Can You Steam Clean A Canvas Tent?

After having a lovely time out camping with family or friends, you have to face the hard work of cleaning your tent before storing it. During your camping trip, your canvas tent would attract all forms of dirt, dust, or moisture that will be a pain to get off.

If you decide to put the tent away because you are not ready to focus on the cleaning process, you will end up with terrible permanent stains, an offensive odour, and a piece of worn-out equipment that you might never use again. However, that can be prevented if you clean the tent quickly the right way.

You can use a steam cleaner to clean your canvas tent. This will kill bacteria, germs and mould. It should also loosen stains, soil and grit so they can be wiped away. However, this isn’t the best way to clean a canvas tent as doing so incorrectly can cause the canvas to shrink.

Fortunately, there are better alternatives to steam cleaning a canvas tent that you should consider either in addition to or instead of steam cleaning.

Alternative Cleaning Solutions For A Canvas Tent

The first thing that comes to many people’s minds after camping is to put the canvas tent in a washing machine to clean it but unfortunately, doing so would not only stretch out the canvas tent and well as tear it in places.

This would render it useless for another trip, and a replacement will be needed. So, to clean the canvas tent, get some cleaning supplies such as a soft scrubbing brush, white vinegar, mild soap and detergent, a spray bottle, sponge, warm water, rags, some paper towels, and a vacuum cleaner.

Remove The Dust

Firstly, after these supplies have been assembled, the tent should be shaken to remove loose dust particles picked during the camping trip.

Use the vacuum cleaner to suck up the rest of the dust from all the areas that are hard to reach, like the storage pockets, the hems, and other tough spots. If you cannot access a vacuum cleaner, you can use a broom to remove the dust. Separate the canvas tent canopy from the floor if need be and thoroughly expel all dust particles.

Fix Any Mould

During camping, mold tends to get on your canvas tent and form small green, blue or black specks on the material. Unfortunately, if unattended to, the mold would keep growing larger, leaving an unpleasant sight. The canopy of the tent should be separated for the floor, and each should be washed separately.

The mould deposits can be taken care of by spraying the specks with white vinegar and leaving it to dry. Afterwards, gently scrub the affected areas with a mixture of warm water, salt, and lemon while using a soft brush.

Keep scrubbing gently until the foreign bodies on the canvas tent canopy are gone. All mould growth on the floor of the tent should be given the same treatment as the canopy. When cleaning is done, get some warm water in a spray bottle and use it to rinse the cleaning agents off the tent.

The freshly cleaned area should quickly be dried with rags or paper towels. Note that detergent and bleach are not encouraged because they are tough on canvas and wear it out during the persistent scrubbing. 

Focus On The Stains

After dusting the canvas tent and removing the mold, use a soft brush or sponge and mild soap to scrub the stains gently. Use warm water since it dissolves soap solutions better than cold water. If you use harsher cleaning products like bleach, strong detergents, or cleaner, it will wear out the canvas and remove its waterproof feature.

When scrubbing is done, soak the tent in a bathtub full of water mixed with cleaning agents suited for outdoor gear. Stir the water thoroughly until the cleaning agent is evenly dispersed in the tub, and the canvas tent is completely submerged.

Make sure you turn the tent inside out before soaking it for anywhere between four and ten hours, and if left for too long after that, mildew and mold will form and cause additional problems. This would allow the cleaning agent to extract dirt and germs from the tent as much as possible. 

After some time, drain the bathwater and refill it with freshwater and rinse the tent. You could use a garden hose to rinse it as well but be careful not to exert too much water pressure on the canvas tent.

The jet stream of water from the hose should have the same force as that of rainwater to protect the canvas from rupturing. If you are not satisfied with the stain removal, you can soak it again and repeat the entire process until you are satisfied. When you have rinsed it, set it up outside and let air dry it thoroughly before putting it away.

Dry The Tent Correctly

Washing the tent is just one part of taking care of it; every component needs to be checked to make sure there was no damage during the cleaning process. If the seams happen to be ripped, sew it back into place. With an old toothbrush, you can clean off all dirt residue from the tent zipper and then lubricate it. If the zipper is damaged, it should be replaced before the next camping trip.

To know if the canvas tent is leaky, you have to spray water on it when it is spread out and observe if water gets inside. If it is leaky, please attend to it by plastering repair tape on the affected area before it widens.

Also, the canvas tent might need to be re-waterproofed before being stored, and there are different methods to do this. Firstly, get an appropriate waterproofing agent and lay the tent out. Spray clean water on the tent and spray the waterproofing agent all over the tent canopy evenly. Let it sit for a few minutes, then gently wipe the excess coating off. When the tent dries, you can pack it up for storage.

Alternatively, you can get a sponge, tent sealant, and rubbing alcohol. Spread out the tent, lay the tent floor out, and scrub the flaking coating off the surface gently with the rubbing alcohol and sponge.

Then a thin layer of the tent sealant should be applied to the canvas tent canopy and floor following the guidelines on the tent sealant. This coating should be left to dry on the tent for about 24 hours before the tent can be stored. Make sure you wear gloves during this procedure and wash your hands immediately after. 

Prevent Future Cleaning By Storing The Tent Correctly

It will not hurt to leave the canvas tent out in the open for some extra hours to ensure all forms of moisture on it are gone. Under no circumstance should you store your canvas tent when it is still damp because it would encourage the formation of mildew, fungus, or mold.

Although the tent holding bag might seem like the right place to keep it, it is not the best place for long-term storage.

It is okay to put it in the bag when you want to move it from your house to the campsite, but when storing it for long, put in an old pillowcase that will not compress it.

The canvas tent needs room to relax because compression or stretching for an extended period would make the material weaker and more prone to damage by external forces. While in the pillowcase, the tent should be kept in a cold and dry place.

Scroll to Top