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North Face tent mildew odor

I'm planning an overnight soon with a couple of friends, and since my Highpeak Enduro tent is tight with just 2 people, my father in law let me borrow his North Face 3 person tent just to use for the trip. The problem is, it's not his better tent - I think he gave me his older one in case anything happened to it (I can't blame him, tents are expensive). While it's older and smells like mildew, it's still perfect in terms of function.

So here's my question - how can I remove the mildew smell without effecting the waterproofing of the tent material? I have seen home remedies involving laundry soap, lemon juice, etc - but these all seem pretty harsh and I'm afraid they'd ruin the waterproof coating on the tent.

I'd really like to return this to him not only in good shape, but smelling nice too - I think he'd appreciate it.

P.S. Yes I did a search for this topic, and while I found lots of suggestions, I wasn't sure which ones were okay for the waterproofing

I am pretty sure several reliable members here reported that a vinegar solution is the best, least harmful method. The topic of mildew came up a while back, might be worth digging it up.

vinegar, sun, and loads of air!

I had a nylon tent with mildew smell, not too strong, but unpleasant nevertheless.  Erecting it and letting it air out a few hours before entering it was sufficient.  You may try overpowering the smell by pickling the interior with incense smoke.


mike and gonzan - just straight vinegar?? Isn't it mixed with something else?

gonzan - I just did a second search and didn't find much for the exact questions I had - I did find that the vinegar solution works, but it said nothing about mixtures or ratios.

Figure 1/2 cup of Vinegar to one gallon of water. Thats the best idea to start that way it wont be to harsh on the nylon. Because what I found was one cup of Lemone juice with one cup of salt to a gallon of water..Citric acid to me. Would break down the DWR and you would have to recoat the whole tent. Vinegar and water is a nuetral I believe..Dont quote me on that..

denis - that was my thought as well, and lots of other people recommend the vinegar

It has to be either a half or one to one mix is what I get from the sites of the tent makers..Try the half better off..I am like you, If it's mine I can make a blunder. But it's someone else's I tend to take better care of it..I see your concern...Very understandable..

How about calling TNF and asking them? Personally I would air the tent out and dust the floor lightly with baby powder. Quick and cheap! I'm afraid that when you get into the lemon juice and vinegar solutions you are talking acids. However weak they may be, acids corrode over time and there may go the DWR or  a start of coatings to peel. Hope this helps.

You are correct, vinegar is acidic. I have had outstanding success with Mcnett Mirazyme, which eliminates the mildew odor with enzymes, doing no harm to the fabric's urethane coating. I can't recommend using an acid, no matter how weak, AND exposing the acid treated fabric to U.V. radiation. I recall that girls used to bleach their hair with lemon juice and sun exposure. Try Fabreeze too.

If it just smells of mildew, I would set it up for a few days. Might try some Baking soda. Look it over real hard to see if it has any mold. If it has dark spots (mold) hit those areas with vinegar. Mold doesnt like sunlight and the vinegar would finish the job. I have used vinegar on coats before without harming them. But never a tent. I wouldnt think that it would take even a month off the life of the tent.

I would wipe down with a mild soap and water mixture and hang outside to dry. Let it breath some fresh air for a few days.


The Care and Feeding of Your Tent(thanks to: Mountain Hardwear)


I've had really good luck with Mirazyme from McNett in Bellingham WA. It is designed to get the stink out of wetsuits so cleaning up some smell in tents is not all that much heavy lifting for it. Most dive shops have it and if not you can order direct...or at least one used to be able to do so.

I also store my tents loosely wrapped in a mesh bag and never in their stuff sack....or even hanging in my gear room where they get plenty of air circulation.

Set it up outside but out of the direct sun for a couple of days after a Mirazyme treatment and it will be much better.

Hi, I'm from Gear Aid, the makers of MiraZyme. MiraZyme is designed to remove odors, and is a gentle formula that won't affect the waterproofing materials of your tent. Timing on your question is actually great. Kristin, the Gear Expert with Backpacker Magazine just answered this same question yesterday. Check it out here:

If you don't want to scrub the tent, you can also soak it. Those instructions are in our repair guide here:

Have fun out there!

Tumble washer,

Light detergent,

Delicate cycle,

Warm wash,

Cold rinse,

Add the waterproofing NikWax or similar agent for improving the water proofing

April 18, 2021
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