Can You Wash a Tent in a Front Loading Washing Machine? Here Are 4 Simple Steps

After several days out in the wild, you will definitely need a good scrubbing. Taking a long soak in the bathtub is in order. However, you will also have to clean all your camping equipment. A lot of people then wonder, can you wash a tent in a front loading washing machine?

A camping tent is the most significant piece of outdoor equipment you’ll be hauling. It is also the most important thing on any camping trip. So alongside your boots, camo and sleeping bags, you need to keep it clean even if it means squeezing it inside a front loading machine.

Methods of Washing Your Camping Tent

There are two primary methods to wash a camping tent. There isn’t a clear winner here, and it all boils down to your current situation.

Manual Wash

A manual wash is pretty straightforward. You don’t need a machine to help strip off mud and dirt from your tent. A manual wash is relatively easy for small and lightweight tents, and you’ll be ready to go back outdoors in no time. However, you’ll have to put in the work, and canvas tents can be pretty cumbersome.

Machine Wash

If you don’t have the time, nor the effort, to manually clean your tent, you can always opt for a machine wash. A machine does the work automatically, and you’ll only need to put in some soap and the entire tent.

A regular top-loading washer will not withstand the demands of a full-sized family tent. Because not all machines are meant for such heavy-lifting, you’ll need a larger front-loader to wash your tent.

How to Wash a Tent With a Machine

So, now that you know which machine to use, how can you wash a tent in a front loading washing machine? Here’s the procedure to follow.

Take the Tent Down

The first step is to disassemble your tent. Remove all the straps and assortments on your tent. Remember, some bits may dislodge while in the machine and damage both your tent fabric and the washer.

After taking it down, pile the fabric into the front-loading machine. Only use a front loader because top-loading washers are too small for regular-sized tents. Also, most tents are made from canvas, nylon and polystyrene. Your usual top-loader can’t handle this sturdy material hence the need for an industrial front-loading washer.

Use the Right Tent Cleaners

As you already know, camping tents are designed to protect you from the elements. Even during a storm, a solid tent will keep the worst of the weather away from you. This is possible because of the tent’s impressive waterproofing ability.

The type of soap you use significantly affects the fabric’s waterproof feature. That’s why you should consider a specified tent cleaning product like Nikwax. However, if you can’t get your hands on one, a mild soap should do. But do watch out for stronger detergents.

Cotton tents are a favorite among campers and have been for a long time. They are robust and keep water from seeping in. Sadly, cotton tends to attract mildew growth whenever it is stored with a bit of moisture.

If your tent has some spots of mildew, you’re going to have to get additional products. Vinegar is an excellent addition to your cleaning regimen. However, don’t use it in the washer. Simply make targeted spot cleaning at the mildew spots before immersing your tent inside a washer.

Match the Tent With a Correctly Sized Washing Machine

You won’t need a mega-sized machine for a two-person tent. Conversely, a big tent needs an equally sized front loading washer. An industrial front loader is the best fit for most family tents. Afterward, set your washer to a gentle cycle. If it’s too rapid, you risk tearing the fibers and compromising your tent’s waterproofing.

Post-Wash Treatment

Once cleaned, gently take the tent out of the washer and hang it to dry. You’ll need clear skies for the sun to bake your tent dry. After it is sufficiently dried up, give it a waterproofing treatment. The machine wash combined with a mild cleaning product will clear a good portion of the tent’s waterproofing. So, make sure to waterproof your tent once again before your next camping trip.

Pros

  • A machine will clean your tent faster and save precious time
  • The only physicality encountered is loading the tent inside the washer

Cons

  • Small and lightweight tents are at risk of tearing once inside a front-loading machine
  • The wash cycle degrades a tent’s waterproofness due to mechanical wear, heat and the cleaning product used
  • Oversized front-loading washers are hard to come by, especially for personal use

When Can You Wash a Tent in a Front-Loading Machine

How can you wash a tent in a front-loading machine without damaging the fabric? Firstly, not all tents are machine washable.

Canvas tents are usually rugged and can withstand the forces of a machine wash. They are the preferred candidate for a front loading machine. You can get away with minimal damage to the fabric while using a machine.

On the other hand, nylon and polyester tents are lightweight materials. They are pretty handy for backpackers. However, their nimbleness means that you have to be extra careful while cleaning. 

A manual wash is recommended for smaller tents. It is easier to regulate the amount of force you exert onto the fabric.

Tips to Care For Your Camping Tent

While a machine wash is a necessary evil, tents rarely demand regular cleaning. Usually, if you can maintain your tent’s cleanliness, you’ll be hard-pressed to opt for a machine wash. Here are some care and maintenance tips for your camping tent.

Basic Spot-Cleaning

As soon as you spot a bit of dirt and mud, take it off as fast as you can. You can use a cloth and a bit of soapy water to rub off a dirty patch.

Targeting patches of dirt helps maintain the overall hygiene of your camping equipment. Washing is a tedious endeavor. Unless your tent has been through the mud, you’re better off keeping a dirt-free canvas.

Don’t Forget the Zippers

How can you wash a tent in a front-loading machine and forget the zippers? After cleaning your tent, focus on the zippers. This bit encloses you from the harsh outdoor weather, especially if you are camping.

Take some time to remove any dirt embedded in the teeth. Also, if there are broken or missing zipper parts, make sure to replace them before your next outdoor adventure. Finally, use a dry lubricant on the entire zipper.

Storage Conditions

How you store a tent also affects how clean it will be. First, you should let your tent dry in the sun for a couple of hours. Afterward, neatly fold the fabric if you are keeping it away for a considerable amount of time.

A damp tent is a perfect breeding ground for microorganisms. Canvas is often made using cotton strands which are excellent sites for mold to take root. Apart from the stain, fungal growth will make your tent smell horrible.

Maintaining a Clean Tent

No matter where you are camping, you’re bound to collect some dirt. However, we can also dirty our tents. Therefore, maintaining a well-ordered tent is critical to having a clean sleeping area. Watch out for accidental liquid and food spills while camping.

Final Thoughts

Ideally, you won’t need to wash your camping tent too frequently. But you may be wondering if you can wash a tent in a front-loading machine? This article has confirmed that you can. For the best results, follow the steps we provided.

A tent’s standout feature is being waterproof. However, frequent washing and scrubbing wear down its waterproofing ability. So, only wash it when necessary. If you stick to the care and maintenance criteria outlined above, your tent will be nice and clean – ready to be used on your next camping trip! So, can you wash a tent in a front loading washing machine? Why yes you can!

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