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Old 08-12-2001, 06:08 PM
screech-owl screech-owl is offline
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Sabbatical City
Posts: 4,611
I've checked the past threads.
I've checked several search engines and got conflicting information.
I am at my wit's end.

I recently bought a new (slightly used) camping tent - canvas, 12x30 (can be set up as two 12x12 and 12x18 tents), exellent condition. Last time I used them was two weeks ago, put them away dry (let them dry in the sun after a rainstorm, made sure everything was dry). The tent were so white, it made you blind.

Lo and behold, Florida gets rain. And it turns out, my storage unit leaks!!! I discovered this when I went to get something else out and found the bags were now grey and smelly.

After lots of boohooing and cursing, I put the canvas out in the sun to air out and let the rain wash away some of the mold. That worked a bit, but I still have gray splotches, as well as this nasty odor.

Different websites have given conflicting information.
[*]use detergent/don't use detergent[*] use bleach/don't use bleach[*] weak bleach solution/strong bleach solution[*] use lemon juice/too acidic[*] use baking soda/doesn't work

Not to mention the fact that few of the sailmakers and tent companies will even touch cleaning it. Most work with vinyl tents, and one that did said he could clean it told all he would do was use a power hose and detergent like at the carwash. Told me to try this, and it would save me the $250 he would charge me. I tried it, and saved $250 - it didn't work. {If it did, I wouldn't be posting here.)

I do not want to ruin the canvas, but I do not want to trigger any allergic reactions in either myself or anyone else using the tent (I've let others use the front half when their tent was washed away.)

How do I get rid of the smell?

Can I get rid of the stains (looks like an Ansel Adams attempt at a fractal image), short of painting the whole tent (and having the paint crack when I fold it)?

Can I dye the tent (cotton canvas), or will the mold pattern show through?

Or am I stuck until I can buy a new tent?

Old 08-13-2001, 09:39 AM
handy handy is offline
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Pacific Grove, Calif
Posts: 17,493
thats just about all you can do. Lots of sun & perhaps some strong fabric deodorizer from the store.

I would have just thrown it away. You know why? When you clean it, you release a huge amount of mold spores into the air, which get into you lungs & that's pretty nasty. My lungs are worth far more than the tent.
Old 08-13-2001, 11:57 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 46,213
A Borax/Vinegar paste might do it. Apply to the stains and let sit overnight, then wash.
Old 08-13-2001, 01:09 PM
Sultan Kinkari Sultan Kinkari is offline
Join Date: Jun 2001
Posts: 1,382
Cotton isn't the most forgiving fabric when it comes to mold and mildew. Actually, it's a pain in the ass. I suggest you buy some Quick N' Bright paste. I don't know if you can buy it in a store but you can definitely get it online. The stuff works miracles; mold mildew, stains, whatever.

It sounds like it is some kind of hunting tent. There are products available to rubberize canvas fabrics. They usually come in a gallon paint can and are applied with a roller. It would increase the weight significantly, but seeing as it is already a huge tent I don't thing it should matter much. First, I would scrub the discolored spots with a mild bleach solution(or Quick N' Bright) and let it dry in the sun. Florida is kind of a pain on wet fabrics though because of the humidity; things usually mold before they completely dry. Good luck!
Old 08-13-2001, 01:11 PM
phouka phouka is offline
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Escondido, CA
Posts: 6,728
Considering that canvas is a strong, heavy fabric, I would wash it in a medium-strong bleach solution first (like 2-3 cups per 20 gallons - which is a complete WAG on my part). That will both kill the mildew, eliminate the smell, and hopefully get out the majority of the stains.

You might have to do that two or three times, making sure you let it dry out completely in strong sunlight.

If that doesn't get rid of the stain, I'd recommend Annie's suggestion. Make sure all the bleach is out of there first. Don't know what kind of chemical reactions could take place, and I sure wouldn't want to find out.

If that still doesn't get the stain out, I'd say you're stuck with a grey tent.
Old 08-13-2001, 01:22 PM
Rue DeDay Rue DeDay is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Betwixt 'Dope and LJ
Posts: 3,628
Lysol the sucker inside and out, and let it bake in the sun. It kills the mold, and might help with the discoloration.

If you can find an oxygen bleach, rather than chlorine, try that. Hardware stores have it sometimes, or can tell you where to get it. Maybe run the oxy bleach through the power washer, too.

Neither of these steps are great for the canvas, but oxygen bleach is slightly better than chlorine.

After it's as clean as you can get it, you can dye it if you want. If you have a swimming pool to do it in. It would take a big bucket (horse trough or better) to get the dye evenly to all the canvas. Or you could tie-dye it. That would be so cool. (I'm serious about tie-dying it. But it would be a bite to do.)

Then re-waterproof it. A spray-on 'proofer would probably be OK. And seam seal it too, if you get paranoid about rain.



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