How to Get Chemical Smell Out of Jeans: 5 Odor Busters

Don't suffer for your fashion any longer. Learn how to get chemical smells out of your jeans with our five odor-busting methods.

Published April 23, 2024
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man putting jeans in the washer

If you've seen any of the online shopping fail videos online, you know that buying clothes sight unseen can be perilous. But nothing ruins that new package excitement like tearing open a bag of jeans and being assaulted by a pungent chemical smell. But unlike with size fails, you don't have to send them back to the manufacturer straight away. Instead, learn how to get the chemical smell out of your jeans using castile soap, baking soda, white vinegar, and more. 

How to Get Rid of That Chemical Smell in Your Jeans

When you buy clothes off the rack, you expect that they might retain that musty smell until you put them through the wash. But jeans have this nasty habit of clinging to the smells of the chemicals they've been treated with. No matter how many times you put them through the wash, they probably still come out smelling a little off. That's because that sulfur/formaldehyde stink needs something stronger than a regular detergent. 

Thankfully, getting rid of the chemical smell in your jeans is super cheap and easy. 

Handwash Your Jeans With Castile Soap

Close-up of hands washing jeans

Castile soap is an all-natural product made from vegetable oils that's safe to use on jeans. Handwashing your jeans with castile soap, like Dr. Bronner's pure-castile liquid soap, can help work wonders on that chemical smell. 

  1. In a bucket or sink, add ½ cup of castile soap.
  2. Mix with warm water. 
  3. Add the jeans and soak for 15 to 30 minutes.
  4. Wash the jeans by hand.
  5. Rinse until all the suds are gone.
  6. Hang to dry.

Presoak Your Jeans in Baking Soda 

Arm & Hammer baking soda — or any brand for that matter — busts through smells in no time. From using it to freshen up your fridge drawers to tossing it in with your smelly jeans, baking soda needs to be on your next shopping list. 

  1. Dissolve 1-2 cups of baking soda into a container of warm water. 
  2. Fully submerge your jeans into the container. 
  3. Leave to soak overnight. 
  4. Wash on a regular cycle the next day. 

Related: 10 Simple Tips to Make Laundry Smell Good 

Soak Your Jeans in White Vinegar

White vinegar is the superhero of the cleaning world. What can't it work well against? The acetic acid in white vinegar will help break down the chemical smells in your jeans at a molecular level. 

So, if you've got stubborn smelly jeans, toss in two cups of white vinegar for your jeans to soak in and wait for it to work its magic. 

  1. Fill a sink or bucket with cold water and add 2 cups of white vinegar.
  2. Soak the jeans for about 60 minutes.
  3. Rinse and dry.
Helpful Hack

If it's clear skies outside, hang your jeans in the sun to air dry. The sun's UV rays will help combat that chemical smell. 

Add Borax to Your Laundry Cycle

Borax is another natural laundry remedy that can beat back chemical smells. This method is super easy since all it involves is adding borax, like our ancestors' trusty 20 Mule Team Powdered Borax, to your regular laundry cycle. 

  1. Add ½ cup to the wash cycle.
  2. Wash as normal.

Related: 8 Ways to Keep Your Clothes Smelling Fresh Between Washes

Clean Them With Color-Safe Oxygen Bleach 

You never want to use chlorine bleach on your new jeans, but color-safe oxygen bleach is a whole different ballgame. Oxygen bleach, like Oxiclean, works well at attacking those chemicals buried deep in the cotton fibers. 

  1. Add a scoop (or more per the label's instructions) of oxygen bleach to a tub of water.
  2. Add the jeans and soak them overnight.
  3. Wash as normal.
Quick Tip

We also love this enzyme laundry booster, which leaves laundry smelling super fresh and really clean. 

How to Avoid That New Jean Smell 

Close-up of a woman holding a pile of jeans over a light background.

  • Smell them before you buy them. Some new jeans just have a worse chemical smell than others. So, if the jeans are pretty pungent at the store, look for a few pairs that don't burn your nose hairs off. 
  • Choose ecru or light blue jeans over dark ones. The darker your jeans, the more chemical baths they've been through. So, they're more likely to smell than undyed or lightly dyed jeans. 
  • Line dry them. In some cases, tumble-drying smelly jeans causes the smell to get baked into the fibers. Instead, line-dry them after they come out of the wash. 

Jeans Aren't the Only Fabrics That Can Have a Chemical Smell 

Dark jeans might be the most common chemical smell offender, but other clothes can get the same sulphuric smell from their color treatments. Thankfully, the methods for removing the chemical smells from your jeans also work on most other clothing items. 

In addition to these, you can also try leaving your clothes in an enclosed container with a coffee ground sachet. The coffee grounds can absorb the overwhelming smells. Another option is putting a little vodka in a spray bottle and spritzing your clothes down. 

Fashion Doesn't Mean Letting Your Nose Suffer 

Chemical odors in your jeans can come from a myriad of places, from dye baths to wrinkle-free and stain-resistant treatments. But with our trusty smell-busting methods, your nose doesn't have to suffer any longer. 

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How to Get Chemical Smell Out of Jeans: 5 Odor Busters