Last Updated December 23, 2023
Smoke smells linger long after initial exposure, not only in the air and on walls but on clothes and other fabrics, too. Thankfully, smoke-damaged clothes don’t have to go to the dumpster. Whether from cigarettes, bonfires, or property fires, the smoke smell can often be effectively removed from clothes and other fabrics.
To help repair smoke damage and neutralize the smell of smoke, we’ll explain different methods for removing smoke smell from clothes. Along the way, we’ll also share strategies for removing cigarette smells and proactively avoiding smoke damage.
How To Wash Smoke Out of Clothes
If clothes are machine washable, laundering is the easiest solution. Any clothes with burn holes should be thrown away. To wash the smoke-damaged garments, begin by taking them outside and shaking them off to remove any loose soot particles. If the wardrobe endured a house fire instead of a campfire, airing out and scrubbing the garments may not cut it.
Here are four machine-wash-friendly approaches to removing the smoke smell from clothes.
1. Wash With Baking Sod
Washing your clothes with baking soda will help absorb and remove odors, and give clothes a fresh scent. Toss the clothes in the washing machine while they’re still damp, and add a cup of baking soda right on the clothes. Launder the clothes with a normal wash cycle. Run clothes with a smoky smell through a second baking soda-infused cycle if the first pass doesn’t completely eliminate the smoke smell. Baking soda also softens fabric, making it feel less stiff.
2. Try a Vinegar Rinse
After airing out smoke-damaged clothes for 24 or more hours, spray them down with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water. Do this a few times if the clothing smells extremely smoky. Before drying them, run them through the washing machine again with a preferred detergent. If they come out smelling like vinegar, don’t worry; the smell will go away naturally. If the clothes still smell smoky, wash them once again; it may take up to five cycles to remove the smoke smell entirely.
3. Use Lemon Juice
Using a lemon juice rinse can remove the smell of smoke from fabric. For this approach, dunk the clothes into a mixture of one part lemon juice and two parts water. Keep the fabric submerged for at least 10 minutes for the best results. Afterward, wash the clothes in a standard wash cycle.
4. Add a Laundry Scent Booster
Laundry scent boosters can neutralize odors, including smoke. These products were designed with the specific purpose of keeping clothes smelling fresh. While they cost more than DIY solutions, they may give the best results.
How To Remove Smoke Smell From Non-Washable Fabrics
If you can’t toss your favorite smoky-smelling jacket or other garments into the washing machine because the fabrics are not machine-safe, we have nine solutions.
1. Air Out the Fabrics
Fresh air is a great way to remove the smoke smell from clothes and other non-washable fabrics, so leave the items outside for as long as possible — ideally, 24 hours. Even after clearing smoke out of rooms, letting smoke-damaged clothes hang outside will remove the odor faster.
If the smell came from being too close to a campfire, this simple task can sometimes remove the smoke smell entirely. For more extreme smoke damage, another approach may be needed
2. Use an Essential Oil Diffuser
To absorb the smell of smoke, add a few drops of essential oils to a diffuser in the room with the garment hanging nearby. Run the diffuser for an hour before using a handheld vacuum on the item. This approach removes the smoky smell and replaces it with the essential oil’s scent.
3. Try a Non-Wash Baking Soda Treatment
Baking soda is an effective odor remover even outside of a washing machine. To clean the garment, first bring it outside. Sprinkle baking soda generously over the fabric. Allow the baking soda to do its magic for at least 24 hours, and then vacuum or shake it off. You may have to apply this method repeatedly to completely remove the smell of smoke from your clothes.
4. Apply a Hydrogen Peroxide Treatment
Mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water to remove odors from non-washable fabrics. Use a sponge or cloth to wipe the cleaning solution onto smoke-damaged fabrics. Let the mixture stir for an hour before washing it off to remove the scent.
5. Sprinkle Charcoal
Charcoal treatments can neutralize odors on non-washable clothes and fabrics. Sprinkling charcoal on the affected surface and letting it sit for an hour absorbs the smell of smoke. After letting the charcoal sit, vacuum the residue, then run it through a wash cycle.
6. Steam the Fabrics
Steaming a fabric can neutralize odor on clothes that can’t go into a washing machine. That said, check the tags to make sure it’s safe to steam the fabric before beginning. Use three parts distilled water and one part rubbing alcohol for the best results. Unlike other methods, steaming lets you concentrate your efforts on the affected areas.
7. Freeze the Fabrics
Freezing smoke-affected fabrics kills bacteria that cause odors. For the best results, leave clothes in the freezer for two or three hours. If there's food in the freezer, pack the fabric in a plastic bag so it doesn’t touch any food.
8. Buy an Odor-Eliminating Spray
There are commercial smoke-odor-removing products available at grocery and convenience stores. While these products don’t remove the odor, spraying these fresheners on clothes or furniture will mask the smoke smell. However, be careful not to buy a product that just masks the scent with a stronger smell. And remember, these products aren’t a permanent solution.
9. Seal With Dryer Sheets
Seal smoke-smelling fabric into a resealable plastic bag with unscented dryer sheets for a few days to remove smells. After reopening the bag, the dryer sheet should have absorbed the odor.
How To Get Cigarette Smell Out of Clothes
A cigarette smell can be removed from clothes by scrubbing ash out of fabrics and airing them out. While a vinegar rinse or laundry wash will help, you must remove the leftover soot to eliminate the source of the scent. Similar to getting a cigarette smell out of a house, air circulation and purification will help ensure the smell doesn’t linger.
Tips To Avoid Smoke Damage and Odors
To reduce smoke damage and prevent odors from lingering, keep these tips in mind:
- Always smoke outside: Smoking inside lets the smell permeate a home’s surfaces and furniture, including clothing.
- Air out rooms: Open a window or turn on the AC to improve ventilation and neutralize odors after a fire or smoke damage.
- Wash fabrics and hard surfaces regularly: Regularly washing surfaces and fabrics ensures they smell fresh and rid walls of smoke from cigarettes or burnt dinners. For smoke damage from a fire, leave the cleanup to the professionals.
- Invest in air purifiers: Air purifiers remove smoke and contaminants to improve air quality.
- Treat smoke damage ASAP: The longer smoke and soot particles linger, the harder they are to wash out.
Get Help From Smoke Damage Professionals
Learning how to remove smoke smells from clothes will help salvage items after a fire in a home or business. However, clothes aren’t the only items left damaged from excessive smoke or fires. To remove lingering smoke odor and restore the indoor air quality in your home or business, contact Rainbow Restoration’s team of IICRC-certified professionals for smoke and fire damage restoration services.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and may not be applicable to every situation. You are responsible for determining the proper course of action for your property. Services should be performed by licensed and experienced professionals. Rainbow Restoration is not responsible for any damages that occur as a result of this blog content or your actions. For the most accurate guidance, contact a Rainbow Restoration professional for a custom, on-site assessment.