It is clear that if left unchecked, mildew can wreak havoc on your camping and trekking gear. Apart from having this musty smell, mildew eats away the materials in your outdoor gears such as backpacks, tents and sleeping bags. This weakens the materials and increases the risk of having holes and tears in the gear, eventually destroying it in the process. Maintaining your outdoor gear to avoid them from rotting to these pesky mildew is a must that every backpacker must do. Trust me, maintenance and prevention is the best way to deal with this.
In order to avoid mildew from developing in your gear, hang it up after every trip to dry. Remember that it is important to examine your gear very often so that you don't end up with an issue because mildew can still form in moist places like your garage or basement.
Signs of Mildew
Spots of mildew might seem white or black, and they can appear on any kind of fabric, from canvas and pack cloth to nylon and polyester. If mildew is left untreated, it will eat away at the items it's growing on and damage them. A stain left behind by mildew as it spreads might be tough or impossible to remove.
Step 1: Stop Mildew from Spreading
The first step in salvaging mildewed equipment is to prevent the mildew from spreading. Expose the gear to the sun in a dry place. This will slow the spread of the mildew until you can get around to destroying and eradicating it completely.
Pro Tip : Avoid exposing the damaged objects to direct sunlight over lengthy periods of time, since UV rays may also deteriorate or bleach colored fabrics.
Step 2: Kill the Mildew Dead
In order to get rid of mildew on your gear, you should use an enzyme cleanser that kills the mildew, cleans your item, and eliminates its odor. Enzyme cleansers contain enzymes and microorganisms that fight mildew and remove the unpleasant smell given off by the dew. It's also widely used on wet suits, athletic clothing, boots, and sandals to eliminate unpleasant odors and stink.
1. To use an enzyme cleanser, it’s best to stick with the ratios on the whichever enzyme cleanser you will be using and pour into a bucket of water to a bathtub or plastic container. It's best to keep the water at a lukewarm temperature - not too hot and not too cold. For further and detailed procedures, you can refer to the product's instructions for how to apply it.
2. Let the mildewed item soak in the diluted solution for 15 minutes. Open all of the zippers and pockets on your bag to let the water soak in. The same can be done to sleeping bags, bivy sacks, tent bodies, technical coats, sweaters, etc.
If you're using a washing machine, you may use the fabric dispenser to add it to the final rinse, but it's better to dip since the agitation might rip delicate clothes or ones with several straps. Dip the item a few times to make sure that any trapped air escapes and ensure that all surfaces are saturated by water.
3. Dip and soak in the diluted solution for 15 minutes.
4. Remove the mildewed item and allow as much time as possible for the item to air dry. It will give the microbes plenty of time to do their job.
Pro Tip : DO NOT RINSE!
It can be overwhelming at first as it seems, but mildew may be killed in an incredibly easy manner, and this method often results in the mildew being completely eliminated permanently. It’s best to stick with a high quality Enzyme cleanser, which, depending on its size may last several months.
Just be sure to never slack and don't be lazy when cleaning your gear after your trip to prevent mildew from forming. Remember that prevention will always be the best remedy.