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Tent Cleaning Techniques

Posted by Chuck on 7/28/2014
Tent cleaning is somewhat common sense, as are many of the other types of cleaning that occur on a daily basis. The ideas outlined below represent some of the more frequent suggestions and recommendations from various members of the tent cleaning community throughout the USA. These methods apply to vinyl tent fabric only. 

Tent cleaning is usually performed by spreading the tent on a concrete pad or parking lot. A drop cloth should be used if the concrete is rough. Care must be taken to avoid rocks and all sharp objects that may punch holes or damage the fabric while the tent is being walked on during the cleaning process. The SHIPP TENT CLEANER is diluted 1 to 10 for very dirty tents, and up to 1 to 30 for light dirt films. The traditional methods of cleaning tents are:
1. Sponge, mop, or brush cleaning 
2. Rotary buffer 
3. Pressure washer 

 The SHIPP TENT CLEANER should be applied liberally on dry fabric, flooding the surface area. Let it stand for at least one (1) minute before beginning to clean. TENT CLEANER contains surfactants that will penetrate the surface film during that time. Large tents should be cleaned in sections to prevent the cleaner from drying on the surface of the tent. On hot summer days, spritzing the surface with a garden hose will keep the surface wet and prevent the drying cleaner from streaking or blotching the cleaning job. 

Brush Use: Brush cleaning is the least aggressive on vinyl fabric. On newer tents where the vinyl is smooth, the films are easily cleaned with TENT CLEANER using this method. A polypropylene bristle is best with a 5 foot handle so the operator can stay dry. As the vinyl fabric ages, it becomes microscopically pitted and scratched. It tends to "hold" the dirt to the fabric. More aggressive cleaning with a floor polisher may be desired.

Buffer or Floor Polisher Use: Some tent owners use a rotary buffer to clean these older tents. Be sure to use a small buffer with 12" to 17" base. If a floor pad is used, use a white pad for newer tents and then a red pad as the tents get older. On old or soon to be retired tents, a last resort is an aggressive green pad just to get one more rental. Black or stripping pads are too aggressive and may damage the tent fabric. When using a buffer be careful around the edges, scallops, and rope rigging so the machine doesn't rip the tent. The brush is best for cleaning the edges and the flaps that occur in the middle from laying the tent flat. 

Pressure Washer Use: Many tent owners use a pressure washer. A lower PSI of 1000 to 1500 is desired. The pressure washer is excellent for spraying the TENT CLEANER onto the dry fabric. It is also a good way to rinse the tent after cleaning. Be sure to keep a good distance from the surface, at least 24" or better. One of the dangers of using higher pressures is blowing water into exposed scrim that may show up as unsightly mildew laminated between to layers of vinyl later. The pressure washer is used effectively for whitening the stitching; however for best results, pre-saturate with TENT CLEANER. 

Household bleach may be a necessary evil if the tent is stained with mildew. Dilute the bleach 1 to 10 with water and again apply to dry tent fabric for best results. Allow the bleach to sit for a few minutes and rinse. When bleach is mixed with other chemicals, it may cause invisible, odorless, and deadly fumes. Bleach can also rot stitching. Natural fibers are particularly sensitive to chlorine rotting. 

Generally care should be taken to test clean in an inconspicuous small area. These suggestions apply to vinyl tents only.