Keeping Your Rooftop Tent Clean

cleaning an rooftop tent

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When was the last time you cleaned your rooftop tent? Has it been months or maybe years? Well, either way, it’s no secret that rooftop tents stay cleaner for longer than ground tents. Being on top of the car it is hard to get mud, dirt, or even a lot of sand particles. However, this does not stop it from getting dirty once in a while thus needing a thorough cleaning.

So, what really gets onto your rooftop tent that needs to be cleaned?

Mostly you will find, bird droppings, tree sap, debris, and mildew among others. So, with this in mind, you won’t get lost when we go into more detail on how to properly clean your rooftop tent. Don’t forget you need to first remove the tent from the car preferably with a ceiling hoist and place it on an even floor for better cleaning. This way it’s much easier to reach all the nooks and crannies, and drying the fabric after cleaning is better done inside a garage anyway.

Step by Step Guide on How to Clean a Rooftop Tent

What you need:

  • Tent cleaner solution
  • Warm water
  • Non-abrasive sponge
  • Dish soap
  • Large sink/tub
  • Soft cloth
  • A small brush

 1. Lay down the Tent on a Clean Area

After you remove the tent from the top of your vehicle, lay it on a clean area to scrub it well.  First, remove the beddings and mattress pad from the tent. Secondly, unzip the mattress cover and place it and the beddings in the washer while you place the mattress in the sun if possible to thoroughly dry.

2. Gently Scrub the Dirty Areas

Take the non-abrasive sponge and wet it a bit with water and then putting a few drops of dish soap on it. Next, use the sponge to gently scrub the visible dirty areas such as dry mud, stains, or even footprints.

3. Fill the Tub/ Large Sink with Warm Water

Fill the tub or sink with 1/3 of warm water then pour a small amount of tent cleaning solution into the water. Stir the water gently to mix the solution.  Just make sure you check out the instructions on the tent cleaning package to determine how much cleaning solution to use.

4. Soak the Rooftop Tent

After stirring the water, unzip and open all the windows and doors of the tent then submerge it into the water. Let the tent soak in the water for a few minutes. Be sure to also check how many minutes the tent should stay in the water depending on the tent cleaner you are using. Otherwise, if it is not indicated don’t go more than ten minutes.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a tent cleaner solution you can also use mild, non-detergent soap.  Make sure you avoid bleach, spot removers, laundry detergents, or laundry pretreatment products. All these cleaners are usually harsh and can remove the waterproof coating and UV protection layers from the tent.

5. Rinse off the Rooftop Tent

Drain the tub/sink and rinse off the tent with clean water. Ensure you rinse the tent’s interior and exterior thoroughly to remove all the soap and dirt.

6. Dry the Tent

After rinsing it, hang up the tent to air dry completely before you pack it for storage. This ensures you don’t store the tent while wet or damp which can lead to mold /mildew which smells terrible and can force you to clean the tent again.

7. Clean the Tent Poles/Ladder

Finally, use a soft dry cloth to wipe down the poles of the tent as well as the ladder. This prevents both of them from rust although most of them are made of aluminum. As for the zippers, use a small brush to get rid of the dust and then apply silicone spray to keep them lubricated.

Before we conclude on cleaning a rooftop tent, it is important to note that sometimes your tent can get stains in only particular areas. This might require you to only clean these areas without necessarily washing the whole tent.  So, without wasting your time, here are some ways to remove certain stains from your tent.

How to Remove Bird Droppings

We all love birds, from their beautiful different colors to their chirping voices, they are great to be around.  However, there is nothing more annoying than to find poop droppings on your tent. Well, if this happens don’t stress too much as there is a simple way to remove the droppings.

What you need:

  • Mild liquid soap/ tent cleaner
  • Clean warm water
  • Bucket
  • Rubber gloves
  • Soft Sponge
  • Clean dry cloth

Wear Gloves: Before you clean your rooftop tent, the first step is to wear some gloves. This enables you to avoid any infectious bacteria from the bird droppings.

Lay the Tent on a Smooth Surface: To properly get all the bird droppings as well as remove any debris, you simply need to first remove the mattress as well as other furnishings. Then, unzip the tent doors and turn it inside out. Next, shake the tent thoroughly before laying it down on a smooth surface.

Peel and Sweep off the Droppings: Pick and peel off the stuck muck with your fingers. When done, start sweeping off the poop droppings with a broom.  However, if the droppings are fresh and still wet, use a paper towel or damp cloth to clean it.

Mix the Mild Liquid Soap with Warm Water: Mix ½ a cup of the liquid soap with a gallon of warm water in a bucket and stir. Keep in mind, never use harsh cleaners like spot remover, laundry pre-soaking products, and bleach as they will damage your tent.

Scrub Lightly with a Sponge/Cloth: After stirring the soap with water, use a soft sponge to apply the soapy water to the rooftop tent. Start from the top to the bottom so the soap foam gets dissolved properly. Remember to scrub the tent lightly to avoid damaging it. Point to note, if the droppings prove stubborn to clean, allow the solution to soak in for some minutes then scrub again.

Rinse the Soapy Area: For thorough cleaning use a garden hose to rinse the soapy water and mud from the tent. Point the hose from the top of the tent downwards to ensure you get all the spots. When all done, take a clean dry cloth and wipe the tent thus removing excess surface water.

Allow the Tent to Dry: Lastly, leave the tent outside in a shaded area and let it dry for some hours. After confirming it is dry, properly fold the tent place and store it in for the next camping trip.

How to Remove Tree Sap/Resin

Another stubborn stuff that gets on your rooftop tent is tree sap/resin. That’s why you are advised to remove the sap or resin the moment you noticed it. So, to be able to get rid of it completely here are the simple steps to take care of the sap.

What you need:

  • Sponge
  • Stain remover/nail polish remover/ rubbing alcohol
  • Water

Lay the Tent on the Ground: First and foremost, lay the tent on the ground to ensure you get to see all the spots covered with the sap or resin.

Spray the Affected Area with Resin Remover: By spraying the remover you get to break down the acid and fats from the resin or sap. However, if you don’t have a spray remover, you can use household products such as nail polish remover, rubbing alcohol, or mineral oil. Just a small tip, first test any of the home products on a small area to make sure the fabric coating doesn’t react.

Scrub the Area with a Sponge: Once you are sure the home product does not react with the fabric, rub the treated area with a sponge to help remove the stains. Scrub several times to ensure all the sap/resin is gone.

Add a Mild Washing -up Liquid on the Sponge: To wash away the home products such as the rubbing alcohol, apply a small amount of mild washing liquid on the sponge to make it soapy. Continue rubbing the affected spots for some minutes to wash away the residual.

Rinse the Sponge of Soap: Rinse the sponge with running water and continue scrubbing the affected spots until you completely remove all the soap in the tent.

Dry the Tent:  Leave the tent out in the outside probably outside a shade. Keep this in mind, hot hair and clothes dryers are not recommended for drying your wet camping tents. That’s because the heat produced will cause your tent to shrink, stretch abnormally or warp depending on the kind of tent material.

Reapply Water Repellent: After the tent is properly dried, reapply the water repellent over the affected area you cleaned to make sure the tent will not leak on that spot.

How to Remove Mildew/ Mold

Lastly, we will look at how to clean mildew or mold formed in your tent. Mostly producing an unpleasant smell, the mildew/mold is formed when the tent is stored while damp or wet or is placed in a damp place especially a garage. Regardless of all this, there are five simple steps to get rid of either mildew or mold.

What you need:

  • Lemon
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Brush

Open the Tent: Take the tent outside and open it, this brings in the fresh air and the sun does kill mildew and mold too.

Mix the Substances: Combine salt, lemon, and warm water then stir.

Brush the Affected Area:  Use a hard-bristled brush and lightly scrub the mixture into the mold and mildew stains.

Rinse the Stain: Rinse the tent off with water thoroughly until the stained spot is completely clean.

Dry the Tent Out: Once you are done rinsing, make sure the tent air dries completely.

Reapply Water Repellent: After the tent is properly dried, reapply the water repellent over the affected area you cleaned to make sure the tent will not leak on that spot.


Tips to Remember After Removing the Rooftop Tent

Always remember to deal with any small tears or rips that you may notice after cleaning the tent. Therefore, make sure you have the necessary repairing tools with you even at home as well as the campsite.

Remove the mattress from the tent and store it in the house for winter storage to avoid it getting damp. Better yet, also store the tent in a dry place in the house.

Don’t forget to check the tire pressure and oil level after removing the rooftop tent. This prevents you from experiencing any incidents or accidents when using your vehicle later on.


There you have it, the various simple and effective ways to clean a rooftop tent. However, the frequency with which you clean your rooftop tent will vary depending on how much you use the tent. Also, what has stained the tent? Remember, sometimes all your required is to deal with the stained areas without cleaning the whole tent.

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