First, give the fly and the inner of your tent a good shake: you’ll be amazed (and disgusted) at the bits and pieces you’ve been carrying around! Then use a soft-bristled brush to remove any excess dirt from the poles, pegs, inner and fly. Run your bath with enough warm–hot water to cover your tent, dissolving in a natural, mild, non-detergent soap. (Depending on the size of your bath and tent, you may want to do the fly and inner separately.) Soak your tent for some time, then brush it to remove any residual dirt. Rinse the tent until the water runs clear – it may take a while… If you really must use a washing machine, make sure it is front loading.
Wash the poles inside and out too, as well as the pegs. But the fun really starts once you’ve finished with the tent: it’s time to scrub the bath!
Once the tent is clean, hang it on the clothes line to dry. Drying time will depend on the weather: it may take several hours in summer, or a day or two in winter. Make sure all components (including the insides of the poles) are completely dry before storing. Lubricate zips with a silicon lubricant suitable for use on fabrics.
Try to avoid getting sand in the tent. It’s pretty impossible if you’re near the beach, but do try! The abrasive grains will cause increased wear to zips, poles and fabric, so clean out any sand before putting the tent away. Remove sand from zips with a small, stiff brush – an old toothbrush is perfect.
You know that musty, old-sock smell of a towel that’s been damp for too long? If you put your tent away when damp, it quickly attains a similar fruity aroma, and then the fabric and performance will start to degrade. In short, mould and mildew on your tent are not ideal… After every trip, hang your tent up (or pitch it – your call) in a warm, dry and preferably shady area until it is completely dry. Make sure all pegs and poles are dry and clean before storage.
It is best to store your tent loose so that the creases in the fly and inner do not become permanent.