How do you get cigarette smoke smell out of clothes?

February 23 2015 | offbeatbride
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How do you get cigarette smoke smell out of clothes?
By mendhak – CC BY 2.0
I live with two smokers, but I don't smoke myself. Our laundy facilities are in our garage, which also happens to be where the smokers do a lot of their smoking during the winter months.

Though I try to get my clothes out of the dryer and up into the rest of the house (away from the smoke) in a timely manner, my clothes still end up smelling like smoke.

Other than forcing them to quit or go outside to smoke, what are some good ways to get the smoke smell out of clothes without re-washing them? Bonus points for the solution being scent free as I work in healthcare and powerful scents (including smoke) can trigger allergies, asthma etc. Thanks!
-Amy

I did a quick search from a possible product on Amazon, and found this review for Odorzout that might answer your question:

I buy clothes from eBay… I've saved many garments from unwearable smoker smells this way, and cigarette reek is seriously hard to remove. I'm allergic to tobacco, so ebay clothes from a smoker would be total garbage without Odorzout.

Odorzout is a sort of mineral. It comes out of the canister as a finely ground white powder with a texture more like Ajax or Comet than like flour or sugar. It isn't messy and doesn't leave any residue. It doesn't have any undesirable after effects that I have noticed, except, that, if you use it as liberally as I've suggested, you'll also want to run it through a drier on fluff cycle until powder stops sifting out of it.

Important: If something has a really, really hard to remove odor, like clothes that previously belonged to a smoker, then soak it. The instructions say to add a few tablespoons to the washer, but that doesn't usually cut it. I dampened the garment, put it in a plastic wash tub, sprinkled it liberally with Odorzout, and rubbed the powder in. Then I added just enough water to submerge the garment, and let it soak overnight. For one severely smoked shirt, I did this twice. Rinse thoroughly, then wash to be sure the powder is removed.

Who else has suggestions for ways to get smoke smell out of your clothes, without making your clothes smell like anything else?

  1. It's not really a way to get the smell out of clothing that already smells like smoke, but to solve the problem for future laundry: Buy a good air purifier with a HEPA filter and use it right by the washer/dryer (If you can get your roommates to turn it on while they smoke would be great, but at the very least, run it while you're doing laundry). I found one at 50% off for around $45 and it helped tremendously when I lived with a house full of smokers!

    Beyond that, the reason people keep baking soda in their fridge is to absorb odors; Having an open container of it in your closet might be helpful (but I've never tried it and would guess it won't beat preventing the smell in the first place).

    8 agree
  2. Since it sounds like everyone's laundry has to be done down there, I don't think it would be rude to ask the smokers to smoke elsewhere. Or at least turn on an air purifier while they smoke, as P suggested. I would be very upset if my freshly laundered clothes smell like smoke when I don't even smoke! I know you asked for suggestions other than asking them to move outside, but I think since they are inconveniencing others with their habit, I think they should have to smoke outside. Again, this is especially the case when there are non-smokers in the building suffering from it.

    24 agree
  3. Not an ideal solution, but if there's a smoke-free laundromat nearby, maybe you could use that. If they're smoking where the laundry machines are, there's no way that smell isn't going to be on all the clothes. You could also start buying unscented Febreeze in bulk.
    I'm one of those sensitive asthmatics that can't stand smoke or fragrances. Some of the clothes I've gotten second hand I've had to wash and Febreeze twice in my very smoke-free home before I didn't smell smoke on them anymore.

    1 agrees
    • If she works in a scent-free environment, going to the laundromat won't work. Laundromats REEK of scented laundry detergent and softener, so instead of smelling like smoke, her clothes will smell of scented detergent.

  4. I haven't tried this myself, but I've heard vodka diluted in water can help to get smells out of clothes – I know a lot of people do this with more delicate vintage clothes that can't be traditionally laundered or dry cleaned.

    4 agree
    • YES! Vodka is a costume designer's trick for keeping costumes smelling fresh even when they get worn 8x week without washing. Put some in a spray bottle and spray your clothes before letting the alcohol evaporate away. Do let them air out after, or else you smell like booze . . .

      5 agree
    • My first real job was working for a theater as the on-site wardrobe person to assist visiting shows with their costumes. The Russian ballet introduced me to the vodka in a spray bottle trick. They did NOT dilute the vodka (I saw their wardrobe person pouring a bottle directly into the spray bottle). Trust me when I say that if vodka works to deodorize the smells that a performer in a heavy costume under stage lights puts off, it will work on just about anything. Bonus, it doesn't leave an odor behind once it dries like febreeze or other commercial sprays (aka, you won't smell like an alcoholic).

      4 agree
    • This absolutely works! I don't actually dilute the vodka, just dump a big bottle of the cheap stuff into a spray bottle and spritz it directly on the fabric in question. My friend has used it to get cigarette smell out of fabric, and I've used it to get BO smell, mustiness, and cat urine smell out of many fabrics. It works better than any commercial product I've ever used. And as a bonus, it evaporates relatively quickly, and leaves no residual odor (the alcohol smell goes away as it dries). For really tough odors, you can spray pretty liberally onto the fabric, let it sit for a few minutes, and then wash as usual.

      1 agrees
  5. I've also heard of the vodka trick (just read about it this weekend, actually) but what works for me with smells are two things:

    I keep two spray bottles on hand. One is a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water. I use it for cleaning, and if you mist it lightly on things and let it dry, it deodorizes.

    The other is a baking soda mixture. Dissolve about two tablespoons of baking soda in your spray bottle with really hot water. Once it cools you are good to go. I use this like febreze – mostly for the couch defunking, BUT back when I lived with the Evil Ex who would marinate my car with smoke, this would get the smell almost completely out, and then if I used the vinegar spray with it, it was golden. One caveat with the baking soda spray is that if you spray it on a non-fabric surface, you will then have to wipe little baking soda spray flecks up later.

    1 agrees
  6. My husband smokes and I'm allergic to cigarettes. When we first moved in together I hated having the closet smell like stale cigarettes. I had some cleaner I bought to deal with a cat that was marking and saw I could use it in laundry. I've been using it ever since. Nature's miracle oxygen formula (the orange one for cats)
    The instructions say to saturate then wash, but I've always just splashed it in without measuring (maybe 1/4 cup? for a full load). I've used it with liquid detergent and homemade powder detergent, and with an old ineffective washer and a brand new steam washer with no problems. Plus it is great to have around for cleaning out litterboxes, etc.
    I'd also recommend talking to them about smoking near the laundry, like maybe not smoking in the garage for those two hours or so when you're doing laundry. It is their choice to smell like cigarettes, not yours!

    4 agree
  7. And as an ex-smoker, keep in mind that they *do not* realise how much they smell!

    I honestly thought that people were exaggerating to encourage me to stop and that I could easily hide when I'd been smoking. Nope! Nip out for a quick smoking break and you REEK!

    14 agree
  8. Filter the air that comes into the dryer.
    The air intake is generally on the back of the machine and it looks like a series of vents. Tape an air filter down over it. If a good anti-allergen filter is out of your price range, a cheap alternative is to just fix a dryer sheet over the intake. This may affect the performance of the machine somewhat and you'll want to check the filter often to see if it's gotten dirty.

    3 agree
    • Before you do this, make sure to clean the dryer itself! You can use your favorite cleaning spray on the inside tumbler. For all the exterior parts, vacuum all the dust down, and sweep under the machine. You should also clean the lint trap with hot water + vinegar. This will eliminate the smoke residue before you start pumping freshly filtered air into it.
      While you're at it, wash down the washing machine too. If you're renting, that bad boy probably needs cleaned anyway. There are commercial washing machine cleaners on the market, but you can also run a whites cycle with bleach with hot water. Don't forget to wipe down the inside of the lid, too.

      3 agree
  9. What about getting a hard plastic bin with a lid to use in place of a laundry basket? That way you could kind of contain your clothes from the smoky air? I also lived with several people who were all smokers, including myself, and we all smoked in the garage. One roommate had a kid who visited on weekends, though, so we had a kind of partition near the end of the garage dedicated for that purpose. We also kept a fan there to circulate the air. It wasn't 100% scent-free, but the area definitely didn't have that stale smoke smell you find in a lot of homes.

  10. I have never tried it for cig smoke but some vinegar and water mist may do the trick.. the vinegar smell goes away after it dries.. cheaper than vodka..wouldnt hurt to try it

  11. I know you said you didn't want to ask, but this isn't just about the smell of smoke, but your health (third hand smoke is a thing). I don't care how cold it is, they can take it outside!

    10 agree
  12. Sounds like a lot of great advice for deodorizing, but I agree with the suggestion of asking them to take it outside. I just had to do that a couple weeks ago with my pot smoking roommate. Our laundry isn't in the garage but I was starting to smell pot when I ran my car heater. I say communal space should be smoke free if not everyone is a smoker. Just be polite about and non-aggressive.

    6 agree
    • I have to agree with this. While there are plenty of things you can do to wash the smell of smoke out of clothes, it's just not fair to have your fresh, clean clothes re-scented before they even make it out of the dryer. Smokers should do their smoking outside when in a communal living space. Asking your roommates to do this is not an unreasonable request, and I'm willing to bet that they'll see it that way too.

      5 agree
  13. As a fellow healthcare worker, I'd advocate for removing the source of smoke instead of trying to get it out of your clothes. (Smokers smoke outside.) No matter what odor-disguising solution you find, nothing is going to remove the actual contaminants from your clean, dried clothes. This means that those chemicals off gassing, and particulates, are still going to puff off your clothing and fall onto patients. As an asthmatic, I've definitely tried to get smoke smell out of things (and currently share a row house wall with smokers) and it just doesn't address the health effects to diminish or remove the odor. Good luck! <3

    6 agree
  14. Check out Pure Ayre. Yes, it is a cat pee cleaner, but it works great for smoke odors as well. When a friend of mine quit smoking, she sprayed it on all of her clothes to get the smell out. It's natural, biodegradable, and no harmful chemicals or artificial fragrances so should be okay for your workplace (they do use peppermint oil, but the scent fades almost immediately), plus it's food grade so you can use it as mouth wash in a pinch. You can get it on Amazon, or try a local pet store or natural market.

    As a side note, whatever method you try, I would definitely do a test spot in an inconspicuous place on more delicate fabrics or favorite clothing items.

    1 agrees
  15. I make our detergent at home and one of the ingredients is washing soda. It also has borax, Fels-Naptha laundry soap and Oxyclean. Is something is stinky, I add 1 cup of white vinegar to the load at the beginning. Takes out all kinds of reek, from cat urine to cigarette smoke. But I think it's reasonable to renegotiate your roomier smoking area. I work in health care too and have made hubby's spot on our deck a really nice area. My residents can't stand the smoky smell!

  16. I got some hand me down clothes that reeked of smoke a couple years ago and I tried so many things. What finally worked was sunlight. Seriously. I laundered the clothes and hung them outside on a hot and bright day to dry. Nearly no smell left.

  17. I wouldn't be willing to tolerate my clothes smelling like smoke. I visit my dad and stepmom, who smoke. I wash the clothes in hot to get them to not smell after just a few hours. I've thought about keeping another set of clothes in my car, so that I could change afterward, because then my car wouldn't stink for a couple days afterward.

    I once lived with a smoker after I moved out of my dad's house. They had to smoke outside. Away from common areas and entrances.

    I feel like health should be a priority, and if that makes the smokers unhappy, so be it. They have options, it is their choice to smoke. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I have way too much cancer in my family. I'm not willing to up my chances.

    • sounds similar to me, when i visit my father all it takes is 30 mins of being inside that house, and im literally reeking of it, regardless if hes blazed up or not. the min ONE cig is lighted its all over, i need to go home and completely strip right there and then everything in the wash, and a 15 mins shower.

      The horrible part im having to live there for 4 weeks, for reasons completely outwith my control, and i fell like in a daily battle, just not to stink of death, NOTHING regarding clothing is easy or simple, i have to put my clothing inside plastic bags which then go in a hold all, before using them, jeans jackets need to be a sprayed daily to keep them from being smoke sponges. constantly feeling like i wanna throw up and my eyes burn like hell when he lights up.

      Smoking is the most repulsive and disgusting thing ive ever encountered. its like meeting someone who eats s**t for kicks.

  18. I agree with previous smokers that they should take it outside. That said, if you head to a hunting store they sell products that are made to spray on clothes to kill odour, such as 'scent killer'. I haven't tried it on cigarette smoke, but I'd imagine it would work.

  19. 1. Encourage them to use an air purifier or at the very least, an essential oil burner/diffuser while they smoke. (Bergamot, lemon, eucalyptus, and rosemary gets rid of odor.) I'm an asthmatic myself but this helps me cope with smoke and odors. Once you switch off the diffuser, the scent doesn'tlinger. I use pure essential oils.
    2. Ask them to vape instead. Lol

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