Home Remedies for Getting Smells Out of Clothes

Updated February 21, 2017

If you've ever been in a smoke-filled bar, you know how odour frequently lingers in clothing. You must remove unpleasant smells of cigarette smoke, food or gasoline from a favourite shirt, jacket or pair of trousers before wearing again. While washing clothing in a traditional washing machine will help you eliminate some odours, several home remedies assist with the task.

Baby Oil

If you have a smelly oil-based substance such as gasoline in your clothes, adding a washable oil before washing it normally will help remove the scent. Add baby oil to the water in the washing machine and let the clothing soak for several minutes before adding your regular detergent. The baby oil should remove the gas or oil smell. To avoid risk of fire, run the washer a second time for a normal wash cycle before placing in dryer, or hang up the clothes to dry. Never place gasoline-contaminated clothing in the dryer because even a small amount of fumes could start a fire inside the dryer.


White vinegar is a strong deodoriser and the vinegar scent dissipates in minutes. Small odours or localised stains can be sprayed with a mixture of water and white vinegar and that should remove the scent of the offending smell. A 25 per cent mixture of vinegar to water is effective in most circumstances, but a larger amount can be used for stronger odours. If a severe odour is not going away, pour a cup of white vinegar in with the detergent and wash the clothing separately from other garments.

Clothes Dryer

If your clothes have a faint odour of food or another substance but otherwise do not need to be washed, place them in the dryer with a dryer sheet. The dryer sheet will help your clothing smell fresher, and the combination of the heat and the dryer sheet will eliminate many mild odours. Five or 10 minutes in the dryer should get rid of most unwanted scents that are mild. Do not use this method if the clothes have a gas or oil smell to them because those substances are flammable.

Ventiliation and Sunlight

Airing out clothing in the sun is an efficient way of removing many strong odours such as smoke from a jacket. Airflow helps the odours out of the fabric naturally while direct sunlight kills mould and mildew. The sun also has bleaching power so the combination of ventilation and sunlight helps to lessen or eliminate even the strongest odours within a few hours.

Baking Soda

Two cups of baking soda added to your usual washing powder assists in removing nearly any type of odour from most washable fabrics. Baking soda should not damage clothing or affect the colour, so it is a useful deodoriser that is safe under most circumstances. It is also cheap, easy to get and non-toxic.

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About the Author

Michael Davidson started writing screenplays in 2003 and has had a screenplay professionally produced. He has also studied martial arts since 1990 and has worked as a licensed security specialist. Davidson has written articles for various websites. He is a graduate of Michigan State University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in advertising.