Cleaning your mouldy bell tent at home
So your beautiful canvas tent has been infected with the dreaded mould, this invasive growth once it arrives will slowly grow and consume your tent so you need to act now !!!
I have 2 Bell tents a 4M & 5M and my first mould experience was with my 4M tent, I had had my 4M around 6 years and it had been used on average for 8 weeks a year, it was a bit grubby but had been well looked after and still looked great that is until lockdown hit unable to go to my sewing studio I decided to set my bell tent up in the garden and move my sewing stuff into there during lockdown seemed like a win win situation ….however at the end of lockdown some 8 months later when I came to take her down I was horrified to discover how mouldy she was, I foolishly had not been keeping an eye on her I have let the grass grow long around her thinking how pretty it looked without realising that I was condemning her to the dreaded mould infestation!
Argh I was absolutely gutted and started to look at how I could rescue her
This started with looking at professional companies that offered Bell tent cleaning service, wow it was expensive starting at £180 it was well out of my price range now I hasten to add at this point that if I had the money this is most probably the route I would have taken, my tips for this approach would be do your research there are lots of groups and forums online for canvas tent lovers and so lots of recommendations for reputable companies, also check their pricing carefully, contact them, send them photos of your tent and ensure that you take into account courier costs if they are not included in your quote.
Now for those of you like me who just simple could not afford to send your tent away there are some options for a DIY approach again you’ll find a lots of information and advice online (Like this) so do a bit of research before you decided which approach to take.
I can only offer my own personal experiences as a guide but I have tried and tested 2 different methods myself so will explain my how, what and why for each method and my overall conclusion to help you decide
Method 1 - The soaking in vanish method
After researching online it seemed the common consensus was that this is a good method so this is what I chose to do with my 4M, this is visually documented in my video but to summarise
- I started by removing all of the guy ropes you do not need them flying about everywhere whilst you are working.
- Then I filled 1/4 my bath with warm water & dissolved 2 tubs of vanish in it
- Plunged my tent in, I tried to ensure that the bottom skirt went in first as this was the most soiled, it was a tight fit but she was in I then topped up the bath till the tent was fully submerged…. The water level was very high!
- I left her overnight
- Next day I drained the bath with her still in it and refilled with 3 buckets of vanish solution 1 tub of vanish per bucket and topped up with water, not quite so deep this time as I needed to move without flooding the bathroom
- Then scrubbing lots of scrubbing, swishing and agitating between soaks
After 3 days of this and my bathroom being out of action ( much to the fury of the rest of the family who had been unable to bath or shower ) I thought it looked ok although it was hard to tell when wet, I removed from the bath into a huge plastic tub and we manoeuvred her downstairs, A quick rinse down with the jet wash I left her out to dry and it had worked reasonably well there was still a bit of string but overall I was very pleased with the results
I then reproofed a few days later - I used the same reproofing method on both my tents so will explain this at the end
Method 2 - Astonish mould cleaner
A year later after my 5m had spent the summer season on the riverbank I realised that the dreaded mould had taken hold, not as bad as my 4M the year before but it had a grubby green hue all over and deeper mould patches around the bottom skirt, mmmm now I definitely would not get a 5M in the bath plus it had taken 5 tubs of vanish for that how many would I need for a 5m…… So back to the research the next method that caught my eye was using Astonish mould remover (£1 a bottle) this product was cheap and readily available in my local supermarket however controversially it does contain bleach! This is a contentious issue as bleach does break down fabric fibres over time so would using this ruin the fabrics integrity and shorten the lifespan of the tent …. Decisions decisions
I decided that my tent was ruined with the mould anyway so it was worth the risk
This time I cleaned the tent whilst pitched so much easier
- First I mixed the astonish with water (roughly a 2 parts astonish / 3 parts water mix) in a washing up bowl
- I started on the outside and scrubbed all around the tent with the solution using a small soft dustpan brush, I could actually see it straight away
- I then unzipped the groundsheet and loosened the guy ropes slightly so I could get my step ladder closer in so I could reach the top of a tent and this time using a soft broom worked my way around all to the panels again I could see the difference straight away,
I left the tent to dry over night., the next morning the outside of the tent looked brand new albeit a slightly lighter colour but the interior still looked the same a dirty green hue urgh
So I started the process again but this time on the inside
- Have some old towels on hand to mop the floor as you go … the floor will get very wet & slippery and if you don’t mop up the puddles they will bleach the floor
- Wear some eye protection as when you are looking up scrubbing the roof it does drip and believe me it stings like mad if it gets in your eyes
- Remove any silver rings as the solution will turn them black - but if you do forget like I did …you can clean your rings with toothpaste afterwards and they come up like new!
- Wear old clothes as it will bleach them
Again I could literally see the difference as I worked but it does stink of bleach so wear a mask too
Finally a rinse inside and out with a jet wash and leave to dry
For both tents I chose to use Fabsil a 5L tin covered the 4M bell tent but it was just short for the 5M.
- I used a fence sprayer and broom to apply the Fabsil, paying extra special attention to all of the seams
I would definitely use the Astonish method again despite the bleach concerns, it was cheap and easy to use no baths full of water or hours of soaking, You can see the results straight away and it kills all mould spores, if rinsed properly their is no reason why the reproofing won’t work
Method 1 - 5x tubs of vanish £8 per tub = £40
Method 2 - 10 Bottles of Astonish mould cleaner £10
Fabsil reproofing - 5L = £29.99 - £34.99
NB: Both of my tents are from
Please check out my video on Reproofing