How to Clean, Store, and Repair a Tent

If you love camping, you’re probably well-versed in the art of spending long nights in your tent. But if you don’t take proper care of it, you can quickly end up with a faulty mess of a shelter. Damp, mould, broken poles, tears and other forms of physical damage are all commonplace, but if you follow this tent care guide, you’ll get as much use out of it as possible without it snapping after using it a few times.

How to Clean a Tent

The best way to prevent damage or wear-and-tear on your tent is to keep it clean when using it regularly.  Make sure to take particular care of the inner section when you’re washing a tent, cleaning it out before packing it and wiping down any mess that might spread when the tent is packed. Make sure to thoroughly clean your tent pegs by rinsing them in hot water, and it’s always a good idea to keep them in a separate bag within your tent bag, too.

While camping, make an effort to avoid tracking mud into the tent. Leave your walking boots by the door – this is particularly easy if your tent has a porch and if you have to take packs inside, it’s worth bringing a bin bag to sit them on. If you find there’s mud or grit you want to clean, make sure you use a non-detergent soap as detergent encourages moisture to penetrate material which will spoil the tent’s waterproof properties.

Once you’ve done this, and you’re wondering about re waterproofing a tent, have a read of our easy-to-follow Expert Advice guide.

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How to Store a Tent

Before you store your tent back home, there are several steps you should take to make sure you get the most out of it. Make sure you open the tent up and clean it off with care. This may seem like a nuisance – especially if you’re tired and haggard after a camping trip – but if you pack away a dirty tent, mould and damp will settle in, causing offensive odours and potentially ruining it permanently.

If your tent is wet at the campsite, try your best to let it dry before you leave. If that’s not possible, take it out of the bag as soon as you get home and spread it out over a flat surface or hang it so it can dry out thoroughly. Make sure you don’t leave your tent next to an artificial heat source as it can damage the material – not to mention set the tent on fire. Similarly, leaving it in direct sunlight can cause irreparable damage.

Find a cool, dry place to store your tent in as this will help prevent mildew and damp setting in. Spread the tent flat as standing it on end can cause the poles inside to pierce the thin material of the tent.

As we mentioned above, before you store your tent it should be 100% dry and aired. If you put your tent away while it is still moist, mould spores will grow on the canvas leaving it damp smelling – plus the mould can also damage the waterproof coating on the skin. Store your tent in a dry place, that doesn’t get too warm from the sun. A shelf in the garage or a cupboard in the house would be far better than the garden shed. Whilst your tent is stored, make sure it is packed loosely so as to let the air circulate and prevent a stale smell from developing.

If yours is a 2-person or pop-up tent, these are deceptively difficult to pack away. Why not check out our Expert Advice Guide on How to Fold a Tent?

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How to Repair a Tent

Basic Tool Kit

  • Duct tape
  • Tent patches
  • Seam sealant
  • Needle and thick thread

There are several issues your tent may have, and each of these can be fixed in simple ways to help see you through a camping trip before you have time to repair it properly for good. If you get a small tear on the surface of your tent, a strip or two of duct tape can make a quick patch. If you have some re-proofer on you it will add some extra defence to the patch. When the opportunity arises, you can replace this with a sturdier tent patch or use your needle and thread for a more secure hold.

If one of the seams splits, you’ll want to have some seam sealant on hand to patch it up on the fly, as without it, water will leak in through the night. Another problem you might face is a tent pole snapping. This is a real pain and can spoil your weekend but there are ways to deal with it. One option is to bring a replacement pole; however, this isn’t always possible so you may need to get creative. It’s possible to get a purpose-made splint that wraps around your tent pole. You can also form a splint with duct tape and some sturdy material.

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Tent Waterproofing

Just like your favourite waterproof jacket, your tent should be treated and cleaned with specialist cleaning and proofing products to keep it looking new and functioning properly. We would recommend cleaning your tent after every use, to keep it fresh and in good condition. As well as this, it is a good idea to re waterproof a tent, to repair and boost the water-resistance of the canvas, every couple of seasons. You may notice that tent reproofing is required when condensation starts to build up more on the inside and when rain doesn’t slide off the surface of the canvas in proper droplets. Make sure you have plenty of time to treat your tent – preferably on a sunny day so that it has plenty of time to dry before re-packing.

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Taking Your Tent Down

At the end of your camping stay, the last thing you will feel like doing is taking the time to meticulously pack your tent – especially after a sleepless weekend at a music festival. However unappealing it may seem, taking down your tent properly will keep it in good condition and make it easier to put up the next time you go away. Before you start tackling the poles, lines and canvas, start by clearing out the inside of the tent and make sure it is dust and dirt free. Sweep out each compartment, remove any debris (hello, late-night digestive biscuit crumbs) and make sure that there are no stones or bits of caked-in mud lurking in the corners. If you have time before you leave, clean down the outside of your tent with a special tent cleaner and ensure that all the walls have been sponged down. Your tent should be completely dry and aired out before you put it away, so leave your tent empty for around an hour before you pack it away. If you don’t have time to clean and air out your tent before you leave the campsite, then do these steps at home with the tent up in the garden or hanging out on the washing line.

Once your tent is completely clean, you can start to disassemble. Leave any doors or windows unzipped before you start to take the tent apart, as this will prevent air from getting trapped inside and ballooning up the canvas as you start to roll it. Once you have removed the lines, poles and pegs, put them to one side and ensure you have every piece of the tent kit before you pack away. Roll up your tent and pack it into the storage bag.

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Top Tips for Tent Care

  • When collapsing interlocking tent poles, start from the middle of the pole. This distributes tension evenly and won’t damage the poles or the internal cord.
  • Try to use a tent footprint whenever you can. While some tents have them built-in, others won’t and this helps protect the tent’s base while also providing extra protection from moisture.
  • Before pitching, check the area for any debris or items that could potentially pierce your groundsheet and tent’s base, allowing moisture to leak in.
  • Never machine-wash your tent. It may seem tempting to do and save time but this will likely damage it due to the vigorous movement.
  • If your tent will hold its shape, you can literally pick it up and shake out any debris from inside in a matter of moments before packing it up.
  • Do yourself a favour by ensuring your tent is ready for your next trip before you put it away. Tie guy lines away neatly, count out pegs and make sure everything you need is present and accounted for inside.
  • When removing tent poles after collapsing the tent, push them through rather than pulling them. This will keep the poles linked together and won’t stretch the elastic.

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