You’re tent has been sitting in storage all winter and now you’re finally ready to bust open the flaps and take it to the backcountry. But perhaps it’s an old tent or wasn’t cleaned properly before being stored and now it’s got a funky smell. Here are a few short and sensible tips to get that odor out.

*First and foremost – Follow the care instructions of the manufacturer. Look on the tag attached to the product, usually along an inner seam. If our recommendations go against manufacturer’s suggestions, do not follow our advice.

  1. For a mild funky smell, first try airing the tent out and spraying it with a simple fabric deodorizer. Open it inside out and hang it on a pole, over a low tree branch, or set up a few tall chairs on which you can lay the tent across. If necessary, wipe at least the floor with a damp cloth. Let it dry, spray the tent with Febreeze (or something like it), and let it air out from morning till evening. You may have to secure it so it won’t fly away. *Don’t lay it on the ground, you want to allow for ample air flow.
  2. Hand wash and scrub your tent fully pitched in the backyard. Take gentle, non-perfumed soapy water and a scrubber to it. Perfumed soap can attract bugs. I find that a scrubber with a long handle and soft bristles is the best – the kind you would wash a car with. To prolong the life of your tent’s water resistancy, use Nikwax Tech Wash, otherwise any mild, non-perfumed soap or gentle dish cleaner will suffice.
  3. If it’s allowed by your product manufacturer based on the tag within the tent, wash your tent on a gentle cycle in the washing machine. Don’t do this often, just once or twice in a tent’s lifetime. Even a gentle cycle can rip a tent at the seams if it’s old and worn already. In that case, it’s best to hand-wash it. Otherwise, turn the tent inside out and zip up all zippers. Put it on a gentle cycle in warm-cold water with ReviveX Synthetic Fabric Cleaner. Do not use fabric softner! Afterwards, spray it with Granger’s tent waterproofer. Both products will keep your tent waterproof. You can wash and spray your rainfly this way too.
  4. To eliminate bad odor, mold and mildew from a tent without damaging its waterproof coating, Big Agnes staff recommends using MiraZyme enzyme-based odor eliminator. Fill a tub, or big container with enough cool water to submerge your tent entirely. Add 1 to 2 ounces Mirazyme, depending on the severity of the odor, and stir the water. Unzip all zippers and open the flaps. Submerge your tent until it’s saturated and soak for 10 minutes. Remove the tent, but do not rinse it. Hang the tent in the air to dry, do not machine dry.

Photo: Paul Luffel

  • i rather sleep under the stars