How To Clean Camping Chairs

Getting your camping gear dirty is unavoidable, but cleaning camping chairs is relatively easy with the right methods. Whether you’re fighting mold, mildew, food stains or tree sap, there’s a way to make your chair look like new again.

When cleaning camping chairs antimicrobials work best on mold and mildew. Food stains will come out with cold water. Mineral oil will take sap out of your chairs. The best way to keep your chairs clean, however, is taking steps to minimize the potential for a mess. 

No one likes the look of stains on their camping chairs, and it seems like everything in nature is dead set on leaving their mark. Don’t haul them out to the dumpster yet though – there are tricks to get just about any stain out of your camping chairs.

Camp Chairs
ID 92448570 © Jaysi |

Cleaners For Removing Mold And Mildew From Canvas

You don’t think it’ll be that big of a deal to store your folding chairs damp, but a week later you’ve got mildew, or worse – mold. Aside from the musty smell, mold and mildew also come with health risks so you’ll want to kill it off as quickly as possible.

Mildew is the annoying friend that your roommate invited over – not too hard to get rid of with the right approach. Mold, on the other hand, is your mother-in-law – much harder to shake. The good news is that whether you’re dealing with mold, mildew, or both, there are ways to kill the pesky fungi and save your chairs.

Direct Sunlight Kills Mold And Mildew

The first thing you want to do is dry out the chairs. Mold and mildew thrive on moisture, and letting the chairs bake in the sun for a few hours will help prevent it from spreading any further.

soap and scrub brush
ID 41041151 © Thodonal |

Dish Soap And Detergents

Once your chairs are dry, then you can try dish soap like Dawn on mildew. Get a scrub brush and some elbow grease, and go over every patch of mildew. This won’t do much for mold – you’re better off using a detergent like OxyClean.

Hydrogen Peroxide

If soap doesn’t work even for mildew, you can use 3% hydrogen peroxide. Let the hydrogen peroxide soak in for about 10 minutes, but make sure you rinse it out after. Hydrogen peroxide has the potential to stain your canvas if you leave it too long, but that’s also what helps get the mold and mildew stains out.

Vinegar Bath

For more resistant patches, you can try soaking the chair in vinegar. Once the vinegar has had a few hours to work on the mold and mildew, put some baking soda on top and scrub it away. Another thing you can do is mix equal parts of rubbing alcohol and water, then soak the affected areas.

Odour Fixing Options

The downside to alcohol, peroxide, and especially vinegar is that you can get an unpleasant odor afterwards. If you want to add some of your favorite essential oil to whichever mix you want to use, just put a few drops in and it’ll help cut down on the smell.

lemon essential oil
ID 140041353 © Richard Villalon |

There are two things that I should mention before you go reaching for the lavender oil. Firstly, some essential oils will repel bugs but others will act as magnets. The last thing you want is to be attracting mosquitos, bees, and other bugs while you’re trying to relax in your chair.

Lemon essential oil is a good option because it’s a natural mosquito repellant and provides extra cleaning power. Whichever oil you choose, make sure you check for any unwanted effects.

The other thing is that you’ll want to use 3% hydrogen peroxide if you’re planning to mix it with an essential oil, because the oxidizing effect of hydrogen peroxide can actually degrade the essential oil and cause it to lose its scent.

Bleach And TSP For Stubborn Stains

Now for the heavy hitters. A diluted bleach solution is always a solid option, but you’ll have to act fast to keep it from discoloring your canvas. A step up from that is to mix one part trisodium phosphate (TSP) with four parts water and four parts bleach.

This combination is the most powerful mold and mildew remover you can get before paying up for a specialty product. Again, take care not to let it sit for too long or it may stain or cause the chair’s color to fade. 

Sunnyside Corporation 64164, 4 Pound, 64 Ounce
  • Country Of Origin: United States
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Specialty Mold And Mildew Remover

If you’re not interested in trying out the home remedies and you would rather go with something store bought, Bass Pro’s store-brand mold and mildew remover is some of the best stuff out there. I had to use it to clean the canvas on my in-laws’ pop up in a pinch and it worked wonders.

It can be a challenge to remove mold and mildew, but now you don’t have to throw out the whole chair when you see those nasty white and black spots.

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How To Spot Treat Food Stains

You’ve just grilled up the perfect hot dogs – the ones that camping dreams are made of. You squirt a line of ketchup on it followed by a light drizzle of mustard, and you take that first amazing, perfect bite. When you look down, the moment is ruined by a giant glob of ketchup that fell right onto the chair.

Ice, Cold, and Club Soda

If you have it available, the best thing you can put on tomato stains or most non-grease stains is ice. Rub the ice chip back and forth on the stained area vigorously, and watch the magic work.

If you don’t have ice, cold water has the same effect and you can use a rag or other fabric to rub the stain out. Adding some some rock salt or sand directly to the stain will increase the abrasion of your cloth without causing damage to the canvas or fabric of your chair.

If you have some club soda in the cooler you can add an extra power punch to the cold by pouring the soda on the stain. This should help ease the removal process and save some elbow grease.

Club Soda and Lemon
ID 1787649 © William Berry |

Cutting The Grease Stains

While tomato stains are a pain, grease stains are worse. These are resistant to water alone and no amount of scrubbing will get them out without the right stuff. 

When thousands of birds got doused in oil after the spill in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, Dawn dish soap was one of the main things used to clean them up because of how effective it is against grease. If you have a grease stain on your chair, just put a dollop of Dawn on it and use a small brush to scrub the area. 

If you’re a Joy or Ajax fan you can try those, but something else you can also use is shampoo. Shampoo has surfactants that lift grease away from your hair, and it acts similarly on your canvas chairs. Let the shampoo sit on the stain for about 20 minutes, then rinse it off with warm water. 

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Rubbing Alcohol

If you have rubbing alcohol on hand then you’re in luck. This is probably the best anti-grease substance you’ll find, and all you need to do is wet a soft cloth with the alcohol and wipe at the stain until it comes out.

Removing Tree Sap

Maple trees can be beautiful when the colors change, but they also come with a sticky downside – sap. Sap is one of the toughest stains to get out of material and even if you do manage there’s usually some damage left behind from the process.

Tree Sap
ID 140895645 © Achmad Irwansyah Gunawan |

Alcohol And Mineral Oil

Like for grease, you can also use rubbing alcohol to remove sap or you can go for mineral oil. Use a rag or sponge soaked in mineral oil to scrub out the sap, then rinse the chair with hot water. 

Rubbing some mineral oil on the metal parts of you chair will also protect them from rust. Be sure to hit all the unpainted parts like the screws and rivets. It doesn’t take much, just a very light coating applied with a rag is enough.

Goo Gone

Goo Gone is a product that works well on all manner of sticky substances – sap included. You don’t need to dilute it at all, just apply it to the sticky surface and wait for 3-5 mins. Then use a rag or sponge to wipe it up, and finish with a good soap and water wash. 

Nail Polish Remover

Another good option for sticky stains is nail polish remover, and as an added bonus it contains compounds that repel mosquitoes. Apply a generous amount on the residue, let it dissolve the sticky stuff, then just wipe it off. 

Protecting Your Folding Camp Chairs

As with most things, your life is going to be much easier if you can avoid the problem to begin with. This starts with doing everything you can to make sure your chairs are dry when you store them. Mold and mildew thrive on moisture, and it doesn’t take much for them to start growing.

Avoiding The Messes

If you’re camping at a campground and you have access to a picnic table, using that instead of your camping chair is going to cut down on the amount of food stains you experience. You will also want to be aware of sap-dripping trees above your setup and try to position your chairs away from them. 

Safe Storage

If your chairs come with bags for storage, use them. This will not only help keep dirt and grime away while you’re traveling, it’ll protect the canvas from rips and tears as well.

Guarding From Grime

Wouldn’t it be great if you could wave a wand and make your chairs waterproof and stain resistant? The closest you’ll get is applying a layer of scotchguard on the fabric. You’re still going to have to clean your chairs periodically, but the stains will be less likely to set and you’ll be better protected against mold and mildew.

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Closing Thoughts 

You want a nice, clean chair to go camping with, and now you know how to get rid of just about any stain from mold to ketchup to sap. Prevention will always go the furthest towards keeping your camping chairs clean, but if disaster does strike you’ll be prepared.


Beau is an electrical engineer with a knack for DIY repair and construction. When he's not tinkering with his projects he's on the road travelling and enjoying an exciting lifestyle with his young family.

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