How to clean and store your tent, pegs and groundsheet correctly


Essentials for cleaning your camping gear

After each camping trip, it is essential to clean and store tents, pegs, and groundsheets correctly. Especially if you are preparing for winter storage. People often forget about the importance of cleaning pegs and groundsheets, only concentrating on the tent itself.

Camping gear should be cleaned and dried after each trip to increase the lifespan. Equipment used less than three times a year, waterproofed every two years. Aluminium or steel tent pegs remove excess dirt, washed, and wiped with WD40 before storing. If rusty, soak overnight in white vinegar and clean.

An average tent can last up to 10 years, providing it is maintained correctly. However, most families will replace their tent after 4 years.

Not cleaning your tent or gear after using, especially when stored whilst wet, will become mouldy, pegs rusty within a year of storage.

Fabsil and Nikwax: How much do you need

I clean my tents and groundsheet with two different brands—Fabsil Tent & Gear cleaner for removing stubborn dirt. However, Nikwax Tech Wash can be used as a replacement. Fabsil will waterproof a tent but does not have protection against UV degradation.

Fabsil is easy to use, but the coverage depends on the tent material.

  • Lightweight Nylon – 15-18 sq meters per litre
  • Lightweight Canvas – 7 – 10 sq meters per litre
  • Mediumweight Canvas – 5 – 7 sq meters per litre

Waterproofing is not required after every wash, but it is advisable every 2 years if a tent is used 2-3 times a year. For waterproofing Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof protects against UV degradation. Nikwax is non-flammable, easy to store safely.

Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarproof coverage is 1-litre per 70 sq meters, ample for a large family tent. 1-litre waterproofs all of my tents and shelter.

  • Outwell Escalon 5 – single walled
  • Ozark Trail 4 person – double walled tent
  • Eurohike Genus 400 – single walled tent
  • Eurohike Genus Shelter V2

Before using Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof, Fabsil Tent and Gear Cleaner test on a small area of your tent first

1 – Airing and drying a tent and groundsheet in warm weather

Using your back garden to air your tent is easier if the weather is warm and dry. Leave doors open so the inside of your tent has airflow and ventilation.

Where to pitch your tent:

  • Back garden
  • Borrow a neighbour or family members garden
  • Local park
  • Hang over a washing line
  • Lay over a bannister – rotating regular
  • Air dryer racks and washing lines placed in your home

2 – Airing and drying a tent and groundsheet in wet weather

If you have packed your tent wet, it is essential to dry it as soon as possible. Drying your tent will help avoid future problems and having to buy a new tent the following year.

It can be challenging to find a place to dry a wet tent that has sufficient room, dry and secure, especially if you have a large tent. Trying to dry a tent inside of your home can be frustrating and a nightmare.

  • Hang your tent in a garage
  • Using clothes a horse to support your tent
  • Use several clothes horse to lay your tent inside of your home

Rotate your tent often if your unable to pitch fully in an open space to dry

3 – Removing debris and checking for damage

Cleaning stones, grass and other debris from the inside of your tent

If you are unable to pitch your tent straight away to clean the inside, don’t worry. So long as your tent is fully dry, you can wait for a warm day to clean the inside. But do not store an unclean tent over a long period, as the grass or other debris will rot inside, and stones can damage it.

I usually clean my camping gear over two days. By allowing two days, it does reduce the daunting feeling of the task at hand. I allow one day for inside and the second day for the outside of the tent.

  • Remove inner sleeping linning – Allow you to clean and check underneath and the back of the tent. Sleeping liners can be cleaned on a low gentle wash in a washing machine or ideally hand washed. Do not dry in a dryer.
  • Remove all debris from inside – Using a dustpan and brush remove grass, bugsand stones
  • Check all zips are in working order – Zips run smoothly and do not catch. Use Beeswax if they are sticking.
  • Check for rips – Corners, door areas, seams. Tent are normally sold with a repair kit

4 – Fabsil Tent and Gear Cleaner: Cleaning inner walls and floors

Dirt on the inside of a roof tent

The next stage after removing all debris is to clean the inside walls of your tent. Save time by leaving the floors till last.

You will need:

  • Damp cloth or sponge – Do not soak the cloth or sponge fully, as you want to reduce the amount of excess water on the floor.
  • Fabsil Tent and Gear cleaner – 5 ltrs or water per 2 capfulls.
  • Warm water – Mix with the Fabsil tent and gear cleaner. Use either a bucket, washing up bowl or spray bottle.
  • Floor protection – To protect the floor of your tent.
  • Dry towel or kitchen roll – I normally use kitchen rolls as it easier to soak any spillages.
  • Foot stool – If you cannot reach the roof easily use a foot stool, place floor protection if needed to avoid damage.
  • Clean water – To rinse tent walls after using Fabsil cleaner.

How to use Fabsil Tent and Gear cleaner

Fabsil Tent & Gear Cleaner
  • Place protection on the floor to soak up any excess water.
  • Using lukewarm water mix 5 ltrs per 2 capfills of Fabsil Tent and Gear cleaner – Mix in stages to avoid water from cooling.
  • Dampen the cloth in the water mixture – Remove excess water as you do not want a soaked cloth, as this will leave drips marks on walls and flooring.
  • Gently scrub the tent walls – avoid stretching material and don’t use a scrubbing brush.
  • Stubborn marks – If there are marks on your tent that cannot be removed, don’t panic as often the dirt will be outside but gives the illusion of being on the inside.

Using your damp cloth, gently work your way around the inside walls of your tent. Try not to scrub the tent walls or place pressure as you can damage your tent. If needed, ask somebody to support the tent wall from the outside to avoid stretching.

It is important to rinse your tent after cleaning, although the inside is more difficult as you cannot use a hose. I use a good quality sponge that holds clean water but not so that it is saturated.

Once all areas have been cleaned, remember to keep all doors open for air circulation and help to dry the inside.

8 – Cleaning the underside of your tent

It is important not to skip cleaning the underside of your tent. Many people will automatically think it is sturdy, high waterproofing level and leave it.

So why bother? Using a groundsheet will not always protect your tent from mud or squashed slugs. The underside always has contact with the ground, and water can easily seep onto the groundsheet and underneath your tent.

You will need:

  • Sturdy long handle room – clear any debri and mud stuck to the underside of your tent
  • Damp cloth or sponge – Minky sponge is ideal as it is double side: soft and robust side.
  • Fabsil Tent and Gear Cleaner – 5 Ltrs of water and 2 capfuls of cleaner
  • Kitchen towel or drying cloth – Use to wipe away excess water – helps to dry
  • Clean water to rinse – Hose, a watering can with a sprinkler or a bowl of water with a sponge or cloth.
  • Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarproof – Waterproof the underside of your tent after you have cleaned, saves time and easier

The underside groundsheets are easier to clean if the tent is not pitched. You can be a bit harsher scrubbing, as the underside of your tent is a lot sturdier and less likely to damage.

  • Small tents – Can be flipped over to clean the underside, providing the tent is sturdy.
  • Larger tents – Ideally flip over fully so the underside is on the top, ensuring the main body of the tent is laying on a clean area.

5 – Cleaning the outside of your tent

Check and clean zip areas and tent out trims.

Cleaning the outside of a tent is more difficult, especially if you have a large tent. Be patient and work systematically, leaving areas you cannot reach until last.

Using a soft or long-handled brush, remove all loose grass and dirt: Mix Fabsil Tent and Gear cleaner 2 capfuls for every 5 litres of warm water. Not boiling water, I always have lukewarm water and only 5 litres at a time.

Using a sponge or cloth, clean the tent’s outside in sections and rinse as you work around your tent. Leave to dry naturally.

  • Storm flaps – Material that goes over the door zip, clean inside and out .
  • Underside of the outer layer that is low to the ground – where pegged

6 – How to clean areas of your tent you cannot reach

Cleaning the roof of a tent is difficult, especially in the middle of the roof. You can try using a stall or step ladder, but don’t overstretch and risk falling onto your tent.

  • Note where you need to clean.
  • Place a hard surface and a old towel under the area inside of your tent – A solid surface Makes it easier to cleang and helps to guide you where you need to lay your tent.
  • Partically close doors – Closing doors but leaving a gap allows air to escape.
  • Take your tent down carefully – Make sure the area you need to clean is over the hard surfce inside.
  • Place old towels over the areas you need to walk or kneel – Provides additional protection to your tent.
  • Cleaning – Using the Fabsil and water mixture clean your tent, keep the water mixture close to you to avoid water dripping onto other areas of your tent.
  • Rinsing – After cleaning alwasy rinse your tent to remove any excess cleaning liquid.
  • Nikwax Tent & Gear Waterproof – Waterproof area, saves time, removing excess liquid
  • Repitch your tent to dry

9 – Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarproof: Waterproofing your tent

Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof spray is easy to use, ideal for final waterproofing.

Waterproofing your tent can be done whilst your tent is wet after cleaning. Tents do not need to be waterproofed after every camping trip. If water is resting on your tent, forming droplets and not soaking into your tent, do not waterproof.

During your last camping trip, was your tent wet inside? It does not always mean that your tent needs waterproofing. It could be a build-up of condensation. Here are 10 ways to reduce condensation whilst camping we follow.

I prefer Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarproof for waterproofing. However, Fabsil Tent and Gear cleaner is also a waterproofing chemical; it does not protect against UV Degradation. Nikwax is designed to protect against UV degradation. It is important, especially for areas such as the roof that is in direct sunlight.

Spray bottles are easier to use as you spray. Giving you additional reach to areas such as the roof that are difficult.

Avoid dried drip marks – using a cloth wipe evenly across the tent surface.

Spray sections at a time and leave for several minutes. Remove excess liquid by wiping and spreading evenly over the tent surface to avoid white marks on the tent. Leave to dry naturally.

10 -Cleaning a groundsheet / footprint

Groundsheets receive the harshest treatment, as they have continuous, direct contact with the ground during all weather conditions.

Cleaning both sides of a groundsheet:

  • Peg out ground sheet – top side first. By repegging this gives you a unmoveable surface to scrub and remove stubborn dirt.
  • Remove any loose dirt.
  • Using Fabsil Tent cleaner scrub clean using a sponge, cloth or long handled broom.
  • Rinse fully and leave to dry.
  • To clean underside unpeg 1 side, fold in half and secure – protecting cleaned area.
  • Repeat until you cannot fold without clean areas becoming dirty
  • Clean the last section on a path or driveway
  • Once fully cleaned leave to dry naturally – ideally using a washing line

I only use a basic groundsheet that I can adapt for all of my tents. Costing me £29.99 compared to groundsheets designed for specific tents. We camped in heavy storms earlier in the year, and I forgot to clean and dry it correctly. I was more concerned with making sure my tent was dry and cleaned. So for my next camping trip, my groundsheet was dirty and mouldy.

11 – Cleaning alluminium, steel and plastic tent pegs

Neglected tent pegs

Tent pegs do not need to be cleaned in full after each trip, providing mud is removed, and they are dry.

If pegs are rusty, soak in white vinegar overnight and scrub clean using a wire brush.

Peg materialHow to clean
Aluminium / SteelRemove excess mud or dried organic material
Clean in hot water
Leave to dry
WD40 – Spray on an old soft cloth and wipe pegs.
PlasticRemoved excess mud or dried organic material
Clean in warm water and leave to dry
Plastic pegs will become brittle over time.
How to clean aluminium, steel and plastic tent pegs

Related questions

How to remove bird poop from your tent

Bird poop contains acid; it is essential to remove it straight away. Do not use any detergent or other everyday cleaning chemicals, only warm water to avoid removing the waterproofing of your tent.

Remove wet bird poop by wiping away using a damp cloth or towel. Dried bird poop is harder to remove; brush away carefully and clean.

Timescale for waterproofing a tent: Old and new tents

New tents do not need to be waterproofed straight away. The fabric has already been treated and seams sealed during the manufacturing process. The HH Level shows a tent waterproof effectiveness. The higher the level, the more waterproof a tent is. 2000HH is the minimum legal level in the UK.

Waterproof a tent every 2 years if used less than 3 times per year. If a tent is used in harsher conditions and on a more regular basis, it should be waterproofed every year.

Easy way to test if you need to waterproof your tent

Check to see if your tent is waterproof is by gently spraying water over your tent when pitched. Ideally, this should be before your camping trip and on a dry day to give your tent a chance to dry before packing away.

Have another adult or a child stand inside to see if water drips through the tent walls and roof. Also, check the seams of the tent. If the water remains on your tent in droplets, your tent is waterproof.

Anita

I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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