How to Clean Mold from your Cotton Canvas Tent?

Clean Mold from Tents

Mold and mildew are one of the main reasons why canvas tents require more maintenance than those made from synthetic fibers, but neither should be a reason to resist investing in a tent made from natural, cotton fibers.

With just a bit of knowledge on how to properly prevent mold and mildew, as well as how to treat it when necessary, the many benefits that a canvas tent offers compared to a plastic or polyester tent will greatly outweigh any potential damage caused by these nuisances.

Army duck cotton canvas tents, because of the way they’re manufactured with double-stitched fabric, are extremely durable and likely to last many years. That said, canvas tents generally require maintenance and care, especially when compared with those made from synthetic material. A major contributor to this is the possibility of mold and mildew on the canvas tent.

Understanding Mold & Mildew and Their Effects

What is mold, and where does it come from?

Mold is a form of fungus which feeds on energy from the sun to cultivate itself. It tends to grow on stale or musty organic substances, especially in humid conditions. Mold can begin to form in as little as 24 hours, so it’s important to identify it early on and take the necessary measures to clean the canvas of it.

What are the effects of mold?

Apart from giving off a pungent smell and being harmful to touch, mold can also be the reason for the formation of rot, holes or tears, quite possibly rendering an entire tent unusable.

Preventing the Formation of Mold & Mildew

Buying a Tent Treated for Mold & Mildew Resistance

The formation of mold & mildew on the canvas fabric of your tent can be substantially reduced by investing in a tent that’s been properly treated to resist mold & mildew. White Duck’s canvas tents are treated to be water, UV and mold resistant in a way that maintains the breathability of the tent and doesn’t compromise on its structural integrity.

Drying Out the Tent After Each Use

One of the best things to do to prevent the growth of mold and mildew on your canvas tent is to let it dry out completely in the sun after every use and before folding or storing it. Allowing the canvas to try limits how wet or moist the fabric gets, reducing the possible areas of formation for the fungus. If you fold or store away your canvas tent before it’s fully dry, you may encounter mold on it the next time you begin to set it up because of how quickly it can develop.

At times when it isn’t ideal or there isn’t enough time to completely dry out the tent at camp, roll it up instead and open it up to dry at the next possible opportunity by laying it out and spreading it completely without necessarily setting it up.

hammock and tent

Cleaning the Canvas From Other Organic Materials

Other preventative measures to stop the growth of mold and mildew on your canvas tent are cleaning leaves, bird droppings, dirt or any other organic materials that may stick to the fabric when packing away. Allowing for ample ventilation and airflow throughout your tent will help to keep it dry while in use as well.

The Cleaning Process for Canvas Tents

Depending on the extent to which mold has impacted the fabric of your canvas tent, you may have to decide between quick cleaning solutions or a deeper cleaning process.

Dealing with Mild Cases of Mold and Mildew

For milder cases of mold and mildew formation that are just beginning to grow and spread, a simple vinegar solution can do the job. Simply spray the mold and mildew directly with distilled white vinegar and let it sit for a while. Vinegar is a natural cleaning agent that can work to counteract the mold or mildew.

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Another simple way to clean your canvas tent is by gently scrubbing it with lemon, salt, and hot water. Lemon and salt are also both natural cleaning agents, and the combination will help in the removal of the fungus.

Soap and other detergents can harm the fabric and leave deposits. For this reason, vinegar or lemon solutions are preferred ways to clean the cotton canvas.

woman sitting outside white duck tent

Using Cleaners for Tougher Jobs

You can find commercial cleaners for the toughest jobs that vinegar or lemon can’t handle on their own, which are made specifically for this purpose. The IOSSO Mold & Mildew Stain Remover not only cleans mold and mildew, but is also suitable for removing other organic stains caused by dirt, bird droppings or leaves.

Another option is this Boat Bling Green Sauce Enzyme-Based Mold and Mildew Stain Remover and Treatment. This cleaner is made from a plant-based, biodegradable formula, which doesn’t adversely affect the environment. Not only it it strong enough to break-down and fight built-up mold and mildew, but it also prevents it from forming again.

Giving the Canvas Fabric a Complete Wash

The tools you’ll need:

  • A brush/broom with soft bristles.
  • A stir stick or smooth ended, de-barked tree branch or a broom handle.
  • A water hose.
  • OxyClean bucket (powder form).
  • Floor cleaning items (mop, mild soap or kitchen/bathroom cleaning detergent powder).
  • A large container in which the tent’s canopy can be soaked in and has extra space to stir it.
  • A room with a suitable temperature in which to store the container with the tent for around 24-48 hours to allow the tent to dry properly.
  • A DryGuy Canvas Waterproofing solution encouraging for future prevention of mold growth.

Step by step method:

  1. Clean the tent from all the dirt, debris and dust with the help of a soft broom or brush.
  2. The canopy and floor of the cotton canvas tent should be cleaned separately. Separate the floor and the canopy. The guy-lines can also be used but do retreat them to protect from possible UV damage.
  3. Fill the large gallon with warm water up till 30 cm or 1 foot. Depending on the dirt level of your tent and instructions printed on the powder box, add numerous cups of OxyClean powder accordingly.
  4. Stir until water dissolves the powder completely. Warm water tends to be more helpful in dissolving solutions thoroughly.
  5. Except for the floor of the tent, soak the rest of the tent parts in the solution.
  6. Fill it with more water until the cotton canvas tent is soaked properly.
  7. Agitate and stir the tent so that it gets soaked properly and gets covered completely in the solution.
  8. Soak the tent for 4 – 10 hours and stir it in intervals. You can soak it and leave it overnight, as well.
  9. Take out the tent from the solution and place it on a clean and dry floor. Brush, sweep and rinse the tent, the way you would your floors.
  10. Discard the dirty water from the container in which the canvas was soaked.
  11. Rinse off the tent and tightly roll it up to get the cotton squeezed so as to remove the residue. Check whether it needs another round of soaking or not; if yes, then repeat the soaking process with the large container, OxyClean and warm water.
  12. If the cotton canvas seems reasonably tidy, soak it in just water to remove any residual soap.
  13. Pull the canvas over the cleaned up tent floor and then pitch it. You can also choose to spread the tent floor on the top of your car, and then place the canvas on its top so that it will assist with its weight and the floor won’t drop or run off. Don’t place the canvas directly on your car; the OxyClean can be harmful to the coating.