Canvas tents are excellent temporary shelters used on camping trips and other types of outdoor excursions. However, as these tents use canvas fabric, it can quickly get dirty from exposure to the elements such as dust, dirt, or mud. S
ome canvas tents also develop mold or mildew after being exposed to rain or damp conditions for an extended period. Thankfully, cleaning a canvas tent isn’t as arduous as it sounds! All you need to do is start by brushing off any dust or dirt on the surface before washing it in soap and water. Lastly, you’ll need to rinse off the soapy residue entirely with cold water and leave it to dry naturally.
It may sound like a lot of work, but doing so will allow your canvas tent to last much longer. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll explain how to clean a canvas tent thoroughly and also share some important tips on maintaining properly so it will last for years to come.
1. Pitch Your Tent & Inspect It Carefully
The first step to cleaning your canvas tent is to pitch it in an open area, such as your backyard garden or any open field. Pitching your tent is necessary as it allows you to spot any visible stains or mold, and makes the entire cleaning process easier.
Once you have pitched the tent, start inspecting it both inside and outside, checking for stains or mold. Then, take note of any visible spots and remember to target them during cleaning process that we’ll discuss in the sections below.
2. Remove Dust, Dirt & Debris
It’s normal for dust, dirt, and debris to collect on your tent while it’s in storage or through regular use. In some cases, these particles may have built up from the last time you’ve gone on a camping trip. Therefore, you’ll want to remove these from the canvas tent’s surface before moving on to spot-cleaning it.
To remove dirt and debris, you can take a soft brush and swipe along the tent’s surface until all the dirt has been removed. As for thin dust layers, you can give your canvas tent a shake to remove it from the fabric’s surface.
However, you shouldn’t worry if a bit of dust is left after brushing, as it will be thoroughly cleaned off during the later steps of our guide.
3. Spot Clean Mold or Stains
Now it’s time to spot-clean any mold or stains you noted down earlier. These can be cleaned in many ways, using dedicated or homemade cleaners. In this section, we’re taking a look at different types of cleaning solutions that you can use to remove any kind of mold or stains from your canvas tent.
Using a Dedicated Mold Remover
There are many types of mold removal sprays designed to rid mold from different surface types. However, we recommend using the RMR-86 Instant Mold and Mildew Stain Remover when cleaning your canvas tent.
This industrial-strength cleaner contains sodium hypochlorite, an antibacterial ingredient that’s fast-acting and designed to eliminate odors. Other than canvas tents, the formula can also be used on surfaces such as vinyl, wood, and brick, making it a multipurpose product to own.
Removing mold spots from your canvas tent with this mold remover is fairly simple. Just hold the spray bottle close to the spot and squeeze the pump, allowing the solution to coat any affected areas for optimal results.
Lastly, use a dry microfibre cloth to gently rub in circular motions over the coated spot to remove the mold. Repeat this step until the mold is completely gone.
Using A White Vinegar & Warm Water Solution
If you don’t want to purchase any off-the-shelf cleaner, a readily-available alternative is to make your own spot-cleaning solution using white vinegar and warm water. This homemade solution is effective at removing mold and stains from canvas and can be made using ingredients you likely already have.
To create your homemade cleaning solution, combine ¼ cup white vinegar with 1 cup warm water. Once your cleaning solution is ready, empty it into a spray bottle and shake well. Please keep in mind that you should wear gloves when mixing the solution, especially if you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies.
Next, place the spray bottle near the canvas mold or stains and squeeze the pump. Once the moldy or stained area is coated in the solution, wait for a few minutes and then scrub it with a brush. You may need to repeat this step multiple times until the mold or stains are completely gone.
Using Lemon, Salt & Warm Water
Another great option is to create a cleaning solution at home using lemon, salt, and warm water. While it’s an easy solution, you will be required to clean your canvas quickly if you opt for this method.
This is because the acid from the lemon juice may eat into your canvas fabric and cause discoloration if it’s left on for too long. If you’re ready to work quickly, then prepare the solution by combining 4 cups of warm water, 1 cup of lemon juice, and ½ cup of salt.
Mix the solution well before submerging the bristles of a toothbrush’s into it. Next, scrub your canvas mold or stains with the toothbrush. Once the stains are gone, you should rinse the canvas with cold water immediately.
4. Thoroughly Wash The Canvas Tent
Now that you have addressed the mold and stains, it’s time to focus on washing the entire tent. Start by preparing a cleaning solution by combining 1 part simple dish soap with 10 parts warm water in a large bucket.
Next, drench your tent with the solution. As your tent is pitched, it’s recommended that you slowly pour the solution over the tent. You may need to prepare another bucket of cleaning solution if the first one isn’t enough.
Once the tent is fully soaked in the cleaning solution, take a soft brush and scrub its surface, making sure you get into every nook and cranny. You can alternate between circular or windshield wiper motions when scrubbing down your canvas tent.
5. Rinse Out The Canvas Tent
Once you’ve washed your canvas tent, it’s time to rinse it with some water. We recommend doing this with water from a hose for convenience. First, rinse the entire tent with warm water before going in for a second rinse with cold water.
Then, keep rinsing your canvas with cold water until all the soapy residue is gone. It is vital to remove this soapy residue as any residue left can damage the waterproof coating of your tent.
6. Repeat If Needed
Examine your tent’s surfaces from the inside and out. If you feel the tent isn’t clean enough, consider repeating steps #3 to #5. This may be necessary if you haven’t maintained your tent or if it has become extremely dirty.
7. Dry Tent Under The Sun
If you feel like your canvas tent is clean enough, move it to a clean, dry, and sunny area. Then, allow it to sit for as long as it takes to completely dry. This may take a day or two but it’s important that the canvas is completely dry before applying the waterproof protector.
8. Apply A Waterproof Protector
To prevent water from seeping into the canvas fabric surface, your tent is likely coated in a waterproofing compound. However, this waterproofing compound may get damaged, fade after prolonged use or may be accidentally scrubbed off during the cleaning process.
For this reason, you should apply a waterproof protector once you are done cleaning and drying your tent. There are many products designed to add a waterproof protector to canvas surfaces that you can use.
We’ve had great success using the STAR BRITE Waterproofing Spray for Tents. You can apply this product by spraying it directly onto the canvas surface before allowing the product to dry for at least six hours.
The Dos and Don’ts When Cleaning A Canvas Tent
There are certain Dos and Don’ts when it comes to cleaning canvas tents to avoid irreversible damage to it. This includes choosing a sunny day for cleaning, cleaning it gently by hand, removing all the mold, and ensuring it is dry before putting it into storage.
- Clean Your Tent On A Sunny Day – It’s important that you choose to clean your canvas tent on a sunny day as the sun rays will speed up the drying process. If you opt to clean your tent in damp conditions, the tent may take longer to dry, and could additionally cause mold growth.
- Ensure Your Tent Is Completely Dry Before Storing – You must ensure your tent is completely dry before placing it in storage. This is because folding or rolling your tent while it’s still wet or damp will cause the moisture to remain embedded in the folds. This moisture will then lead to mold growth and spread, which may be irreversible.
- Make Sure Mold Is Removed Entirely – During the cleaning process, it’s important to ensure that every trace of mold is entirely removed. This is because even a small amount of mold can spread quickly when your tent is in storage, forcing you to clean it sooner than expected.
- Don’t Wash Your Canvas Tent In The Washing Machine – Throwing your canvas tent in the washing machine may seem like a fast and easy way to get it clean. But doing so may cause the fabric to warp, which is why we recommend cleaning the canvas tent by hand.
- Don’t Use Extreme Force When Cleaning – Avoid using extreme force when cleaning your canvas tent as you may accidentally cause the fabric to tear. A small tear has the potential to grow and make your tent unusable. For this reason, you should always be gentle during the cleaning process.
Tips On Maintaining A Canvas Tent
Canvas tents aren’t designed to last forever, and most will start showing signs of wear and tear after just a few years. The good news is that there are ways to prolong its lifespan and keep it looking pristine. Below, you’ll find some of the most important tips and tricks when it comes to maintaining a canvas tent.
- Clean Your Tent Frequently – Cleaning your tent often helps to keep it looking and feeling new. If you use your tent frequently, we suggest giving it a proper clean each month. When not in use, it’s recommended that you brush off the dust and dirt once every two months.
- Always Shake The Dust Off Your Tent Before Storing – When it’s time to store your canvas tent, remember to shake off all the dust before rolling it up. This will help reduce the number of potentially damaging particles that are in long-term contact with it.
- Avoid Pitching Your Tent Under Trees – Try to avoid pitching your canvas tent under trees, as some of the sap that these trees produce could drip down and stain your tent. Birds residing in these trees may also stain your tent with their droppings.
- Place A Large Cloth Underneath Your Tent – Moisture in the air tends to condense along the ground overnight. This condensation can get into your tent and cause mold to develop. To avoid this, you should place a sheet under your tent and remove it before wrapping up your tent at the end of your trip.
- Wipe Your Tent Before Packing Up – Some moisture may accumulate on your tent’s surfaces during your camping trip. Thus, it’s important to wipe your tent and dry its surfaces before packing up to avoid mold growth.
- Clean Stains Immediately – As soon as you notice stains on your canvas tent, we recommend that you clean them quickly. This is because stains become harder to remove once they dry, and even harder when it’s left drying for days. You may even accidentally remove the waterproofing layer on the canvas material if you’re required to scrape off dried stains.
- Store Your Tent In A Cool And Dry Area – To ensure your tent doesn’t wear out when not in use, store your tent in a cool and dry area. Storing it in excess heat may cause the tent’s color to wear off alongside its waterproof coating. On the other hand, storing it in a damp environment can promote mold and mildew growth.
Sirinan is a self-proclaimed cleanaholic and the editor-in-chief of Cleaney. Apart from coming with up creative ways to keep her living spaces clean and tidy, she loves to read on rainy days.