How to clean canvas tents

Updated April 17, 2017

Canvas tents are strong and durable, but that doesn't keep them from getting dirty. When you take them camping they are bound to get covered in mud or debris, especially if there is inclement weather. It's best to clean the tent before packing it up. If this isn't an option, stand the tent back up in your yard when you get home. It's more difficult to clean, and harder to dry, when it is collapsed.

Sweep out or vacuum the inside of the tent, starting at the back and working your way toward the door. Get the dirt in the seams where the walls of the tent meet the floor.

Spray the tops and sides. Move the hose from left to right starting at the top of the tent and moving down. Don't spray too much at the base, since you don't want water building up underneath the tent.

Scrub the wet tent with a brush from top to bottom so that all of the dirt falls toward the ground. Spray the tent again.

Check for any remaining dirt or stains. If you see anything, clean the tent with a gentle soap, like Woolite. Put two capfuls of soap in your bucket and add enough lukewarm water to fill it the rest of the way. Stir with a mixing spoon. Dip the brush in the bucket and scrub it on the still soiled areas. Rinse again.

Let the top and sides of the tent air dry. Then tip the tent on its side and repeat Steps 2 through 4 to clean the bottom of the tent, if applicable. Make sure to tip it on a clean area, such as a well-swept driveway, so the rest of the tent doesn't get dirty again.

Wait for the rest of the tent to dry, then roll it up and put it away. Store it off the ground if you keep it in a basement or garage.


If your canvas tent has mould or mildew on it, scrub those areas with diluted table vinegar. Your solution should be half vinegar, half lukewarm water. You can also use a solution of one cup of bleach, a quarter cup of soap and a gallon of water.


Don't roll up the tent until it is 100 per cent dry. If you don't wait, your tent will start to smell within days. Do not clean a tent with detergent, which can affect its waterproofing.

Things You'll Need

  • Gallon bucket
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Mild soap
  • Vinegar or bleach (if needed)
  • Garden hose
  • Vacuum or broom
  • Mixing spoon
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