How do I get the desert out of my tent?

The Green River trip was my first time camping in desert-like conditions. It sure was dusty. The last campsite was covered in 1-2" of loose dust about the consistency of flour. It stuck to everything. What’s the best way to get the dust and grit out of the tent?

Hang it up and blast it with the leaf blower?


I would do that first . How do you feel
about hosing it inside and out on a good dry day.


– Last Updated: May-18-09 9:10 AM EST –

My first thought was to hose it down.

On the occasion when it rains out there, those sights must be downright nasty. Dust is better than mud.

The mud in the boats and on the gear was difficult to wash off with the hose, which is what has me thinking of vacuuming or blowing the tent. Dust plus water = mud, right? And I guess you can put tents in the washing machine, although I hesitate at that. Might be time to check in with Mountain Hardware and see if they have recommendations.

Okay, here's what MH says (guess I should have checked there first):

"Cleaning Your Tent

Never machine wash or machine dry your tent. For localized cleaning, use a sponge with warm water. When cleaning the entire tent, wash in a tub (bathtub) of cold water. Never use hot water, bleach, dishwashing liquid, pre-soaking solutions, or spot removers. If you use soap, always use a non-detergent soap. Dry your tent by pitching it in the shade or by line drying only. Never machine dry your tent."


A method

– Last Updated: May-18-09 10:33 AM EST –

A method I have used on occasion to clean mud/dust/pollen/etc. from the inside/outside of a tent:

If mess is inside: Turn the tent inside out, blast it with a water hose, and hang it in the shade till it dries. I usually take a long/non sharp object (such as a broom), and put it inside the tent to spread it open while it's drying.Air flow will assist in drying. (See below)

You want it to dry really quickly?
If the tent has O rings, or D ring at it's corners; tie some lines to the O or D rings, and the other end of the lines to some trees, posts, or whatever. Then hang the tent above the ground, with the top of the tent down, and use the broom to spread it open.

Should be dry in less than an hour if there is a good breeze.

Has had no negative effect on a 2 man Timberline I have been using for nearly 15 years, or a 4 man Timberline I've been using for about 10 years.


When we were up in the ANWR
on a 15 day wilderness trip, and were trying to eat our lunch each day with the wind blowing sand all over the PB &J, we were encourage to think “sand as a spice” !



How do I get the desert out of my tent?
A: keep your tent out of the desert.

Or use it for a designated desert tent now, and buy another tent for your non-desert forays.

Set it up, poles and everything, then just get after it with some sort of high pressure air. If you have access to a compressor with a blower attatchment, that would be even better. Just don’t get too close to the fabric and punch a hole through it with the compressed air. Then just pick it up and shake it out.

Just set it up and vacuum it out.
Sweep up the big stuff, vacuum up the small stuff, use the brush floor attachment, do it when your wife is out.

When I get back . . .
. . . from a trip I always set up the tent in the yard and give it a good inspection, wash down with the hose and let it dry before I put it away.

protect repellent and sealer

As I understand it, the possible problems one faces when cleaning a tent are (1) loss or reduced effectiveness of the chemical imbedded in the fabric that makes it water repellent, and (2) loss of the substance used to seal the seams.

Thus, you don’t want to use detergent soap on a tent because detergent is made up of chemicals whose molecules tend to attract water to one end, and dirt and oil to the other end. Such a chemical makes it easier for dirt and oil to dissolve in water and thus rinse away from the tent fabric. The problem is that, no matter how well you rinse, some detergent will remain in the fabric and the water-attracting characteristic of these chemicals will interfere with the water-repellent chemical imbedded in your tent fabric.

Your instructions also seem to discourage (by implication) hot water, sunlight, and vigorous scrubbing. Presumably, these also threaten to remove either the water repellent and/or the seam sealer substances.

Based on all of that, I think I would favor a two step process. First, vacuum thoroughly the flat panels, but stay away from the seams. Second, wash repeatedly in a tub of cold water, allowing a long time (15-30 minutes) for soaking each time, and agitating the fabric gently at the beginning and ending of each soaking period. Then, pour off the water and repeat. The number of repetitions would depend on how dirty the water is after each washing. I would continue the wash cycles until the water comes off looking fairly clean.

After washing, set it up in the shade and allow it to dry, and then give it a thorough rain test. If you get any leakage, apply seam sealer in the area it seems to be coming from, if you can tell.

You can add non-detergent soap (Wal-Mart camping section should have it, sometimes marketed as sleeping bag washing soap), but I really think just plain water will do well enough.

Two or three buckets\barrels…

– Last Updated: May-19-09 11:09 AM EST –

Some non-detergent soap in the first, clean rinse water in the second, and if you're really anal, third. Fold tent inside out, shake out as much dry stuff as possible, dunk until clean, rinse well, hang to dry... Also make sure you get all the sand and grit out of the poles, could use some rinses as well...

I just think
You’re bragging. Trying to rub it in that I haven’t actually taken that trip yet and I’ve wanted to for a long long time. Meanie.

I’ve had this happen many times.

Turn the tent inside-out and stick it in the water (Lake Powell was fine for this, but for silty rivers I’d use a big tub of warm tap water instead). Slosh it around by hand. Then hang up to dry, preferably on a breezy day.