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Getting out the smell of smoke….

jatman | Posted in General Discussion on

I recently purchased a really cute top at a second hand store.  When I tried it on I knew it sort of smelled like smoke but I was hoping it would wash out.  Well, since it’s a synthetic fiber (94% polyamide, 6% elastane) the smell does not seem to be washing out.  Does anyone have any suggestions as to how to remove the smell from this material?

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thank you!




  1. sosewnem | | #1

    Hi jatman,

    Cigarette smoke is probably going to be just about impossible to get out, especially if it is very strong.  I always sniff second hand fabric items to be sure they are not smelling of smoke or musty prior to purchasing.  It's a good habit to get into.  For that matter, I also have to be wary of strong detergent scents and fragrances clothes/fabrics as that gives me headaches or make me nauseated.

    However, there are a couple of things you can try.  One is to soak it in white vinegar.  I once had bought a couple small pieces of fabric that smelled musty and soaked them for a couple of days in white vinegar put in a sink of water, which I did twice.  I took it out too soon the first time, which was after a few hours.  I put in about 1 cup to 1-1/2 cups of white vinear to about 1-1/2 to 2 gallons of water.  It will smell like vinegar, but then you can wash it after.  However, I would suggest air-drying as putting it in the dryer can make things worse with the cigarette smell.

      Secondly, I once found my husband a like-new spring nylon or polyester jacket at a yard sale and had probably "fried my nose" by walking around people with lots of fragrance on, so I did not notice that the jacket was highly scented.  I knew it as soon as I got in the car and had "fresh" air.  I couldn't get the scent out after washing in unscented Tide and white vinegar, or by soaking in the white vinegar.  He kept that jacket in the garage as I could not tolerate it in the house.  Last fall he wore the jacket while cleaning off our back deck with a oxygen bleach that was made for deck work.  He got the stuff splashed on him as he sprayed the deck off and after the next washing in the washing machine, the scent was *gone*!!  It did not bleach any color out of the jacket.  WOW!  I will have to ask him the name of this particular product and get back to you.  I can't promise if it would bleach color or not out of a particular fabric.  I don't know enough about oxygen bleach, though it is better than regular bleach, which would take the color out.

    Maybe some other good suggestions will come up. 

    Edited 2/9/2007 9:44 am ET by sosewnem

    1. user-51823 | | #2

      i think any of the enzyme detergeants (ususally the name starts with "oxy"; i like oxy-all) will do the trick. vinegar is also good to satrt with, although be careful not to use it on rayon as it is a mild acid and can damage the fabric.
      my advice is same as i posted in a thread about removing mildew; use oxy/enzyme cleaner. (soak overnight like sosewnem suggests with the vinegar), and fresh air. then hang outside (not in a garage or anywhere there is no air movement. fresh air moving through will help, and sunshine too, as long as sun-bleaching is not a problem.

      1. jatman | | #4

        I soaked it overnight in Oxyclean.  Then I washed it in the washer with Oxy.  It still smelled.  Then I washed it in something called Odormute C which takes out organic smells such as cat pee.  It works wonders on that but didn't even diminish the smoke smell.  I was really surprised.  I will try drying it in the sun the next time I wash it though.  Thank you for the suggestion!


        1. user-51823 | | #5

          you might well be making a pattern off this top and making a new one LOL.
          i will say that the vinegar odor does dissipate pretty quickly.
          ps- try having a friend sniff it "blind" (don't put ideas into their head what you smell) and see if they smell it. sometimes we get obsessed with these things and think we still detect them after they are gone.
          "...lost in an orchestral maelstrom of lunacy..."

          Edited 2/9/2007 11:58 am ET by msm-s

          1. jatman | | #9

            The thought that it may have become a pattern for another one had occurred to me, too!  It may end up being the best option.  As for having someone else sniff it "blind" - what a great idea!  Thank you!


            Edited 2/10/2007 9:56 am ET by jatman

          2. user-51823 | | #13

            LOL- i once had to distress some costumes to look like they'd been pulled out of a trash can. i took gently used clothes, all like new, and did various things. there was a ochre turtleneck that my final treatment was to wet it and sprinkle some grey and black dry dye on in a few areas. after a quick rinse it looked gross and mildewy.
            the dancer sent it back via the production designer who told me "she wants you to wash it again, she says she can still smell the mold".

          3. jatman | | #14

            That is just hilarious!  The mind is really powerful, isn't it!


          4. User avater
            Thimblefingers | | #15

            You might try washing soda such as Borax or Arm and Hammer.  I use it to take out perspiration smells from my work out gear.

          5. jatman | | #16

            I'll give that a try, too!  Thank you!


          6. Teaf5 | | #17

            My vote is for a baking soda soak followed by a sunny line dry, although all these other suggestions plus "the power of suggestion" are very intriguing, too! Since it's a synthetic fiber, it's very possible that the smoke particulates melded with the surface of the fibers or that the surface fiber has a smoky undertone anyway.In any case, if it holds up after all these repeated washings with so many different agents, you've got yourself an amazing garment, one well worth making a pattern from!

          7. jatman | | #18

            Well, I'm about to spray it with a ton of perfume and see if it doesn't pick up that scent as well as it did the smoke!  I've now tried the white vinegar and not only does it not smell like vinegar but it still smells strongly of smoke.  I've only tried it once so I may try it again.  As for the sun - I'd love to try that but there has been no sun here lately.  May have to wait a while for that one.  But you're right - one thing I'm finding is that no matter what I soak it in or how many times I've washed it, it still looks brand new.  This material is incredible.  Either way, I'm not sorry I bought it!  Thanks for the suggestion.



          8. user-51823 | | #19

            the vinegar smell will go away soon. difference between smoke and perfume is that smoke is actually teensy ash still lodged in the fabric and perfume is an alcohol-based solution that evaporates quickly and leaves no residue. this means no matter how much perfume used to cover the smoke, it doesn't effect the origin of the smell.try puting the shirt in the wash and letting it gently agitate for a long time. even if no sun, hang outside in a breezy spot to let air flow through it.

          9. jatman | | #20

            Actually, despite the fact that I soaked it in vinegar and water (and the bathroom where I had it really smelled completely like vinegar) the shirt smelled like smoke as soon as I took it out of the water. 

            I didn't realize that about the smoke vs. perfume but that makes perfect sense.  The problem right now with me hanging it outside is that it will freeze!  May have to wait to try drying it outside!


          10. user-51823 | | #22

            you don't need to hang it wet outdoors, the point is getting some airflow. since the usual cures aren't working, you want to encourage the residue to physically leave the blouse. agitate in washer, change water and reapeat over a whole day and see if it helps. hang dry in the shower then hang outside somewhere, for days if needed.

          11. jatman | | #24

            OK, I'll try that, too!  Thank you!


          12. sosewnem | | #25

            The vinegar smell will wash out.  I suspect the cigarette smoke may never come out since you're having so much trouble getting it out now.  Perfume may cover up the smell for a time, but be careful as the chemicals in perfume can affect you in ways you may not be aware of at the time, especially since you planned to saturate it.  ourlittleplace.com/perfume.html

            My mother used to be given clothes by my Aunt & Uncle who thought they were passing on perfectly good clothes.  They were both chain smokers and the clothes reeked terribly.  My mother was a pack rat of the worst sort - pathways through a room.  In helping to clean out her home a few years ago so she could move to a 3 room apartment, we came across a paper bag - that still reeked after about 30 years!  It was buried at the bottom of one of the piles of "stuff". 

            I admire your tenacity in trying the various suggestions to get the smell out. 

            If you are unable to get the smell out, I vote with the others - that it will make a great pattern!  Best of luck to you with all this!

        2. User avater
          Becky-book | | #8

          There is one more product to try - Fabreze - not the room spray type, but the laundry additive, comes in a dark blue bottle.  It gets the campfire smell out of my Scout's stuff when they get back from an 'overnight'.  Also great for smelly socks!


          1. jatman | | #12

            Thank you for that suggestion.  I'll have to see if I can find it where I live!


    2. jatman | | #3

      Thank you for the suggestion of white vinegar.  I've heard that suggested for a few things but I've never tried it.  Will this make it smell like vinegar?  The fabric must sort of grab onto a smell and not release it.  Can't say that I'm particularly fond of synthetic fabrics but this top was really cute and the fabric had a nice feel to it.  Anyway, I'll try the vinegar.  Thank you.


  2. flossie | | #6

    I work for a company that does restoration work after fire and water damage. We have a specialised "ozone" room to deodorise large quantities of items but if we have only a few items to to treat they are washed and put out in the sun to dry. Works just fine!

    Pauline (Melbourne, Australia)

    1. MaryinColorado | | #7

      Try soaking in baking soda, it works for fridgerators too.   There is also a product for smelly sneakers that should work, I cannot remember the name of it, sorry. 

      1. jatman | | #11

        I have not yet tried baking soda.  I'll have to give that a try as well.  Right now I have dryer sheets stuffed into it but that doesn't seem to be taking the smoke smell away - just adding another scent to it.  Thank you for the suggestion!


    2. jatman | | #10

      Good to know!  One more vote for sunshine!  Thank you!



  3. cree9 | | #21

    Hi there - two suggestions have you thought of using Nilodor (we had a product with this name and one drop did the trick) - there has to be some product like that meant for killing smell in sickrooms and the like - and second thought is chlorine bleach I often use small amounts in washer with dark clothes and it tends to freshen them and doesn't seem to bleach colors out - also for those who are trying for whites - have you tried using dishwasher detergent? I unfortunately heard this from nurse's aide when white was mandatory and thought why not try it on colors? I have some interesting t-shirts that were once solid colors but now have tie died effect in monochrome - I just went ahead and never tested so I have no clue if this would work with less dishwasher detergent or some other way of checking or if one just doesn't do that at all. Good luck!!!

    1. jatman | | #23

      Hi Cree9!  Where would I get something like Nilodor?  I've never seen it.  And I haven't tried bleach either.  It's a real pale cream color so even if it does fade it should be ok.  Thank you for the suggestions!


      1. cree9 | | #26

        jatman - last time I saw this product (nilodor) it was in a store that dealt with medical supplies for the home - we used it for all kinds of things from getting skunk smell off dogs, killing odd smells almost anywhere, adding to wash water in basin, I don't think I ever used any in washing machine but it would take more than a drop I think. It was very powerful and as it worked it probably isn't available any more. But there might be something those in the know would recommend as a replacement.

        1. jatman | | #28

          I will keep searching!  Thank you!


  4. mrosem2 | | #27

    I'm not at home right now so can't check the brands, but there are two products for removing all odors from fabric that are stocked in the sporting goods section of many department stores.  These liquid detergents are used by serious game hunters to take any human-caused odor out of their hunting clothes.  They don't leave a "dirt" smell like a few other hunting detergents, or a stinking perfumed smell... you just get nice, fresh, clean clothing.  Febreeze (and others like it) is worse than the next bad odor as far as I'm concerned!  

    But anyway, neither of these products is especially cheap... a bottle about 10-11 inches tall by maybe 3 inches in diameter costs between $9 and $12... but it is worth the price.  One is as good as the other... it just depends on my wallet which brand I buy when needed.  Both absolutely work.  If they didn't, I'd be out of (my 3-year) business. If I can make myself remember to check when I get home tomorrow evening I'll come back and post the brand names if anyone is interested. 


    1. jatman | | #29

      I would love to know the name of either product!  Thank you!


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