How to Clean a Tent that Smells? 6 Helpful Methods!

Out in the open, a tent is a real sparking element for almost all outdoor adventures.

Tents are popular because they can keep you safe in all kinds of weather conditions to let you perfectly enjoy your camping tour.

But while readying your camping gears, a creepy smell from the tent might punch your nostrils.

Although the camping tent has different scents for numerous reasons, the bad tent odor can ruin your whole adventure time.

If you are also experiencing a foul tent smell like most of the campers, you must know that how to get rid of such odors.

Well, you must clean and deodorize your tent to comfortably enjoy your next trip.

Do you know how to clean a tent that smells? A tough question indeed! Practically, the best way is to give it a deep cleaning.

But the cleaning process totally depends on the type of smell your tent got and the intensity of that smell. Looks confusing?

Don’t worry, we are here to explain the nitty-gritty of tent cleaning and deodorizing to keep you comfy and tension-free for your entire stay time.

If you want to know “How to Clean a Tent that Smells” bad, and how to keep it away from catching such smells, then continue reading with us to explore more!

See Also: How to Reduce Condensation in a Tent? 9 Best Ways!

Why the Tents Caught Smells?

Before knowing that how to clean a tent that smells, you must know that what causes the smell in your tent.

Grime and Dirt:

The first most obvious reason for smelly tent is the dirt and grime that almost remain visible on the tent surface.

Although they aren’t the primary source of smell, they allow other smelly things to stick at the tent’s surface for long.

So, you must remove them to keep your tent safe from any bad odors.

Trapped Moisture

Grounded in fact, the trapped moisture is the most common reason for bad odors in tents.

Furthermore, moisture build-ups inside the tent can impart serious damages if you fail to clean and dry it completely.

The collected moisture can cause a musty smell which must be treated from time to time.

Mold and Mildew

On the moral high ground, mold and mildew are two fungi that can cause serious issues to your tent even in a short period.

When they start accumulating in your tent, the tent will start smelling stale and musty. Moreover, they can also cause harmful side effects to your skin and belongings.

So, you must deal with them as quickly as possible.

Methods to Clean a Stinky Tent

Finally, the wait is over and we are going to discuss the handy ways to clean a tent that smells.

How to Clean a Tent that Smells
How to Clean a Tent that Smells

Method#1: Dish Soap Method

This is the most useful method to get rid of a smelly tent. To accomplish this method, you need to fill a spray bottle with dish soap and water.

Some people think that using the scented soap can help to eliminate the smell, but that’s not the fact as it can only impart a new fragrance to the tent for some time.

So, we recommend you choose the unscented soap.

All you need to do is to spray the prepared soap and water solution on the inside and outside of the tent, then wipe it down with the help of some soft sponge.

Try to protect the underneath of your tent to keep safe the waterproof coating.

Also, never scrub too hard as the whole tent comes with a waterproof coating.

We loved this method because simple wiping of the tent from top to bottom with soap and water can eliminate most of the smells.

But if you remain unable to get rid of tough mildew or molds, you can try other listed methods.

Method#2: Lemon and Vinegar Method

If your tent got a strong bad smell or hard mold and mildew, this method will suit you the best.

How to Clean a Tent that Smells
How to Clean a Tent that Smells

To accomplish this method, you need to use a spray bottle or large container depending on your needs.

To prepare a cleaning solution, take half a cup of white vinegar, 30 drops of lemon juice, and 2 cups of water and mix them well.

If your tent is not too dirty and smelly, put the prepared solution in the spray bottle and spray it throughout your tent including the zippers and wipe it using a soft sponge. Then use a clean towel to completely dry the inside of your tent.

But if you remain unable to get rid of bad smells by just spraying and wiping, then you need to take all ingredients in a container that must be wide enough to hold your disassembled tent.

Besides this, you can also use an odor eliminator which is specially designed for camping gear.

Well, soak your tent in the container for an hour, and then wipe it with the help of a non-abrasive sponge.

After the whole cleaning process, dry your tent well before packing it again.

Method#3: Warm Wash

If you have tried a wash with cold water and didn’t get desired results, then you give this method a try.

To follow this method, you must have a bathtub or kiddie pool, and fill it with lukewarm water and add a bit of mild soap if necessary.

Before soaking the tent in water, you have to unzip the tent’s pockets and doors and keep it soaked for around 15 minutes. Try to drain the dirty water 2-3 times to get effective cleaning.

Finally, rinse off the tent with clean water to get rid of soap residues. After the whole cleaning process, let it dry in the open air to fade away the remaining odors.

Method#4: Enzyme Cleaners

On the clear ground, warm water and soap might not be able to remove all the mildew and mold as some of the smell can persist after drying.

Overall, if your tent is severely contaminated, you will need an enzyme cleaner to remove all the mold and mildew, and even the musty odor.

If you don’t know which enzyme cleaner is best to remove hard mold, then you can consider grabbing “Revives”.

To get good mileage out of this method, try to follow the given steps.

  1. Fill a wide tub with around 25 gallons of water
  2. Add ½ ounce of enzyme cleaner
  3. Unzip the zippers and open any tent flaps to clean each corner
  4. Now, completely immerse and soak the tent in the tub for around 5 minutes
  5. Remove the tent and let it dry in the open air. Remember, don’t rinse the tent with clean water as it can interrupt the enzyme cleaner’s reaction.

Method#5: Alcohol-Water Method

If your tent has a foul vomit smell or urine smell, it means the polyurethane coating is damaged.

So, if you are holding an older tent that starts smelling really bad, then you need to perfectly follow this method.

So, to overcome the foul odor of the polyurethane breaking, you need to remove this old coating from the tent.

To do so, you need to follow the following steps to do the trick.

  • Take a large tub or basin and fill it up with warm water.
  • Now add 5-8 drops of liquid soap in the water and mix it well with your hands.
  • Submerge your tent in the water and keep it soaked for 2-3 hours.
  • In a separate container, prepare a mixture of isopropyl alcohol, soap, and water. Transfer this mixture to a spray bottle or bowl.
  • Then, remove the tent from water and scrub it gently with the alcohol mixture to reap away the polyurethane coating. As this coating is found on the top floor of the tent and the underside of the tent flies, so you can use a clean cloth for the purpose.
  • After completely removing the broken coating, let the tent completely dry.
  • Now, you need to apply a new polyurethane coating and seam sealer to make it waterproof. Never skip this step as your tent won’t resist water without this coating.
  • Finally, sprinkle some talc powder to discard any initial thickness before packing the tent for your next trip.

Method#6: Disappear Real Puke Odor

Most of the time, the campers spill out their guts onto the tent surfaces due to many reasons such as an unwell stomach, fever, or excessive intake of beers.

So, this puke odor will disturb you for the rest of your time in the tent or on your next adventure.

That’s why you must treat your tent as quickly as possible, To get rid of this odor, the best way is to wash your tent in soap and warm water.

Before that, you must soak your tent in a vinegar solution to disinfect and deodorize it.

Hopefully, you will get your neutral tent back, but you still find it smelly then go and grab an enzyme-based spray that is perfectly made to remove bad odors from the tent.

Try to keep the mind the following things before embarking on this method.

  • Use soap only on the areas containing vomit stench and don’t rub too hard as these particles are easy to eliminate.
  • To get better results, you can perfume your tent and leave it out in the air to dry before packing it for the next trip.
  • Try not to dry the tent in direct UV radiations as it can kill the deodorizing enzymes.

After-Cleaning Treatments

No doubt, cleaning is an excellent way to get rid of stinky tents. But you need to maintain your cleaning in a way that you can enjoy better results for a long.

To get better mileage out of your cleaning, you must know that how to treat your tent after the cleaning process.

Let’s discuss some useful ways to keep your tent smell-free.

1- UV-Protection and Waterproof Coating

If you want to keep your tent safe from getting bad smells again, try to make it waterproof.

To do the trick, you need to grab an inexpensive, high-end solar proof and waterproof coating.

In this way, you will be able to keep safe your tent from both water and intense UV radiations to protect the tent’s fabric.  

2- Seam Sealing

This is the most important way to get rid of any unpleasant smells by halting the penetration of any spoiled materials.

All you need to do is to use the brush or spray can depending on the type of sealant you hold and try to cover every sewing stitch on the tent.

Here we got a trick for you. You consider applying three or four stripes of sealant which must be perpendicular to the direction you sleep.

3- Bug Treatment

As the bugs remain everywhere in the tents, so you must make your tent bug-free.

This will help you to greatly reduce the bad smells and accumulation of animal waste at tough to reach places.

To do so, you have to make use of Permethrin which is a well-known chemical used to repel almost all insect pests.

You need to treat your tent will this chemical immediately after cleaning it. Remember, this chemical can stay active for up to 6-months, so you will be required to treat your tent before every adventure.

4- Packing

When we purchase a tent, it comes with a compact bag that is specifically designed to ensure easy transportation.

So, we recommend you keep your tent in this bag after cleaning and complete drying. All you need to do is to fold it and place it back in the carrying case to ensure complete safety.

Hold in there, your tent also requires proper breathing to ensure some airflow so that your tent can’t catch any moisture or mold.

How to Store your Tent?

Although now you know very well that how to clean a tent that smells, that’s not the end of the world.

You must also know that how to safely store the cleaned tent to save it from catching bad smells again and again.

Believe me, if you remain failed to properly store the tent, there’re higher chances that you have to bear the smelly tent again.

Unquestionably we have discussed that the tent must be stored in a way to it must be breathable to prevent smells.

But other ways are also there which are giving positive results to our users. You need to remember the following things before storing your tent.

  • Never store your tent in any tight space
  • Find a cool and dry place to keep your tent
  • Don’t store it in damp or hot areas as it can invite molds formation
  • Never store your tent in the basement, Attic, or vehicle tent
  • Always find some climate-controlled areas inside your house, such as a finished garage or closet

Wrapping it Up

On a clear note, no camping tour can be planned without packing the best camping tent. As they let you feel like you’re living in your bedroom, so you must be concerned about its cleaning and perfect maintenance.

Although they don’t demand often cleaning, when bad smells incorporate then you must get rid of them as soon as possible.

But cleaning a smelly tent is entirely different from Cleaning a Normal Tent. Then, how to clean a tent that smells? Well, after reading our guide you now must be able to quickly answer this question as we have explained different methods to clean different types of odors.

Read it well to get back to your normal tent!

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