Outdoors Geek is not an anti-microbial company. However, we own the largest stock of canvas tents in the country which we use for mobile glamping from coast to coast. We treat and clean canvas tent mildew regularly. For this reason, canvas tent companies refer to Outdoors Geek as the “expert” when it comes to cleaning and caring for canvas in “Glamour Camping” or “Glamping” settings.
Mildew and Canvas
Glamping has become a “thing” and this has meant a lot more canvas tents used over longer periods of time. Consequently, canvas tent mildew has become a problem with some installations. When we first experienced problems, we thought the canvas tent makers and canvas suppliers could help provide a solution. While that sounds logical, it hasn’t proven to be true. Furthermore, we have learned that most canvas tent owners think there is a magical solution for canvas tent mildew that they have not discovered. For the most part, this is also not true. However, we have developed a process at Outdoors Geek that works for cleaning and protection. A note of caution; microbes can overwhelm anti-microbial applications. This is a fact of life.
Probably like you, we spent a lot of time and money looking for a canvas tent mildew solution. We found a lot of products that were expensive and ineffective. As a business owner, that’s frustrating. Besides, most of these products are not environmentally friendly and pose health risks. We have learned some things that may help you or just reinforce what you already know. And, we only sell our anti-microbial product because we get asked for help so often from owners of canvas tents.
Our Thoughts About Canvas
It’s a great product and the only viable product on the market for our glamping needs. White canvas is handsome, it breathes well, and is extremely water resistant. One of our core lessons was that the water and mildew treatment used matters big-time. From our experience, Sunforger is by far and away the best mildew protection available. And when companies say they have the same treatment or better, it’s not true. Period. We have never found a canvas tent mildew protectant applied in Asia to be helpful against mildew. Consequently, our first rule is to start with quality canvas that is treated with Sunforger. Your Sunforger treated tent should say “Sunforger” on the inside seams of the canvas. In case you are wondering, we do not own stock in Sunforger, nor do they even know who we are as we work with canvas tent makers.
Outdoors Geek Cleaning Process
- Bleach – I know that canvas tent makers say don’t use bleach, but we don’t care. We don’t need their tents to last 30 years; we need them to last five years. Our rule of thumb is two ounces of bleach per gallon of water. We will use more if we feel it’s necessary.
- Power Washer Application – Again, I know canvas tent makers say not use a power washer. Use a power washer at a low setting. Test carefully to make sure you’re not going to rip a hole in your canvas. Preferably, your power washer will have a reservoir for a cleaning product. Figure out how many gallons of water go through the power washer to exhaust the product in the reservoir. The ratio will instruct you regarding how much bleach (in the reservoir) will be applied per gallon of water. Again, you are shooting for 2 ounces or slightly higher.
- Plastic Bristled Brush – After applying water and bleach inside and out, let sit 10 minutes and brush. Re-apply if necessary to get canvas white.
- Power Washer Rinse – Rinse with water.
- Dry Canvas – At this point, you will need to allow the tent to dry completely before moving to the next step. It’s OK to move to the next step the following day if you don’t have time to do it now.
Your tent is now clean and dry. Hopefully clean. If the mildew staining has not been removed, you can try the cleaning process again. Unfortunately, some mildew staining is very difficult to remove, and you may have to try cleaning a second time. Finally, you may need to make a decision to either bump up the use of bleach or replace the tent. In almost all circumstances, we choose to increase the amount of bleach knowing that this will also degrade the canvas. Therefore, we are willing to live with the fact that the tent will not last as long.
First of all, let’s take a look at the anti-microbial product we use, and you can buy from us. The product we use is rated as environmentally friendly by the EPA. I don’t know the technical EPA ratings, but I do know it rates it as similar to water.
This product contains three basic things. Water, bonded elements of silica and carbon, and very light fragrance. The bonded element is what kills microbes and viruses through a mechanical kill process. The magic is that this bonded element bonds to the canvas fabric providing long-term protection against microbes. The anti-microbial product has no color, and we have not noticed any staining or discoloration in any testing we have done. Our testing has included fabrics of all different colors including sleeping bags, sleeping pads, mattresses, backpacks, and countertops of many varieties. Furthermore, it’s instructive to know that this product has recently been adopted by some of the largest mold and mildew application companies in the country.
The most efficient way to apply the product is by using a fogger. We use shoulder strap foggers to apply the anti-microbial. However, it’s not very practical for most small glamping tent owners to buy a $400 fogger. As an alternative, you can use a common pump sprayer. It works just fine with the only drawback being that it applies the product in larger droplets. Consequently, you will use more product to treat the same number of tents using a pump sprayer. We are able to treat up to four tents per gallon of anti-microbial applied with a fogger.
Apply the anti-microbial to the inside and outside of the tent. Take care to treat hard to get to areas, like canvas areas that are behind poles and under eaves. If your tents are on platforms, we recommend you heavily treat the platforms as well. And as a best practice, I would recommend treating every item inside the tent.
We do not know the effective life of this product. Theoretically, it should last a year or more as long as it is not abrasively rubbed off. Our current treatment plan is yearly when we have canvas tent mildew issues. Also, we are not saying we are experts, and we are definitely not scientists. We welcome any and all information or feedback from others in our industry because we are all in this together!