How to Freshen Up a Smelly Tent

Outdoor products take a beating. While their materials are designed to endure the harsh conditions of the trail, as well as the unforgiving weather that can bear down on us, gear such as backpacks, boots, and tents still need some TLC. After a few months in storage, your tent can accumulate a musty smell and even mold if not cared for properly. Here are a few tips to counteract the effects of dusty storage and keep your tent smelling fresh from now on.

More often than not, tents simply obtain a musty smell after being stored, due to dust and dry conditions. To fight this, start by airing it out by opening it up and hanging it over a line or tree branch and using a fabric spray. You don’t want to lay it on the ground, as this prevents complete air flow. After deodorizing it, leave the tent to air out all day.

For dirtier tents, a more thorough cleaning may be required. To do this, fully pitch the tent in your yard and hand wash it. Use non-scented soap and water (scented will attract bugs), along with a scrubber that has soft bristles. I’ve also used water-proofing solution, such as Nikwax’s Tech Wash, to increase the tent’s water resistance.

When in doubt about how to go about cleaning your tent, check the manufacturer’s tag for instructions. If permitted, you can even wash the tent on the gentle cycle in your washing machine. While you should only do this once or twice with a tent during its lifetime, this is effective at fully cleaning a dirty tent. Turn the tent inside out and zip all of the zippers fully. Use warm-cold water, Synthetic fabric cleaner, and never use fabric softener.

Sometimes when a tent isn’t cleaned before storage, or is stored wet, it builds up mold and mildew. You can remedy this without damaging the tent itself by using an enzyme-based odor eliminator. Fill a tub with cool water and add between 1 and 2 ounces of the product. Unzip the zippers on the tent and open all the flaps and fully submerge it in the solution. Soak it for 10 minutes and hang it to dry. It’s that simple.

Tents are a vital part of any camping experience and properly storing and cleaning them can mean the difference between a smelly night in the woods and a comfortable night of sleep. No one wants to sleep in a dirty, smelly tent, so be sure to take measures before after storage to ensure you don’t have to sleep in a tent that smells like mold and is covered in dirt.