How To Clean A Tent That Smells: Best Practice & Top Tips

Have you ever wondered how to clean a tent that smells? Picture the scene….you’re ready to go camping and have just one more thing to pack.

The tent.

You go to grab it only to be thrown away by a repulsive smell that has ruined your trip before it has even begun.

How can I sleep in this? You might think.

How can it smell, it looks brand new? You may wonder

Here, we will give you the reasons behind that disgusting odour and a few tips to caste it away!

*If your tent is beyond repair then you should look at our tent section to find your perfect pick for the next time you venture into the wild!*

Why might your tent smell?

There are a few reasons why your tent may smell that don’t immediately meet the eye:

  1. Dirt and Grime – they probably won’t be the only cause of your smelly tent but will certainly add up. When cleaning make sure to get into the nitty-gritty bits.
  2. Mould and Mildew – Fungi can spread throughout a tent causing a dreadful smell.
  3. Break down of materials – some of the materials used to make tends to break down after many years causing a stench to arise.

How to clean a tent that smells?

So, you’ve noticed that your tent has a smell but don’t know what to do? We’re here to help! It’s super simple and easy to clean your tent.

The Simple Method:

Fill a bucket or tub about a third full of water and add half a cup of mild detergent (dish soap will do) and half a gallon of white vinegar (don’t worry its pretty cheap stuff). If your tent is super large, then you can add more of each product.

You are going to need quite a large bucket, as the next step requires you to stuff your tent’s material into the bucket to soak it. Try to be gentle as you don’t want to rip your tent, but make sure it is thoroughly in there for a deep clean.

You can always use your bathtub if necessary, to first soak your tent and then transfer to the concrete surface.

After it has thoroughly soaked for roughly an hour, you want to wring it out – this may require a few people to get any excess water out of the material.

Then spread the tent out across a hard surface, concrete works best so perhaps take your tent to the driveway or large concrete area and spray off any additional soap or product you may see.

Leave to dry. You may wish to use a clothing line for this or a cleaner surface – you just want to make sure that it doesn’t dry on an uneven surface as you may find it a hassle to construct the tent when you need it.

Whilst it is slightly damp and not quite dried, you want to erect your tent. This ensures that when it dries completely there aren’t any unwanted crinkles in the surface of your tent.

Leave to dry and then you will be ready to go! The horrible smell will be gone, and you can camp in peace.

A few things to remember:

  1. Don’t be too harsh with it, otherwise, you could break it.
  2. Don’t leave to dry completely on an uneven surface.
  3. Don’t be tempted to use anything like hairdryers or drying products as they can hurt the material!


Additional Methods:

If you find these products don’t work to clean your product, you can always try the Gear Aid Odour Killer Bath method:

It works as a special enzyme cleaning method and you will need the Gear Aid Odour Eliminator. It kills any odorous bacteria or mould and leaves your tent extra clean.

It is biodegradable and eco-friendly, and the chemicals that it uses make sure not to damage the surface of your tent. All you have to do is add half-an-ounce of the enzyme to every 20 gallons of water.

You can use this as a spray, or in a hand-washing method when putting your tent into a large bucket or bathtub.

To avoid a smelly tent in the future:

When you return from your trip, make sure to air your tent out and even add some spray cleaner to it.

Don’t pack away if there is any moisture left! Make sure it is completely dry.

When packing away, fold lightly and make sure there is room for air to flow.

A dehumidifying gel can also be used in your storage area to help with the damp!

Conclusion: how to clean a tent that smells

We all love camping and getting outdoors. Obviously, smells are part of the process. But nothing can be worse than climbing into your tent at night and it is stinking you out. Not only are you worried about the reason why it might smell and what germs you could catch, but also, you’re not going to get a good night’s rest, which is essential when camping.

So, make sure you keep your tent clean with these methods.


I have been a keen outdoorsman since the age of 5, being exposed to the wondrous mountains of the Lake District, UK. Hiking has become more than a hobby for me as I completed survival skills training and competed in endurance challenges across Europe.

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