Commercial Tent Cleaning: How to Clean a Party Tent

Commercial Tent Cleaning: How to Clean a Party Tent

What’s the Best Way to Clean a Tent? Let’s Find Out!

Have you ever stood beside or underneath a dirty party tent? Or an even worse question … have you ever smelled a dirty party tent? Commercial tent cleaning is important. And if you’ve exposed any of your five senses to a dirty tent, you can surely appreciate that learning how to clean a party tent is one of the most important aspects of tent ownership.

west coast frame tent | party tentIf you already own your first party tent, we don’t need to tell you just how daunting a task commercial tent cleaning probably seems out of the gate. Our professional, commercial grade vinyl tent tops are heavy. There’s a lot of square footage that needs cleaning. And it’s not just about cleaning the tent tops, either; you’ve also got tent stakes, ropes, and tent poles to worry about, too.

So how do we clean a party tent? What works best for commercial tent cleaning, and what practices should we avoid at all costs? What can we do to make sure our next birthday party or wedding booking aren’t ruined by visible grime or heinous odors? Let’s get right into it and learn how to clean a party tent from top to bottom!

Getting Ready for Some Commercial Tent Cleaning

First things first, let’s put together a little shopping list of the things we’ll need to clean our party tent:

  • A large outdoor tarp. We need enough ground covered with tarps to lay out our tent top on.
  • A garden hose with a water pressure nozzle attached, to make rinsing easier
  • A bucket of homemade “tent cleaner.” Mix four parts warm water with one part vinegar and add a few drops of gentle, bleach free dish soap. Avoid soaps with fragrances.
  • Soft thistle brushes, sponges, or clean rags for scrubbing the tent top (without damaging it)
  • Some large, clean towels 

And now for a few optional bonus items that can help us speed up or otherwise improve the process of commercial tent cleaning (but aren’t necessary):

  • A leaf blower
  • A shop vacuum
  • Rubber gloves, so we don’t end up with dishpan hands

Important Note Before We Begin: Commercial tent cleaning is best done by hand washing. Do not put tent tops in washing machines. Don’t use bleach or bleach products unless you’re trying to remove mold or mildew. Heavy duty industrial cleaners will usually do more harm than good and should be avoided.

Step I - Initial Inspection & Pre-Cleaning

A high peak tent is a perfect wedding tentBefore we can get into cleaning our party tent, we first need to lay the tent top out as flat as possible on a tarp. We need to thoroughly inspect the tent top for dirt or grime, mold and mildew, and any damage the tent top may have before we begin cleaning the tent.

If the tent top has been damaged, you’ll want to repair it now, before we get into cleaning, unless the affected area is especially filthy. The cleaning process can worsen the vinyl’s damage, possibly even enough to destroy the tent top completely. We’d recommend carefully cleaning this area and repairing it before continuing with cleaning.

If there wasn’t any damage, or if you’ve already repaired it, it’s time to use a soft thistle brush and remove any visible build-ups of dirt, grime, or muck. Heavy chunks of dirt or muck, bird droppings, etc. should be removed. It doesn’t have to be spotless yet, of course; just remove what you can.

When you’re done, flip the party tent top over and clean the other side in the same fashion. And again, be sure to keep an eye out for any damage or mold the tent top may have.

Step II - Scrubbing the Tent Top Clean

Using a sponge or rag, apply your homemade cleaning solution to the tent top. We’re of course referencing the mixture of warm water, vinegar, and dish soap we concocted earlier. Scrub every square inch of the tent top with generous amounts of the cleaning solution, and don’t forget to flip the tent over and repeat this process on the other side. If an area is especially dirty, scrub it slightly harder with a soft thistle brush.

Step III - Thoroughly Rinse the Tent Top

The next phase of commercial tent cleaning is pretty simple: spray both sides of the tent top with water and thoroughly rinse it, being careful to avoid leaving behind any soapy residue. This is where having a garden hose with an attached pressure nozzle comes in handy!

Step IV - Dry Your Tent Top

Using clean towels, wipe up any excess water on the tent top, then dry your tent in the sun until it’s fully dry. Oh, and don’t forget to flip it over and dry both sides! Some party rental pros will use leaf blowers to speed up the drying process; do this at your own risk of course, but as a general rule it should be harmless so long as you’re careful.

Step V - Cleaning Tent Poles and Other Components

A high peak frame tentWith your tent top drying in the warm sun (we hope it’s a sunny day!), it’s time to look into cleaning the other components of our party tent. Be sure not to exclude your tent poles, tent stakes, tent frame parts, and other components from your overall tent care and maintenance regiment.

Tent poles and metal frame components are pretty easy to clean. Simply mix up some warm water and dish soap as if you were doing the dishes, and scrub the pole with a rag or sponge soaked with your soapy water. Be sure to rinse and dry the metal components; it’s like washing a really big spoon.

You can clean your tent stakes the same way you cleaned your tent poles … but why bother? Unless you’re selling the tent second-hand to someone, there’s really no need to clean tent stakes that thoroughly. Simply wipe them down to remove built-up dirt or mud and they’re good to go.

Dirty ropes can be set in a bathtub and washed with a non-detergent bleach-free soap. You can then rinse them in washing machines or by hand. Air-dry your ropes, and remember: they’re going to take a very long time to dry all the way through!

Removing Mold and Mildew from Party Tents

If you happen to come across any mold and/or mildew while cleaning your party tent, removing it needs to be your number one priority. So let’s briefly explain how to go about doing this.

First, we’re going to need some tent top cleaning solution, only this time, we’ll use a slightly tweaked mixture of three parts water (rather than four) and one part vinegar. Apply this mixture generously to the affected area and then scrub as hard as you safely can. If this doesn’t work, you may need to add some bleach into your mixture and experiment to find the right blend. Just don’t add too much bleach too quickly.

If you do need to use bleach, rinse the tent top VERY thoroughly. There should be no bleach or soapy residue left on the tent top. Bleach will fade colors, making parts of the tent appear “blotchy,” and it can damage vinyl, too. Be sure there’s no bleach left whatsoever before you leave the tent top out to dry. Not all tent fabrics are made equally, either; some weaker fabrics will be damaged by bleach even more than vinyl. Be very careful and rinse intensely.

Additional Commercial Tent Cleaning Tips

  • Make sure the tent top is as dry as possible before you store your tent
  • Setting up for outdoor events on days with iffy weather? Be sure to have some waterproof tarps handy just in case the rain flies.
  • There are lots of professional vinyl cleaners on the market, for those of you who aren’t comfortable mixing your own “DIY” cleaning solution. We recommended the above mixture only to help save you some money. Feel free to use other vinyl cleaners as you see fit, and consult the manufacturer’s documentation for instructions and safety advice.
  • Nothing ruins otherwise perfect wedding tents faster than a million bugs! Do not use soaps or detergents with fragrances during any phase of cleaning your party tent. They attract bugs and can fill tents with irritating smells that could potentially annoy customers or their guests.

We hope all of this commercial tent cleaning advice helps you get your party tents squeaky clean. Now that you know how to clean a party tent, you’ll know how to avoid some of the situations that produce the hardest-to-clean messes, too. Have additional tips? Tell us in the comments below!

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