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Is there any way to remove the waterproof coating when the tent becomes sticky?

I have a north face v 25 tent. the tent floor and sidewalls recently became sticky (I know why this happens and if you're only here to give me a lecture about proper care please don't waste your time or mine. My family's basement flooded while I was away at school last fall and none of them really know anything about tents, so they didn't think to air it out). I also know that most people generally accept this as a death warrant, which i refuse to accept. The rest of the tent works perfectly fine, including the fly (I stored it separately). I'm also a pretty poor student at the moment, so a new tent is not really an option and I don't just want to quit going on camping trips. I was wondering if there is any way to remove the coating entirely without doing even more damage to the floor, and if using a footprint alone would protect the floor from getting wet from snow and/or rain. If anyone has any other solutions other than buying a completely new tent, I would be very grateful. Thanks in advance!

I've heard of folks having varying results resolving sticky tent issues by first washing and drying the tent and then applying a new coating of waterproofing.  Gentle machine cycle with Woolite or other gentle soap, air dry only.

TNF may be able to advise on both cleaning and waterproofing techniques and products specifically related to their materials so I'd start by asking them.  Sounds like you don't have much to lose so worth giving it a shot to try to salvage it.  Good luck and let us know what you try and how it goes.

Use a mixture of 50% vinegar/50% water and rinse the whole tent fly in the solution, then air dry in the shade.

I've also heard of using a dilute solution of unscented household Ammonia to remove polyurethane coatings.  You could consider restoring the coating with Nikwax Tentproof or something similar (

Of course, there is no telling how this combination might affect the long term use of the product, but it's worth giving it a shot!

I doubt a footprint alone will protect the floor. Once the coating is gone, moisture will likely seep in between the footprint and the floor and soak the floor. You may want to try using a separate floor made of something like Tyvek inside the tent to keep your gear, bag, etc. dry.

North Face may be able to replace the floor, but it might not be worth it. I would try Seth's idea-remove as much of the coating as possible and Nikwax it. I've used some of their other products and they worked pretty well. The cost is minimal compared to replacing the tent.

My method does not remove the water proofing it makes the tent unsticky. I bought a old tent a few years ago and it had not been out of it stuff sack for a long time and the nylon was stuck together. The 50/50 solution is what my mother said I should do and it worked. 

Tom D said:

I doubt a footprint alone will protect the floor. Once the coating is gone, moisture will likely seep in between the footprint and the floor and soak the floor...

I have owned several tents where the coating has gone south to the point where it peeled off altogether.  Using a foot print always worked for me to keep things inside dry from ground condensation, as well as rain.  Just have to make sure no part of the footing protrudes from under the tent, else it will collect and channel runoff under where it then seeps trough the floor.



This might help.. something that I came across (never have tried it myself though).  Maybe this method can be also applied to the tent floor? 

1st Step: Strip any remaining waterproofing from the tent fly--I soaked the fly in HOT water/ammonia solution (about a quart of 10% ammonia in about 3 gallons of hot water for about 10 min. I wore protective gloves and rubbed/brushed the fly in a large, flat tub (like a bus tub in a restaurant). The ammonia solution started to turn milky white after a minute or so and got progressively cloudier as (presumably) the waterproofing was shed. This process also removed most of the Sierra Designs logo/text from the fly and seemed afterward to have "bleached" the color out some, but neither thing would affect the usefulness. Afterward, I rinsed the fly in clean, cool water (2 changes of about 4 gallons each) and then hung it out to air dry.

2nd Step: Re-waterproof--Laid flat on the floor of my garage, I used "Tent Sure-Tent Floor Sealant" from McNett and followed the directions on the bottle to apply thin coats of sealant to the inside face of the fly 1 panel at a time (to ensure the panels dried while flat and not with the fabric doubled back on itself anywhere). After each panel, I let the fly dry for 24 hrs before repeating on the next panel. *As noted below, I would recommend pitching the fly inverted on your tent instead of trying to apply the sealant on the floor*

3rd Step: Seam Sealing--Once completed, I assembled the tent with the fly on upside down (inside face facing up, tightened all straps) and applied "Seam Grip" from McNett, again according to the included directions along all of the seams. I left this for 48 hrs to fully dry (it sets up a little soft similar to a silicon sealant so even though it is completely dry, it remains soft). *You might be able to skip this step, because the Tent Sure will seal the seams as long as you are painting over them*

4th Step: Test work--Pitched tent in my backyard with fly on facing the correct way and staked, tied it out tight. Turned on sprinkler timer and then climbed into the tent. I sat in the tent for 30 minutes with the sprinklers on it and there were no leaks found. Success.

In summary, the factors I think are key to the success of the effort are patience--you can't hope to do the whole thing in 24 hrs and following the directions on the products--no cutting corners. I took several days (partly be design and partly as a result of other responsibilities) to do the project and now feel that I have a restored piece of gear I can rely on. The ammonia step was important for the effective binding of the tent sealants to the fabric alone and not to residual waterproofing. The downside here is the strong odor that is made worse by the temperature of the water (as hot as you can handle). In retrospect, though, i think that if one is careful to apply only a thin coat of the "Tent Sure", it could be done more efficiently by applying it to the fly when installed inside out on the tent. Stretching it out this way (as I did when I applied the seam sealer) would allow one to apply sealant to the entire fly at one time. I'll remember that for the next time.

the trick is to remove the old sealer completely. the ammonia solution should work. once that is done, there are all kinds of products out there to re waterproof it.

October 31, 2020
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