Controlling costs and tent cleaning tips
By Ashleigh Petersen Steve Arendt

Controlling costs and tent cleaning tips

Your customers demand clean tops, and it is the busiest week of the year. Suddenly, a great customer places a last-minute tent order. The only top you have is in the dirty pile. Getting this clean enough for your customer is going to cost you dearly.

Your employees do not like doing this work and already are tired, which means the cleaning will take a little longer. You may have to pay overtime. All this and you may not get the quality clean that you need.

You have a problem: You cannot clean tents quickly enough to avoid the extra cost of having a dirty pile of tents during a busy time.

Having the correct tools for a tent washing operation will help with tent cleaning, yet not all companies will use the same tools. As a company grows, the demand for faster cleaning will require different tools in the tent washing department.

Companies with smaller inventories most likely are using a rag or mop with some cleaner to wash tops. Often, a $20 investment can improve this operation. First, use the correct cleaning chemical. Remember, every region of the country has different types of pollutants, leaves, mold or dirt that end up on your tent. The dirty top in San Fransisco is different than the dirty top in New York. Using a cleaning chemical that will do most of the work for you will speed up your operation. Take the time to research the most effective cleaning chemical that effectively cleans the stains unique to your tent tops. Also, scrub less by using a microfiber rag and a heavy mop. Microfiber rags cost a few dollars more but will reduce the effort needed to clean a top by up to 30 percent. Larger mop heads hold more dirt and clean more surface area before your employee needs to stop to clean the mop. If possible, you can reduce the amount of effort needed to clean your tops by cleaning on a surface as smooth as your kitchen counters.

As a company grows, the need to wash tops more quickly becomes a priority. Replacing the manual labor of using a rag or pushing a mop with an electric polisher may cost $400 to $1,400. A dual-action handheld polisher used to polish cars is an excellent addition to any cleaning operation. The handheld polisher will clean twice as fast as cleaning with rags and offer superior results. Also, using a handheld polisher with a tent-friendly solvent is the best way to remove tape and sticker residue. Using a larger 13- to 20-in. floor polisher is an excellent method to clean large areas of tent tops. Whether you are using a handheld polisher or a floor polisher, you have the flexibility of selecting from various types of cleaning pads to effectively clean the amount and kind of dirt unique to your tops.

As companies continue to grow, the amount of time spent on cleaning increases. Companies spending more than eight hours per week in their busy times washing tents might consider a small- or medium-size tent washing machine. A company can eliminate the manual labor of using a rag, mop or polisher and find it easier to keep up
with cleaning demands. The broader selection of cleaning chemicals available when using a tent washer that washes and rinses in warm water will guarantee a cleaner tent. However, a key consideration in growing into this option is the increased capital expenditure required.

Some companies must wash 25,000 to 50,000 sq. ft. of vinyl per day. The largest companies demand the most efficient, quickest cleaning systems offered. These companies will use the largest and most sophisticated machines available. Often, this means using a highly specialized flat-panel brush washer and a sophisticated tumbler-style washer in the same department.

When it comes to how tents get cleaned, every company has a different need. Having the correct tent cleaning tools for your operation will help control the cost of cleaning tents during your busy times.

Tips and tricks for cleaning stains on tent tops

Cleaning various stains on a tent top can be challenging. Here is a quick reference guide for the most common stains found on tent tops.

Mold. The most effective cleaner for mold is a chlorine-based product such as sodium hypochlorite (bleach) or calcium hypochlorite (stronger type of bleach). However, if not appropriately used, long-term damage to a tent can result. For example, chlorine residue will rot some stitching and webbing sewn on a tent top. And some vinyl is negatively affected with long-term exposure to chlorine residue left behind from cleaning. Therefore, shortly after applying the chlorine product, flood the vinyl and webbing with a bleach neutralizing agent.

The graying of tops. Pollution stains will vary from region to region. Sometimes a mild acid such as white vinegar works well. Other types of pollution stains require the use of a solvent that is safe to use on vinyl.

Leaf and crepe paper stains. When leaves or crepe paper get rolled up in a wet tent, the resulting discoloration can be tough to remove. Because there are many different types of leaves, the approach to cleaning may take multiple steps. The easiest solution may be to expose the stain to UV rays of the sun or a UV lamp. If the UV rays do not work, try a mild acid cleaner such as a toilet bowl cleaner found at your local box store. Next, soak a rag in the cleaner and let the rag sit on the stain so that the cleaner will not dry on the stain. For the most stubborn stain, masking the discoloration may be the only option. Covering the stain with a vinyl ink product is a long-term solution to hiding the stain.

Water spots. The easiest way to avoid water spots on clear vinyl is to dry the water spots before they dry on the top. Use a microfiber towel or chamois to dry the top. Otherwise, try a mild acid like white vinegar. Another great solution is to check your local auto parts supply store for a spray-on cleaner used to clean water spots from cars.

Rust and black aluminum stains. The least expensive solution may be the use of mild acid. Otherwise, use a solvent formulated for the task that is safe on tents.

Tar, tape and sap. Using a solvent to remove these stains is the best solution. Ensure that the solvent you are using will not harm the webbing, stitching, or vinyl of your tent and make sure to leave no solvent residue on the top after cleaning. Always do safety tests by using a small black rag soaked in the solvent. Aggressively wipe your vinyl top with the soaked rag. If you see white vinyl on the rag, do not use the solvent. Also, find a 1-in.-square sample of vinyl and soak it in the solvent for 20 to 30 minutes. If the vinyl becomes brittle or discolors, do not use the solvent.

Steve Arendt is the CEO and founder of Teeco Solutions in Fenton, Mo. Learn more at

Ashleigh Petersen

Ashleigh PetersenAshleigh Petersen

Ashleigh Petersen is the digital communications manager for Rental Management. She writes news and feature articles, plus coordinates the monthly Safety Issue and several sections in the magazine. Ashleigh loves spending time with her husband and young son, baking, gardening and listening to true crime and comedy podcasts.

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