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The dreaded black spot

In Aid of ShelterBox Disaster Relief

What is black spot

Black spot mould is the thing we dread the most as owners of canvas tents. It is that unsightly black/green staining that occurs after the canvas has become damp for long periods. This usually happens when the tent has been packed away damp or it can occur when a tent has been up for a prolonged period in particularly damp conditions.

Not only is the black spot unsightly if it is well established it can eat into the canvas, destroy the waterproofing and eventually create holes.

The Golden Rule

We are often asked how to get rid of the dreaded black spot and the first answer i always give is try to avoid getting it in the first place. SO the Golden Rule is NEVER PUT YOUR TENT AWAY DAMP. We appreciate this isn't always possible, but sometimes it is worth just waiting that extra hour or two to wait for the canvas to dry, put the kettle on have another cuppa! Get everything out of the tent, open the doors and let the tent breathe. You'll be thankful in the long run.

If you do have to put the tent away damp make sure you get it out again within a few days and dry it thoroughly before storing for a long period. We are also asked how long can you store it damp before the mould takes hold? I'm afraid we don't have an answer to that question, the longest i have risked leaving it is 3-4 days.

Putting the tent up again is the best method, if that isn't possible, borrow a friends shed or garage or if there is no other option hang it up in the front room, your family will understand!

I've got the dreaded black spot!

The first thing to do is PANIC. Yes, you have possibly ruined your treasured family tent. The second thing to do is blame everyone except yourself. It was probably your partners fault or you definitely remember asking the kids to check if the tent was damp before you packed it away and you distinctly remember asking somebody to remind you to get the tent out again and dry it after that rain soaked holiday in Wales last summer!

After the initial dread and shock has sunk in and the inevitable arguments about who is to blame have died down you need to work out a plan of action before the mould gets hold and eats your whole tent.

How to get rid of the mould?

The good news is there are plenty of theories on how to get rid of black spot if you trawl Google and camping forums and there several products that are worth trying. I'm not in a position to personally recommend any method or product over another one. I haven't actually needed to use any yet. Some of the methods i found use bleach or Miltons sterilising fluid watered down 1:10. I would be wary of using anything that could potentially destroy the waterproofing. A couple of the more natural methods are listed below:

  • 1/4 teaspoon of oil of cloves per litre of water in a spray bottle for cleaning mould from hard surfaces. Lightly mist on, leave overnight and wipe off.
  • Mix one kilogram of uniodised salt in a nine-litre bucket of water. Paint onto the mould patch, leave until a salt crust forms then wipe off with a soft brush.

Whatever method you do use, try it on a small area first and watch out for staining. You will usually compromise the waterproofing in some way so i would definitely recommend reproofing the tent after you have tried cleaning it. We have an info sheet on reproofing your tent here and Fabsil and Nikwax both do reproofing liquids.

Mould removing products

There are several products on the market that are designed for cleaning mould and mildew from various fabrics. We have not tried any of these and do not endorse any of them, the following list is for info purposes:


We would love to know how effective any of the natural methods are and also if any of the products listed actually work so if you have any experience or stories to share please let us know.

Until then please remember the Golden Rule!

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