Can you put a Tent in a Front Loading Washing Machine?

The buildup of dirt is inevitable when you use your camping equipment frequently. No matter how careful you are, mud will find its way into a tent, either through being walked in or during the process of setting the tent up. Damage to your tent can also occur from things you can’t control, such as rain and snow. Whilst stains and mildew don’t render a tent unusable, they can leave it looking a little worse for wear and in need of a little TLC. Washing your tent is a great way to bring some life back into it, and improve its longevity along with its appearance. 

However, whilst the temptation to just put your tent in a washing machine and forget about it for a couple of hours is a strong one, it’s advised quite strongly not to put a tent in a washing machine unless absolutely necessary.

There are circumstances in which it could be the only option, but if other options are available to you then they’re much better being pursued. Putting a tent in a washing machine isn’t worth the risk, and it would probably cost more to buy a new tent than it would to buy specialist materials to clean the tent manually. 

Risks of Washing a Tent in a Washing Machine

Putting a tent in a front loading washing machine can potentially damage the tent – along with the washing machine itself! 

Even though tents are created to be durable and resistant to many different types of weather and different conditions, a spin cycle is likely to damage the tent and has the potential to damage it beyond repair. 

  • Even if the damage isn’t instantly visible, one of the biggest risks of putting a tent in the washing machine is the damage that can be caused to the laminating and waterproofing. When cleaning a tent by hand, it’s advised to use a nonabrasive sponge to ensure that no waterproof coating is removed from the tent. On the contrary, using a washing machine gives you no control over the intensity of the wash. 
  • Machine washing a tent can also lead to tears and other visible damage to the tent. Torn seams or torn fabric can make a tent practically unusable if abundant enough. While some torn tent fabric can be patched as discussed in how to waterproof a tent, patching a tent is usually just a temporary fix until it’s possible to buy a new, undamaged tent. 
  • Additionally, a tent has the possibility of melting during a machine wash. This is not only damaging to the tent, but also potentially dangerous for the washing machine as well. Washing machines can get hot during a wash in order to destroy bacteria and germs, but given a tent’s nylon or polyester covering, there is the potential for damage to be made. 

There are safer and more effective ways to clean your tent.

How Often Should I Wash my Tent?

There’s no guidance in place which dictates when a tent should be washed or after how many uses. It’s entirely personal preference. Whether or not you should wash your tent depends on a couple of factors.

  • Is it dirty or does it smell? This is fairly obvious as a reason to clean a tent. Bad smells can make it hard to sleep in and sweet smells could possibly attract unwanted wildlife. Dirt and mud, especially inside the tent, can make it a lot harder to live in and can leave you needing more washes whilst you’re camping. 
  • When was the last time you used it? If it’s been a while since your last camping trip, setting the tent up in the garden beforehand and inspecting to see if it needs washing due to mildew or dust is worth doing. Sometimes a tent needs a spruce-up if it hasn’t been used in a while. 

There are steps you can take to increase the longevity of your tent and decrease the amount of times it needs washing. One way to do this is by waterproofing your tent correctly, and another way is to ensure it’s protected by tarp.

How to Properly Wash a Tent

Cleaning a tent is easy if you have a container large enough to wash it in and a place to hang and let the tent dry. 

To wash a tent properly all you need is a soft sponge, a basin such as a bath that is large enough to fit the tent inside, lukewarm water, and a non fragranced soap. 

  • Before cleaning the whole tent, spot clean areas you find particularly dirty or areas that require more attention.
  • Fill the basin with lukewarm water and carefully place the tent inside.
  • Let the tent soak for a short while before using the soap and soft sponge to gently rub away at the surface of the tent. 
  • These steps can be repeated as many times until you are satisfied.
  • Once complete,  hang the tent up in a cool, dry place until it is fully dried. Make sure to reposition the tent occasionally whilst it’s drying to ensure no water pools and the tent dries evenly. 

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