The beauty of the bell tent and the beast of mould and mildew that can creep in.

Tips to avoid and combat mould and mildew on a beautiful bell tent.

Childhood Magic
7 min readJul 31, 2021

We returned home on my birthday last year to discover a beautiful 5-metre bell tent in our garden. My 3 boys and I camped out in it all summer and giggled and read stories by torchlight. It was magical to tiptoe with our lanterns down to the tent and sleep under the stars.

When school returned in September it really helped my son to sleep in the tent at night to help give him the quota of fresh air and adventure that he missed while he was in the covid threatened classroom.

Unfortunately, the nights became colder and wetter and soon we retreated back to our warm and cosy bedrooms.

I had heard stories of tents becoming riddled with mould when they were packed away so worried about this. I never dreamt that my magnificent bell tent could become struck down with mould and mildew when it was still standing. We had such wonderful nights in the tent that I didn’t want the magic to end.

I reluctantly took all our belongings out in preparation for packing the tent away, but the tent remained standing proudly in the garden as a reminder of those amazing summer nights.

We played in the tent at Halloween and had a disco when trick or treating was cancelled but as the weather turned colder our beautiful Bell Tent was forgotten with the hectic season of Christmas and the lockdown that followed.

Then the snow fell and we scraped it off the tent to no avail. As the tent struggled to dry for a long time, it turned a funny shade of green and mould and mildew set in.

Bell Tent UK told me that a sewn-in groundsheet tent like ours could not be sent away for cleaning but recommended Wet and Forget so we sprayed the tent with it twice and the green tinge on the outside disappeared within a few days. I then made the mistake of waterproofing the tent straight away! I should have let wet and forget work its magic for longer. I did try to forget about it but kept checking for the miracle clean up I was hoping for.

I did speak to Polly at The canvas cleaning company who confirmed that it could indeed be sent to her for a wash but that it might not survive. So I decided not to let go of my bell tent as I didn’t want it condemned before trying to salvage it myself.

Then I realized that I needed to treat the inside of the tent too. I trawled the internet and Facebook pages devoted to Bell Tents and how to bring them back from the brink of Mould Hell.

Some people had used Wet and Forget on the inside of the tent and turned it inside out so that the rain and wind could help clean up the mould and mildew. I didn’t think I would manage this so sprayed the inside of the tent and then mimicked the rain by squirting the tent inside with water. This seemed to work a little and I knew the mould was killed off (my biggest priority) but the stains were still there.

I was determined to make our tent sleepover ready by the summer. Spurred on by the countless images of beautiful bell tents with sunlight shining through their pristine panels, I began my courtship with my spotty Bell Tent. I would put on a long flowing patterned dress that could survive an attack of cleaning products and would caress the sides of the tent with the sponges in the hope I could restore them to their former glory.

I then tried Ultramar shampoo followed by the power cleaner. It worked well on the outside but the inside was still bad. There were brown spots and crosses spoiling the beauty of the canvas panels.

I tried Iosso mould and mildew powder but was dismayed when I received a tiny sachet from Amazon. It was a very wet night so I soaked it onto the tent in the hope of a miracle. The customer service via Facebook messenger was excellent. Unfortunately, I think I applied it too sparingly and didn’t have the desired effect. I since found another stockist which was more generously priced so might try it again.

I saw lots of success stories of soaking the mouldy Bell Tents in a bath, wheelie bin, or paddling pool filled with hot water and vanish. I didn’t fancy wrestling with a heavy, saturated 5-metre tent at the end of my garden and dreaded the thought of having to dispose of all the dirty water afterwards. I’m sure my boys would have loved jumping into the resulting swamp! I did get a rectangular tub and soak the worst mould ridden window flap from my tent inside the tent and it did fade the stains but didn’t completely remove it.

Then I saw success stories of people using Astonish Mould and Mildew Cleaner and was reassured that their tents had lived to tell the tale. So I bit the bullet and was amazed to see those mouldy cross-like stains vanish immediately in front of my eyes. I was elated and at last, could imagine our summer camp out once again. I became determined to “beautify my Tent” for some magical moments again.

I got a revolving disco light and as the boys whooped and boogied along to the light show in the dark disco tent I realized that it was still magical and we would enjoy our camping just as much.

Waking up in the morning I love the way the leaves cast shadows over the tent. I’m not so keen on the multicoloured “messages” left behind by the birds but have realized that it is a fact of life that it will attract bird poo and dirt while it is outside and that it is part of the camping adventure.

Bell tent UK is going to launch a tent protector soon so I think I will try that to protect it from further damage and perhaps give us more warmth as the cold nights draw in.

So here are some tips I have learned to avoid mould and mildew creeping in.

Put a groundsheet underneath.

Always dry it thoroughly before packing away with silica gel pouches.

Don’t leave it up in extreme wet and cold weather!

Don’t pitch it under trees.

Invest in a tent protector.

Use moisture traps or dehumidifiers.

And ways to combat mould and mildew stains

Wet and Forget

Astonish mould and mildew blaster at £1 from the pound shop!

Use a large soft sponge for cleaning and avoid scrubbing as mould and mildew eat away at the canvas and weaken the fibres. You may have some holes or tears.

If you are brave enough to soak the tent the colour safe Vanish could help!

Ultramar Canvas protector will help to reproof the tent afterwards.

Tear-Aid or clear Gorilla Tape can cover any holes or tears. I found Gorilla tape more robust and waterproof.

You can buy a canvas repair kit from Glawning too.

Or if you want to send it away to the experts you can contact The Canvas Cleaning Company. I’ve seen great recommendations and heard that they repair rips and holes creatively too!

At the end of this summer, I’m going to pack it away. So any tips or recommendations for storage and drying out will be gratefully received! Enjoy your bell tents and Good luck keeping mould and mildew at bay!