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How to clean a tent, sleeping bags, and anything else you ruined while camping

Looking to wash up after a camping trip? Follow these top tips on how to clean mould off a tent and how to wash sleeping bags at home.

Key steps:

  • Whatever camping equipment you wash – tents, sleeping bags, coats, anything – make sure that it’s able to air dry thoroughly before you put it away. This is essential for preventing mould from establishing.
  • Damp isn’t the only enemy to campers: sand and mud are also regular culprits. Both are best removed with a strong, clean hose-spray. Before you hose down, use your hands to remove any loose dirt like stones, pine needles, or leaves.
  • When it comes to mould, prevention is better than cure. To increase the life of your tent and sleeping bag, you might like to use waterproof spray, available from camping stores. This product usually needs to be applied when the fabric is wet, so check the label before you start.

If you’ve just had a whale of a time at a festival, or relaxing in the woods, but are now wondering how to clean a tent or how to wash a sleeping bag, you may be pleasantly surprised to find out how simple these tasks can be.

How to clean mould off a tent

Cleaning a tent doesn’t necessarily require expensive chemicals. Mould and mildew can be safely removed using some common pantry items. First, set up the tent for cleaning in a shaded, airy spot, like a back garden. Open all the flaps and let everything air out.

Next, mix 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of concentrated lemon juice, and 1 gallon of hot water. Using a soft sponge, rub this tent cleaning mixture into all the dark mould and mildew patches you can see. Make sure you wear protective clothing and keep the hot water and ingredients away from animals or pets.

Allow the tent to dry thoroughly before you put it away – air drying it outside is best but if the weather turns then you’ll need to drape it across a large indoor airer instead.

Can you wash sleeping bags?

Washing sleeping bags may seem like a daunting task – they’re too bulky to fit in small washing machines, after all. But, with a little thought, it is possible.

If you are lucky enough to have a heavy duty, front-loading washing machine, you should be able to wash your sleeping bag on a 30°C cycle, using a mild soap or special camping equipment detergent. Make sure that all the zippers and Velcro straps are closed before you start.

How to wash sleeping bags by hand

If you don’t have a suitable washer, you’re going to need the use of a bath. Fill the bath with four or five inches of cold water, add a mild liquid detergent, and lay the bag out in the water. With bare feet, step into the bath, and walk up and down the bag until it’s thoroughly soaked and soapy. Make sure you take care to avoid slipping over and hurting yourself.

Step out of the bath and dry your feet. Then, empty the bath and refill with cold water. Use your hands to pummel the sleeping bag in the water, aiming to rinse away the soap. Repeat these steps until you’re confident the soap is gone.

Roll the sleeping bag to wring the water out, then open it out again and hang the bag over a washing line until it’s thoroughly dry. Don’t pack it away wet – that will only encourage mould to return.

Cleaning up after camping

With these tips, cleaning up after a camping trip couldn’t be easier. Remember to wash clothes with a high quality detergent to remove any mould or mildew – you can also add a little white vinegar to your wash to help with this, and to eliminate any nasty odours.

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Mould and mildew can stain canvas, so if you really can’t get rid of the dark patches after trying all of our tips, try not to worry too much. The main aim is to have killed the mould and stopped its spread. Ordinary clothes affected by mould can be washed according to their instructions using your choice of ordinary detergent.