More and more Australians are looking at camping as an accommodation option for their vacation. Whether that means a holiday at the beach or in the country, large tents or caravans and awnings it’s assured you’ll be spending time in the great outdoors. The open-air, nature on your doorstep, the joys, and the difficulties of cooking outside all add to the experience. Even a spot of rain can add to the memories you make on a camping holiday.

But what happens when you pack up and return to everyday life? Do you wait for the next holiday to check your tent? Did you know that mould can occur on canvas surfaces and thrives when that canvas is packed up and shoved in a dark corner?

Even though it might be the last thing you want to do, it’s best to clean your tent when you arrive home from your holiday and let it dry completely before packing it away. You’ll be pleased you took the time when you’re on your next big adventure with a clean, mould free tent.

What does mould on canvas look like?

Mould comes in many shapes and sizes, and on canvas, it usually looks like tiny black, blue or green specks. Mould can eventually rot your canvas and sleeping in a mouldy tent can be harmful to people with allergies and asthma.

Is mildew on canvas different from mould?

Excess moisture can cause mildew, and this fungus will form on your canvas tent if stored while still wet. Even if you purchase a mould resistant canvas tent, mildew could still occur in certain humid conditions.

Canvas products, including tents, may have been initially treated with mould resistant products but this dissolves over time through general use. Therefore, it’s essential to protect your canvas products from all types of fungi growth.

How to stop mildew from spreading

Mildew can break the fibres of canvas and create black stains which are hard to remove. It is essential to protect your tent against mildew and its ability to spread when left unchecked.

  • Always properly dry your tent before storing
  • Clean your tent regularly and after each use
  • Store your tent in a cotton canvas bag, not plastic
  • Store all ropes, pegs and other tent accessories in a separate bag, not with the tent
  • Ensure you have plenty of ventilation if cooking inside the tent to avoid condensation
  • Be careful with all dishwashing products, sunscreen and other lotions as they may adversely affect the waterproofness of your tent

How to clean a canvas tent?

Once you’ve arrived home and the weather’s fine, prepare to clean your tent before packing it away until your next break. Try to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning, but here are some tips if you don’t have them.

What you will need to clean your canvas tent

  1. Soft brush
  2. Warm water
  3. Mild liquid soap – not detergent (check your tent’s make first. It may require a specialised cleaning solution)
  4. Distilled vinegar (if you discover mould)

Steps to clean your canvas tent

Set up your tent like you would for a camping trip or hang it on your clothesline (if your line is big enough). It’s essential to have adequate ventilation, so you don’t crowd the tent on the line.

  • Remove all loose dirt using a soft brush.
  • Gently wash down the tent with water and mild liquid hand soap. There are specialised tent cleaners available if you prefer to purchase them.
  • Leave to dry in the sun – your tent must be completely dry before packing it away.
  • Never use a washing machine or dryer as they can damage the tent and its protective coating.

Finding mould on your canvas tent

If you discover that after removing all loose dirt you do have mould, you can try a distilled vinegar solution.

  • Brush the mould with a stiff bristle brush.
  • Pour the vinegar into a spray bottle and spray on the mould affected areas.
  • Leave to sit for an hour or so.
  • Scrub the mould affected areas with a scrub brush and warm water.
  • Ensure you keep the scrub brush clean during this process.

What to do about mould on your canvas painting

Mould can cause terrible damage to your canvas painting or wall art. To prevent your creative works getting mould in the first place, make sure you store or hang them in a moist free environment. If you find you do have mould, please be careful in finding a suitable removal method. Ensure your delicate artwork is safe by using trustworthy techniques and products.

Steps to remove mould from artwork canvas

  • Act quickly to take care of the problem as soon as possible
  • Know the paint type used in the painting – oils, acrylics or watercolour?
  • Remove and clean any frames or display units

The Museum of Modern Art recommends lightly misting commercial rubbing alcohol on the reverse surface of the canvas.

It’s best to test on an inconspicuous part of the painting to guarantee the product or method won’t adversely affect your art. Remember if you have ay doubts contact a professional.

Preventing mould on canvas

Prevention of mould is the best way to take care of your canvas. Always wipe down your canvas tent or awning with clean water before allowing it dry thoroughly. It’s best to pitch your tent again when you’re at home to allow enough ventilation for complete air dry.

  • Check your tent seams for dampness as they will take the longest to dry
  • Store the tent in a dry place between events or trips
  • Check your storage place often to ensure the area is dry

Natural remedies when you discover mould on canvas

Sunlight and fresh air are the best natural remedies for deterring mildew or mould on canvas. However, there are a lot of suggestions for natural ways to clean mould or mildew from canvas.

  • Vinegar solution in a spray bottle
  • Baking soda mixed with water in a spray bottle
  • Lemon juice
  • Essential oils – tea tree oil or oil of cloves

If you’re unsure what products are suitable for your tent or awning, get in touch with the manufacturer. They will be able to advise the suitability of natural remedies on their canvas product.

When to contact a professional

If you’re in doubt about the type of stain on your tent or awning, call a professional. A mould expert will identify the problem, recommend a treatment plan and manage the best solution for you.

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