If you’ve ever found yourself packing up your campsite in pouring down rain, then you already know the struggle. No one wants to put away a damp tent, but you can’t just leave it behind either. If you have a long journey ahead, you may begin to worry about your tent collecting mildew (a stinky and unsightly form of mold). Just like your clothes, your tent fabric requires dry, cool storage to prevent mold growth.
How Long Can You Store a Wet Tent?
If you must store your tent wet, you should make it your goal to keep it packed away for two days or less.
That’s right. It only takes 24 – 48 hours before mold starts to noticeably grow on the fabric of your tent. In fact, growth actually begins immediately in the correct conditions. This is because mold spores are everywhere, virtually unavoidable. They wait until they have the right conditions and then they begin to multiply rampantly, which is what creates the visible and stinky mold we all know.
So now that you know that mold growth begins immediately, and only takes 24-48 hours to be noticeable, you understand why you cannot store a wet tent, at all, if possible.
How To Prevent Mold and Mildew Growth
If you had to pack up your wet tent, there are some steps you can take to prevent mold growth until you can get it fully aired out and put away properly.
Mold Blocker/Anti Microbial Spray
Use an anti-microbial spray, like this Mold Blocker by Home Armor, on your tent before you head out to prevent mold spores from attaching to your tent. This works on nylon, polyethylene, and canvas. The formula is bleach-free and waterproof and lasts up to three months.
Mold grows best in wet, warm environments. If you are able to drop your tent bag into a cold cooler, refrigerator, or freezer you will be able to slow the growth of mold. It’s not a long term solution, but it will work in a pinch.
Remove Debris and Dirt
Mold and mildew prey on the cotton on canvas tents, but they don’t like nylon tents as much. That said, dirt is still food for mold, and so it will grow on a dirty tent, canvas or nylon. Do your best to remove as much dirt and debris as possible so that there is less for the mold to feast on as it grows.
Ventilate as Much as Possible
If you are able to lay your tent out, still wet, in the backseat of a car or a truck bed, you will be better off than stuffing it into a tent bag. If not, at least leave the top of the bag open. Breathability is important to prevent mold growth and deal with condensation.(check our guide)
Always Fully Dry Before Packing Away for Longer than Two Days
Pitch the tent somewhere dry for several days and let it dry. Check your seams, as they hold the most moisture for the longest amount of time. If the seams are dry, the rest of the tent is probably dry and ready to be put away.
How to Reverse Mold and Mildew Growth
The truth is, it isn’t easy. Some might even say it isn’t possible. Cleaning up mold from any surface is bound to be a struggle, in part because mold spores are literally spread simply by the act of cleaning it, and if the conditions don’t change — then the mold continues to grow.
The first thing to do is kill the mold. Many people swear by home remedies such as bleach, vinegar, and lemon juice. Even extremely diluted bleach is not good for your tent. Vinegar will leave an awful odor. And lemon juice just doesn’t sound all that effective, now does it?
Home Armor has a bleach free Mildew Stain Remover that also contains a mold blocker to prevent regrowth. If you have mild mildew growth, this should work wonders for you. You don’t even have to scrub! If you are tent guru, you already know why scrubbing is bad for your tent. If you didn’t know, scrubbing strips your protective layers from your tent.
You shouldn’t have an odor after using Home Armor, but if you do, consider using Mirazyme or another enzyme based odor eliminator.