12 Ways to Get Smoke Smells Out of Clothes & When to Call the Pros

Don't give up on your favorite tee just yet. These cleaning methods could save your garment from permanent smoke odor.

Published June 14, 2023
man by campfire

Lingering smoke smells from a summer campfire or an unplanned interaction with the odor doesn't mean your clothing is ruined forever. There are a few ways to get the smoke smell out of clothes so you can wear your favorite garment with lots of confidence and absolutely no smoke odors.

Quick Ways to Mask Smoke Odors on Clothes

If you don't have time to deep clean your clothes and launder them, this hack will help you cover the smoke smell until you get the chance to toss your clothes in the wash. These methods are only for short-term solutions, so be sure to give your clothing a proper wash as soon as you get the chance.

Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets have tons of uses outside of your laundry room. Grab a handful of dryer sheets, preferably ones that are scented or include an odor-eliminating feature, and rub them all over your garment. The scent will cover the smoke odor, and the dryer sheet will also absorb some of the smoke. If you're on the go, keep a few dryer sheets with you to maintain the scent until you can get home and wash your clothes.

Deodorizing & Odor-Eliminating Spray

Much like the dryer sheet hack, this odor-eliminating tip is a temporary fix that covers the smoke stench. A spray that's formulated with odor-eliminating properties will work best, like Febreeze. You might also try a deodorizing spray - think of a spray you might use for smelly shoes or gym bags. If you can find a spray that's also scented, you can buy yourself a little time before you can get your clothes in the wash.

Pre-Soak Extra Smoky Clothes

Pre-soaking and preparing your smoke-filled clothing before you toss them in the wash will help you get rid of the odor quicker and more thoroughly. If you're dealing with a particularly harsh smoke smell, like something from a wildfire, you're definitely going to want to pre-soak the garments. Giving your washing machine a helping hand will keep you from washing your clothes countless times to banish that pesky smell for good.

Air Out Your Clothes

clothes on clothesline

Turns out that a bit of fresh air and sunshine is just as good for your clothes as it is for you. Give your smoky clothes a fighting chance in the washing machine by thoroughly airing them out before you wash them. Place your clothing outside - preferably hanging up - in an area that receives sunlight and any breezes that might come through. Leave your clothes outside for at least three hours and up to an entire day for the best results.

Soak Clothes in Vinegar

Vinegar is the great odor fighter, and it's a tough pre-soaking option for difficult smoke smells. Fill a bowl or basin with equal parts water and white distilled vinegar and let your clothing soak in the solution for an hour before rinsing and washing as usual.

Soak Clothes in Lemon Water

Lemon is another all-purpose cleaning product to use in your home and laundry. Here's a quick pre-soak option with lemon water for getting a jump start on that smoky odor before laundering your clothes.

What You'll Need

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups lemon juice
  • Large bowl or basin


  1. Combine the water and lemon juice in a bowl or basin. You could also do this in a sink.
  2. Let your clothing soak for at least 15 minutes, completely submerged.
  3. Rinse and toss in your washing machine.

Wash the Smoke Smell Away

Once you've tackled the pre-soaking stage, there are a few laundering options you can try to get your clothing smelling fresh again. Try one at a time until you find the solution that rids your clothing of the smoky odor.

Wash With Baking Soda

lemon, baking soda, and clean laundry

Baking soda is a go-to for odor absorption and cleaning all sorts of items and surfaces. Smoke is just another odor on the long list of smells that baking soda can eliminate.

  1. Add 1 cup of baking soda directly to your washing machine while the water runs.
  2. Add your favorite laundry detergent and run your usual wash cycle.
  3. Once the wash cycle is complete and the rinse cycle is starting, add an additional half cup of baking soda to the machine.
  4. Dry as usual or according to garment care instructions.

Wash With Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is the latest natural cleaning aid for doing laundry, and there are a lot of reasons to give the trend a try. A laundry detergent with activated charcoal will absorb all the odors - including the smoky ones - plaguing your garments.

Need to Know

When washing clothes full of smoke odors, keep the smelly garments separate from your other laundry and never wash them in the same load.

Wash With Vinegar

Vinegar is a laundry booster that can you can use in combination with baking soda and activated charcoal for an extra-powerful wash cycle.

  1. Add half a cup of vinegar to the detergent compartment of your washing machine.
  2. Add a cup of baking soda or a cap full of activated charcoal laundry detergent directly into the machine.
  3. Wash and dry according to garment care instructions.

Wash With Alcohol

A little alcohol in your laundry cycle will act as an odor remover throughout the washing process, and it doesn't take much to get the job done. An affordable brand of vodka or rubbing alcohol will work just fine. Add half a cup directly into the washing machine along with your favorite detergent and wash on your usual cycle.

Add Laundry Scent Boosters

Neutralizing and absorbing the odors are great ways to restore your clothing after a severe exposure to smoke. Add some more pleasant scents to your laundry cycle to replace that smoky odor with a smell you actually love. Scent boosters from your favorite detergent brand or your favorite essential oils combination should leave you with a fresh and powerful scent that helps you forget all about the long-gone smoke smell.

Use Steam on Clothes You Can't Wash

If you're dealing with a garment you can't wash in the machine or use typical laundering chemicals on, steam is the way to go. Use the steam setting on your iron or a clothing steamer to lift the smell away. Work from front to back when steaming your garment for best results. You can also use a deodorizing or odor neutralizing spray on garments that can't go in the machine.

What to Do Before You Give Up

If you've tried a couple methods for getting the smoke smell out of your clothing and nothing seems to make the odor budge, don't give up just yet. Instead, call up a professional cleaner.

dry cleaners sign

When home cleaning methods don't do the trick, there's a very good chance that commercial grade cleaning methods will. Dry cleaning is one of the most effective ways to get smoke odor out of clothing. If you decide to skip all the home remedies and go straight to the cleaners, avoid wetting your garment so the cleaner can start from scratch with their own methods. If you've already exhausted your options at home, you can still take your clothing to the cleaners with great expectations of getting a garment back with absolutely no smoke odor.

When to Throw in the Smoky Towel

No one really wants to give up on their favorite top or go-to jeans, but it's important to know when to walk away when fighting the smoke odor left from an intense fire exposure. This is when you might want to consider giving up on your smoky garment.

  • If a single piece of clothing is making your entire home smell like smoke, you might be dealing with a severe smoke odor that no amount of cleaning can cure.
  • If you've tried the professional cleaning route and commercial methods haven't impacted the smoke odor, you've likely exhausted all of your options.
  • Consider just replacing the item if it would cost more to have it cleaned properly.
  • If being near the clothing item is causing you or your family health concerns or severe reactions, it's definitely time to let it go.
  • If the garment belongs to a baby or young child, the potential health hazards from the smoke are not worth the risk. Toss and replace.

Smoke Out Odors for Good

Whether you find the home remedy that works for you, find success at the dry cleaners, or just decide to treat yourself to a new favorite pair of jeans, you'll get rid of the smoke smell eventually. If you've just discovered that lingering campfire smell on your clothes or you're worried about multiple garments in your home exposed to smoke, don't despair. There's a good chance that you'll be able to restore the garments to their fresh-smelling state with one of these cleaning methods.

Trending on LoveToKnow
12 Ways to Get Smoke Smells Out of Clothes & When to Call the Pros