you are taking all the precaution for personal protection.

Things to Avoid

You should never wash your tent in the washing machine. It is really tempting to put the beast in the washing machine. Usually tents are sensitive to detergent
The tent is not made for spinning and tumbling. The fastest way to remove waterproofing of the tent is to use a washing machine using harsh detergent.

Avoid using scented soap to wash the smelly tent. Usually we think if we use the scented soap it will help to eliminate the tent odor. But it does not work like that.

Hand Washing is to be avoided.

Pro Tip

Before going for the trip make sure 2-3 weeks back you open the tent. Check if the tent is suitable for the camping trip.
Using Revivex odor eliminator- one of the best ways to deodorize the tent.

Deodorize can be effective when your tent has developed a funky smell of a cupboard. Unpack your tent and hang it in daylight giving it a spray. General fabric deodorize can be useful for odor elimination.

To keep the tent fresh during your backpacking trip. You can see condensation happens overnight on the rain fly and tent floor. In order to break this chain of smell and headache of cleaning, hang it in fresh air and sun and let it dry.

Make sure you don't roll your tent at any point with moisture build up.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I clean the inside of my tent?

Immersing your full tent inside the water would be enough to give the interior of the tent a general cleaning.

How to remove PU Odors from Tents?

For Removing Polyurethane coating- You can also create a mixture of isopropyl alcohol, hot water and drops of soap with spray bottle or bowl. Gently scrub the coating off. Apply the new coating of PU and also apply talcum powder in the sticky areas. Keeping the PU coating intact is really important. Use a soft brush for the activity.

Usually Older tents have the issue of polyurethane coating removal smell which is really very stinky.

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