Can You Wash a Tent in a Washing Machine: The Facts

As a camper, your tent is a prized possession that you want to last a lifetime. That’s why you should always make sure that you take good care of it. Tents are always exposed to heavy rains, the scorching sun, gusty winds, dirt, and a lot of stains. Those will not just make the tent unclean but might also damage it if stored without being cleaned properly. Since washing it seems tedious, many new and experienced campers often ask the question “Can you wash a tent in a washing machine?” The answer might actually surprise you.

Can You Wash a Tent in a Washing Machine?

At this present time, wherein washing machines have so many setting options and are so much advanced than before, you would assume it would be perfectly alright to throw in your tent. Another reason why people expect that tents can be washed in a washing machine is the fact that tents are strong enough to withstand water, heat, dirt, and debris.

However, they are not sturdy enough for cycling inside a steel container. In fact, the specific elements that make a camping tent workable for outdoor conditions, are those that are susceptible to damage when put in a washing machine. Likewise, a washing machine has small space that would crumple the tent and can take a toll on its different layers. With that said, the following are the parts that can potentially get damaged when washed in a machine and will render the tent useless.

  • Seam Taping

Most tents are made from more than one piece of fabric that are sewn together. The holes that are created during the sewing process, even though exceptionally small, are usually covered with seam tape. This is done so that there will be no leaks, and your tent remains completely waterproof. Generally, when the tent is washed in a washing machine, the seam taping might come off because of the cycles and rough movements. Of course, if the seam taping comes off, your tent will leak when it rains or drizzles.

  • Coating

All camping tents have a special coating on the fly and surface of the fabric. This coating is made of polyurethane that actually prevents it from being soaked in water. In fact, it is the most important waterproofing feature of a tent. The spinning and small space inside a machine can crack that coating and eventually ruin it completely.

  • Mesh

Many tents have mesh parts that allow ventilation and fast flow of air in and out of the camping tent. This material is considered to be one of the most delicate parts of the tent. Hence, it can easily be damaged to the point that even if you were to run it on gentle cycle, there is a high probability that it would get holes.

How to Wash Your Tent?

Contrary to popular belief, washing your tent without a washing machine is not actually that difficult. You just need a few things, and it does not even take much time. In addition, you do not really have to clean up the tent that often as they can go years between proper washings. It all depends on how frequently you use it and how you use it. For you to be guided, here is a step-by-step guide to help you make your tent look good as new:

Materials Needed

For this method of cleaning your tent, you would need a new non-abrasive sponge. This should be softer than the one you usually use with utensils to prevent any damages to the tent coating. You should also have a soft brush that is only intended for your tent.

As for the cleaning agent, use a mild, fragrance-free soap rather than a detergent. That is because using a standard detergent and cleaning solutions that have fragrances might eventually become an invitation to insects and rodents. Also, detergents can be a bit rough for the tent that might not just damage the damage but the fabric itself.


  1. Gently spread and lay the tent on the ground where you can easily wash it with a hose (in your backyard perhaps, if you have one).
  2. Inspect your tent to check and remove any debris like needles, wrappers, and hair. You would actually be surprised to see things still stuck to it.
  3. Use the sponge with the soap and thoroughly scrub the entire inner and outer surface of the tent. Do not be too harsh and if there is a nasty stain, you can try using a soft brush.
  4. If there is a musty smell that could be an indication of mildew, it is advisable that you use an enzyme cleaner that will cease the growth right away and rid the tent of any strange smell.
  5. The zippers and poles need to be cleaned too, which can be done with a damp cloth.
  6. Finally, turn on the hose and give it a thorough rinsing until all the soap has washed off and you can see your tent all sparkly clean.
  7. To dry it, you can leave it on the ground under the sunlight or hang it on a clothesline.

After it has dried completely, you can go ahead and store it in a clean space. If you are storing it in a sack, use a mesh bag as it allows the fabric to breathe and will prevent the accumulation of any moisture or smell. Roll it properly with poles inside the tent body.


Definitely, the simple answer to the question “Can you wash a tent in a washing machine?” is a “No.” Instead, washing it manually with mild soap and soft sponge or brush is a better option. Cleaning it this way can ensure that the tent remains waterproof and durable for a long time. Additionally, washing it outdoors and spreading it makes it easy to get rid of large debris which can reduce the chances of damage, mildew, and bad odors. Apart from cleaning it correctly, you should also make sure that you store your dry and clean camping tent securely and adequately.

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