Can you wash a tent in the washing machine: top loading and front loading options in 2023
The best way to clean your tent without damaging it
If you go camping or backpacking even semi frequently, you’re eventually going to end up with a dirty tent. Getting caught in the rain is the main cause of your tent getting damaged inside and out. Mud, dirt, mildew and general stains can quickly ruin the look and feel of your tent.
If you want to keep your tent looking smart, and feeling cosy when it comes time for bed, you need to follow some general care techniques such as washing, drying and airing it out.
But, can you wash a tent in the washing machine?
You should never machine wash a tent, particularly if you’re not prepared to have to potentially buy a new tent. Top loading washing machines are especially dangerous for your tent. The agitator in a top loader can stretch and tear the tent fabrics, mesh inner and seams.
Besides stretching and tearing the fabric, the agitation (plus detergent if you were to add that in) will damage and likely destroy the waterproof coating that is added to the fly, floor and inner tent.
So…how DO you wash a tent?
The best, safest and easiest way to clean your tent is to use Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarwash. It’s super easy to use, fantastic at removing stains and cleans really well. But what makes it so much better than using standard soap is that it also revitalizes the waterproof coating and adds protection against UV rays. So it’s a perfect way to maintain and enhance the life of your tent.
How to use NikWax Tent & Gear Solarwash –
- Erect tent or lay flat on a work surface.
- Spray the Tent & Gear Solarwash on the outside of your tent. If you have a large tent, work in sections to prevent the solution from drying out before you get a chance to work with it.
- Rub the wash in with a damp cloth or sponge, focusing on stains. For stubborn stains you can use a soft nylon brush, but be gentle.
- Rinse off the solution with a sponge or cloth and clean water.
- Allow to air dry before storing.
You can also use standard dish soap if you would prefer, but for the price, the Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarwash is a far superior choice in terms of cleaning and protection.
Can you wash a tent in a front loading washing machine?
While it’s not recommended to wash your tent in any kind of washing machine, some brands such as Big Agnes do state that if you really need to machine wash your tent, to only do it in an oversized front loading washing machine.
So if you feel that the only way you can clean your tent is to wash it in the machine, then follow these suggestions. Finding the maintenance and care guides for your specific tent manufacturer will give you the best information on what to do. But whatever you do, do not use detergent. Use soap such as soap flakes or liquid soap. Detergent will destroy the waterproof coating.
Can you machine wash inner tents?
No. Many people think that machine washing their inner tent is okay, and that it’s just the rain fly that has a coating and provides protection, but this isn’t true. Your inner tent also has a waterproof protection to prevent the moisture from your rain fly being able to enter through the mesh. The coating on your inner mesh tent ensures that any moisture that does make it onto the mesh beads and rolls off instead of soaking and leaking through. Again, it’s best to check the manufacturer’s guidelines for specifics on whether it’s okay to put your tent or inner mesh through a front loading washing machine. But if in doubt, don’t.
Can you wash a tent fly in the washing machine?
Not really. The general consensus is to NEVER under any conditions, put your tent in the washing machine. Unless it’s your last resort before binning the tent anyway. However, some manufacturers DO say that it’s okay (just about) to wash your tent in a large front loading washing machine. But again, they don’t recommend it, it’s more of a last resort if your tent is in really bad condition.
Can you put a tent carpet in the washing machine?
Most tent carpets cannot be washed in the washing machine. Instead, they recommend you to hang the tent from a washing line (or similar) and hoover then jet wash on a low setting to remove dirt and stains. If you’re on the hunt for a tent rug then there are brands such as the Drymate tent rug that are machine washable.
Can you wash an REI tent?
REI specifically states not to machine wash or machine dry their tents. They supply a great care guide here, if you want to see how to correctly wash your REI tent.