Can i wash tent in washing machine?

How to Wash a Tent in a Washing Machine (Without Ruining It!)

How to Wash a Tent in a Washing Machine (Without Ruining It!)

Remember that mud-caked tent after your last camping trip? The one you swore you’d clean but ended up stuffing back in its bag? We’ve all been there! Washing a tent can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. You can actually get that trusty shelter sparkling clean again – often with the help of a simple washing machine.

But before you toss your tent in with your laundry, hold on! Washing a tent in a washing machine requires a bit of know-how to avoid any disastrous mishaps. Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. This guide will walk you through the entire process, ensuring your tent comes out fresh, clean, and ready for your next adventure.

Can You Wash ALL Tents in a Washing Machine?

The short answer is NO! Not all tents are designed for the rigors of a washing machine. The type of fabric your tent is made from plays a crucial role in determining whether it’s washing machine-friendly.

Before doing anything else, check your tent’s care label! This will tell you definitively whether machine washing is recommended. If your tent is made from delicate materials or has special coatings, hand washing might be the safer option. We’ll cover those methods in another post.

Before You Start: Preparation is Key

Prepping your tent properly is essential for a successful washing experience:

1. Check Your Tent’s Care Label (Seriously, Do It!)

Tent Care Label Example

We can’t stress this enough! The care label is your bible for tent cleaning. It will tell you the recommended washing method, water temperature, and detergents to use (or avoid!).

2. Choose the Right Washing Machine

Front-loading washing machines are gentler on fabrics than top-loaders because they don’t have a central agitator that can snag or damage the tent material. If you only have access to a top-loader, select the gentlest cycle available.

3. Select a Gentle Detergent

Harsh detergents can strip the water-resistant coating from your tent fabric. Opt for a non-detergent soap specifically designed for delicate fabrics or technical gear. These are readily available online or at outdoor retailers.

4. Pre-Treat Stains

Before tossing your tent in the washing machine, pre-treat any stubborn stains like mud, sap, or bird droppings. Use a mild stain remover or a mixture of baking soda and water. Gently rub the solution into the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before washing.

Step-by-Step Guide: Washing Your Tent

Now that you’ve prepped your tent, let’s get down to the washing process:

1. Shake It Out

Give your tent a good shake outside to remove loose dirt, leaves, or any lingering campfire debris.

2. Zippers & Vents

Close all zippers completely to prevent them from snagging on the tent fabric or the washing machine drum. Open all vents fully to allow water and detergent to circulate effectively.

3. Inside Out

Turn your tent inside out. This helps protect the exterior waterproof coating from abrasion during the wash cycle.

4. Loading the Machine

Place the tent loosely in the washing machine drum. Avoid cramming it in, as this can hinder proper cleaning and potentially damage the fabric. It’s best to wash the tent alone, without any other laundry items.

5. Wash Cycle & Water Temperature

Select a gentle or delicate wash cycle with a slow or no-spin option. Cold or lukewarm water is best for most tents. Hot water can damage waterproof coatings and shrink some fabrics.

6. Skip the Spin Cycle!

This is crucial! The high-speed spinning of a washing machine can put excessive stress on tent seams and fabric, leading to tears or damage. If your machine doesn’t have a “no spin” option, select the slowest spin speed available.

Drying Your Tent: Air is Best

While it might be tempting to use a dryer for speed, resist the urge!

Never Machine Dry!

High heat can melt tent fabric, damage waterproof coatings, and even shrink your tent beyond repair.

Air Drying Methods

  • Clothesline: The ideal method for drying a tent is on a clothesline, preferably in a shady, well-ventilated area. Ensure the tent is spread out evenly to allow for maximum airflow.
  • Drying Rack: A drying rack is a good alternative for smaller tents or if you have limited outdoor space. Again, ensure the tent is draped loosely to allow air circulation.
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: While sunlight can help with drying, prolonged exposure can degrade the tent fabric over time. If drying in the sun, try to move the tent to a shady spot once it’s mostly dry.

Common Tent Washing FAQs

Let’s address some common concerns about washing a tent in a washing machine:

How to get mildew out of a tent in the washing machine?

Add a cup of white vinegar to the washing machine drum along with your gentle detergent. Vinegar helps kill mildew spores and neutralize odors. If the mildew is severe, you can pre-treat the affected areas with a mixture of vinegar and water before washing.

Will washing my tent in a washing machine void the warranty?

It depends! Always refer back to your tent’s care instructions and warranty information. Some manufacturers may consider machine washing as improper care and void the warranty. When in doubt, contact the manufacturer directly.

Washing a tent in a bathtub vs. washing machine.

If your tent’s care label advises against machine washing, hand washing in a bathtub is a great alternative. Use lukewarm water, a gentle detergent, and a soft-bristled brush to clean the fabric. Rinse thoroughly and air dry as described above.


Washing your tent doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore. By following these guidelines and using a gentle touch, you can keep your tent clean and in top condition for many adventures to come. Remember to always consult your tent’s care label and err on the side of caution. Happy camping!

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