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Maintaining the Canvas on your Rooftop Tent

DIY Canvas Care 

From the fully folded shelter of a soft-floor camper to the pull out awning on your 4WD, most of us have a bit of canvas on board when we head out on a big trip. In its most basic form, canvas is a plain weave fabric that utilises tightly woven cotton or linen yarns to produce a waterproof, durable finish. It comes in different weights and thicknesses and, as with all things, the quality can vary dramatically. A tent would traditionally be made from heavy duck canvas, a tighter weave with greater water resistance, whereas many modern tents will utilise a lighter material with a water-proofing treatment to cut down on weight. This trusty fabric can stay strong for a lifetime if you look after it, which is no easier said than done.

Mould is your canvas castle's arch nemesis. It will happily take hold if you pack canvas when it's damp and can weaken and damage the fabric once it settles in. The best thing is to always allow the canvas to dry before packing up, but there are always going to be times when that doesn't happen. In that case, dry it out as soon as you have the chance. If mould does appear, let it dry, brush off as much as you can, then apply a solution of one part household bleach to four parts water. Once it's dry give it another brush and then rinse the area with clean water. 

Aside from that, your canvas shouldn't require cleaning with soaps or other harsh chemicals. Brush off dry bird dropping and dirt, give it an all over brush-down every once in a while, and if need be you can hose it. 

You may be required to season or reseal your canvas occasionally. There are a number of products available commercially and your manufacturer will most likely have a recommended brand. Pay close attention to the seams, which can be additionally fortified by rubbing some candle wax over them or using a seam sealant. 


Try as you will, there's always the possibility of a puncture or a tear in your woven walls. No need to go scrapping the whole thing, patching and repairing fabric is an age-old craft.

If your roof reveals a leak in the night time, your quick fix will be to whack an oily rag over the leak until the sun is shining. Once it's dry you can simply seal it up with a liberal application of gaffer tape for the remainder of your trip. This is best done by heating the tape so the adhesive softens and then applying two or three layers, each larger than the last. But you'd best implement a permanent solution before much longer or the problem may worsen. 

You can purchase canvas repair kits that will allow you to sew and seal your own patches, or you can have them fixed by a professional. Torn seams, broken zippers and other hardware will require a higher level of skill and possibly some specialised equipment. There are plenty of spots where you can get repairs done and they won't set you back too much, just plug 'canvas tent repairs' into Google and you'll find plenty nearby. 


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