Mildew and mould cleaning
Mildew is a real problem and prevention is the only real way to deal with it. A tent must be packed away bone dry with any potential sources of damp removed. This could even be from insects that have been packed away with the tent! Or from the core of guylines that were not dried unravelled to ensure deep moisture was removed by air flow.
Once mildew has set in you have to stop it spreading. Kill off the spores with a very mild solution of one part Milton or white vinegar to ten parts water − rinsing off well. Marks are harder to remove and we have not yet found a satisfactory solution although we have read a few ideas on Facebook from Outwell fans. Whatever some can be quite aggressive so be very careful...
Besides the cleaners from the likes of Storm you can get canvas cleaners from the caravan market and mildew cleaners for sails from the yachting market but we have not tried any of these. The Camping and Caravanning Club used to have a data sheet on tent maintenance - worth looking on their website.
Remember to reproof the tent after cleaning.
We recommend that you annually maintain your tent. Therefore we have created a guide for how you can mend the tent best:
Airing and Reproofing:
First of all erect your tent make sure it is dry, then put waterproofing on it. We have heard good things about fabsil, but we also carry our own products for this, it is of course your decision. There exists both spray products and brush products. Spraying is easier and gets you a nice even coating, our water guard will take about 2 bottles for one tent. Let it dry then go through all the seams with seam sealer. And let it dry again, then give it a good shake after some hours and pack it down again. This is called Airing, and will keep your tent in mint condition for years to come.
We advise that you first use a dilution 1:10 of miltons to make sure to kill any bacteria, then hot water with soap and a soft sponge, and then reproof afterwards. This also goes for the carpet.
Although groundsheet wear can be minimised by the use of a footprint it will happen over time. In fact, a waterproof footprint used under a damaged groundsheet is probably the best/easiest/cheapest option to stop water entry. Some campers will purchase groundsheet material and sew in as a complete patch using the existing groundsheet as a template.
Once the coating starts to wear you will get water seepage through the fabric when pressure is applied. This can be stopped for a short period by coating the area with numerous external applications of a proprietary waterproofing agent like our Outwell Waterproofer, or those produced by Nikwax, Storm and Granger’s (Fabsil) after cleaning and then repairing any small holes.
It must be remembered that these treatments only resist water penetration and water can still be forced through the fabric. Repeated applications will help fill the miniscule holes between the fibres to reduce this — especially if the waterproof treatment contains a wax agent. However, if the original fabric coating is badly compromised then applying a wax (similar to that sold by Fjallraven and Barbour) to the outer face to fill the weave holes may be a consideration. This can be made economically at home using a mix of beeswax and spirit — recipes can be found on Google.
Other solutions that we have heard about, but not tested, are spraying a very thin layer of acrylic paint onto the outer face or painting on a silicone sealant that has been diluted with white spirit. Before going down these routes it is worth testing on old fabric to ensure it works without damaging the base fabric and to note that it may stain.
We recommend all the metal poles be lightly greased with a non-acidic oil after use − a silicon-based furniture polish is a good option both after use and before prolonged storage.
Oxidation has always been a problem and has given birth to numerous ways of reducing the effects, like zinc galvanization and anodising. Even stainless steel and aluminium will corrode to leave pit marks if the protective passive film is broken through use. (This is the spontaneous formation of an ultrathin film of corrosion products on the metal's surface that act as a barrier to further oxidation. You may be surprised at how aggressively aluminium burns if that film is ever overcome — just check out fires in older caravans!)
For general information, as any sailor (or off-roaders who use an old Land Rover) will know galvanic action will also eat away at metals. This is caused when two dissimilar metals like steel and aluminium come into contact in the presence of an electrolyte like salty water (even rain water puddles pick up salts). Ions transfer to the more resistant material resulting in the other metal corroding.
You can throw as much money as you like to preventing corrosion but the decades have proven only good maintenance is the camper’s cost-effective way to reduce the problem. While a non-acidic oil will help it does have its limitations — as many campers here point out. Periodic wiping down with anything that creates a hydrophobic film between the metal and moisture helps — like WD40 on a rag.
Our personally chosen method and one long advised by members of the Camping and Caravanning Club, is to regularly wipe down the poles with a silicon-based lubricant that creates a dry, waterproof film between the metal and moisture. One of our staff uses a lubricant designed for water sports as that is what he has on the shelf. But a much cheaper alternative is to use a furniture polish. An added benefit to using such silicon products is that they appear to help the poles slip smoothly through the pole sleeves...
We pay particular attention to joints, including any metal linking springs, and any ferrule/spike. Wipe off excess and dry before storing.
Any item of camping gear is the tool of our ‘trade’ so deserves to be regularly maintained. We hope this is of help and will continue to build this Skills with more guides and technical’ features