Offering the Best in Tent Washing & Drying Machines
THE POWER OF BLEACH
WITH THE RIGHT PRECAUTIONS, BLEACH IS A GREAT CLEANING TOOL
Tent cleaning is a large task. There are many do’s and don’ts when it comes to tent cleaning and preserving the integrity of your equipment. Historically, one of the biggest don’ts in tent cleaning is the use of bleach. However, bleach is a powerful cleaning agent and, if you know the tricks, can be used to clean tents. One of the biggest enemies of the tent industry is mold. Tents are huge pieces of fabric, and in order to be stored efficiently, they need to be folded multiple times. If there is even a hint of moisture on the tent, its storage location becomes a prime breeding ground for mold. Bleach is one of the most effective cleaning agents to combat mold, which is why many individuals in the tent industry are tempted to use it. Why, then, is it that tent manufacturers advise against using bleach? When used with vinyl, bleach can erode plasticizers from the fabric. This eventually leaves the tent brittle and rigid. Tents without plasticizers cannot be folded, and they don’t hold up when used at events. Also, bleach clings to the tent stitching, which causes rot and eventual stitch failure. The chemical reaction between bleach and tent fabric, especially in the stitching and webbing, can be a huge downfall in the cleaning product. But, if you dive in and understand bleach’s cleaning properties fully, you can use it to clean tents. When you buy bleach at the store, the concentration typically stays around 6 percent. If you buy bleach from a commercial source, it is twice as strong. The higher concentration gets fabric nice and white, but the chemical reactions between the bleach and fabric also happen at a faster rate.
When you use bleach to wash your clothes, you almost always dilute it in water. The bleach is still effective, but it is less harmful, and the negative effects are slowed. When using bleach on tents, it’s important to figure out the correct dilution ratio. Because you are using commercial bleach, you will need to use more water than you would when bleaching clothes. Remember, it is still effective, you are just slowing down the negative side effects. After you measure an appropriate dilution ratio, you will need to determine an exposure time that will allow the bleach to clean your tent without harming your fabric. You want to keep the bleach on your tent for the least amount of time as possible. The cleaning power of bleach happens quickly, so getting the bleach on and off of the fabric as quick as possible is key. The last, and most important, aspect of cleaning with bleach is rinsing. If you don’t rinse all of the bleach out of your tent, your stitches will rot. Also, the bleach you did not successfully rinse off will continue to eat at your fabric as it is stored. Washing by hand is the most common tent washing method, but if you use bleach, knowing for sure that you have rinsed the entire tent top can be very difficult to gauge. If you want to guarantee that all the bleach is rinsed off the material and stitching, use a tent- washing machine, that way you can guarantee dilution ratio, exposure time, and rinsing. Bleach has many negatives and positives in the tent industry. However, it can be a fantastic cleaning agent. Once you completely understand bleach, you can use it safely and effectively.
– Steve Arendt
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