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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Cleaning Canvas Tents with Bleach

By Dr. Laundry June 24, 2010

Q. I recently cleaned the inside of our tent trailer (the inside of the canvas) with bleach because I noticed some mildew or mold spots on the ceiling above the bed. It’s a rubber backed canvas on the ceiling. I simply put some Clorox in a bowl, along with some water – I’m guessing about 2/3 Clorox, and 1/3 water, and sponged it on.

I’m worried now that I did not dilute the solution enough, because I left the sponge in the bowl for a couple of days and it disintegrated. I’m sure the Clorox is dry in the trailer. Do you think I need to rinse it down even if it is dry? I’m worried about the Clorox damaging the fabric. Thank you.

A. Below, I have provided the recommended approach for dealing with mold/mildew stains from our Clorox® Regular-Bleach EPA back label. Your canvas tent should be similar:

Several differences exist between your approach and the recommended one:


  • Note the ratio of liquid bleach/water is much less than you used (1/16 vs your 2/1). A little liquid bleach goes a long way.

  • Also note the rinse step after the 5 minute contact time. This allows any unused bleach to be rinsed off.

  • We don’t recommend using a sponge since they are cellulose and can be attacked by the bleach. The stronger the bleach solution, the faster the degradation.


So I would good back and do a couple of rinses with cool water. By now the bleach has degraded, but this should allow you a chance to confirm that the problem has been eliminated. If not, you now have the tools to do the follow-up work. Inspecting the interior will also help determine if any damage is likely to occur.