Can You Wash A Tent In The Washing Machine?

Tents are great for keeping you away from the elements whenever you go camping. They provide cover and a safe place to rest when it gets dark. This means during camping; your tent can become dirty, which makes you search for how to clean it. This prompts the question; can you wash a tent in the machine?

While it’s possible to use a washing machine to clean your tent because it’s easy, it’s probably not the best option for it. This is because the spinning effect of your machine can affect so many things in your tent.

Why You Shouldn’t Wash Tent in Machine

There are several reasons to avoid using the washing machine to clean your tent. And here are some to be mindful of:

Fabric will stretch

Most times, the materials used in making tents are not designed to be machine washed; if stressed, the fabric will stretch out of shape. And for delicate fabrics such as polyester or nylon, this can mean that your tent loses waterproofing and also loses its form. In the end, this may shorten the life of your tent if you use it regularly after washing it this way. 

The protective coating will get damaged

Your tent may be waterproof, but washing it with a machine can damage the coating that makes it so. Some tents have a protective layer that repels water and keeps it out of the fabric. This treatment is designed to last for years. Still, if you wash your tent in the washing machine, this hard plastic-like waterproof coating will be removed and no longer work as intended.

If this happens, water will seep into your tent and leave it wet inside, which is not ideal when you’re trying to sleep or camp. The same goes for tents with UV protection; washing machines’ high temperatures can also damage the UV (ultraviolet) coating. You should avoid putting any UV-protected product in the washer at all costs.

Seams and seam tape may rip

The seams and seam tape are the weakest parts of a tent, so they’re the first things to consider before using a washing machine. The seam tape is made from polyester or nylon fabric, which is more vital than nylon and won’t tear as quickly. Still, the spinning motion will fast-track the wearing process.

Also, even with seam tape holding everything together, you may end up with holes in your tent after washing it in your washing machine.

Mesh will rip

Mesh is the fabric that lets air and light through. Mesh is also the weakest part of the tent because it stretches when you put it into a washing machine. If you wash this material in a machine, it will tear apart and leave pieces flapping in the wind like empty flags at an abandoned castle.

How to Safely Clean Your Tent

For one, you should clean your tent after each use. Here is how you can safely clean your tent without the risk of damaging it:

Prep the tent for cleaning

If there’s any loose dirt or debris, remove those first with a soft brush. Then wash off any dust or debris on the tent with water and let it dry completely. Also, you want to remove the hooks or objects that are likely to damage your tent during the washing process. 

Spot clean the tent

To spot-clean your tent, you’ll want to use a sponge or soft cloth. A mild detergent or soap is best. Be sure to spot-clean the tent as soon as you notice an issue. Do not use a washing machine, and do not wash with other items. The key is to use gentle cleaning products and take care when washing them, so they don’t get damaged.

Soak the tent

You can soak the tent in a large bucket with water and a gentle detergent for a general wash. Let it soak for several hours. A soft bristle brush works well to scrub away dirt and grime. If you have any trouble getting stains out of your tent, use a bit of rubbing alcohol, as this can help cut through tough stains.

Rinse the tent

After washing, you’ll want to rinse the tent with clean water. To ensure that all detergent residue is removed:

  1. Rinse it thoroughly with running water.
  2. Do not use a hose or sprayer to rinse the tent, as this can cause damage to the fabric.
  3. Repeat rinsing with clean water until the suds are no longer visible.

Dry the tent

Hanging your tent out to dry is the best method. If you choose this option, hang it on a clothesline inside when not in use.

Be sure to avoid using any line that can rub against your tent fabric or other lines, which can cause wear and tear or damage to your tent. Asides from hanging out to dry, you can also pitch your tent to dry it after washing. Regardless of your drying method, you want to ensure that your tent is away from direct sunlight and in a place covered by a shed. This way, it doesn’t get damaged by the sun and gets air-dried in no time.

What Can I Use To Wash My Tent?

Regular detergent

Use a mild detergent. You can use regular detergent on your tent, but it’s best to use one that is specifically designed for washing tents. This is because regular detergent may contain chemicals that could damage the fabric in your tent and make it less water-repellent.

Also, use a small amount of detergent and avoid using too much water, as this can lead to the fabric becoming damaged or discolored over time. Instead, use only enough water so that you can gently scrub the dirt from your tent without soaking it entirely through. This will help prevent mold growth.

Specially formulated tent cleansers 

You can buy tent cleaners from outdoor gear stores. Make sure to look for a cleanser specially formulated for tents, as some everyday household products may damage the fabric. Some cleaners even contain mildew remover, which is good for tents that have been left in storage for long periods but not so much if you’re planning on camping soon after washing your tent.


It’s important to note that the best way to clean a tent is by hand. You can wash it in a machine, but you’ll need to be careful. Washing machines can cause several damage to your tent, which can lead to you spending more on buying a new one. If you want your tent to last long enough to stay strong through many seasons of use without breaking down, taking good care of it while cleaning should be one of your priorities.


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