Tutorial: How to Remove the Smell of Smoke from Fabric

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tutorial: How to Remove the Smell of Smoke from Fabric - In Color Order
Something New, originally uploaded by jenib320.
A few months ago I purchased some fabric online and when it arrived, it reeked of smoke. I cannot stand the smell of smoke, so I knew I needed to find a way to fix it asap! It took me a while to find the perfect ingredient to remove the smell, so I thought I'd share my process here!

I tried warm soapy water, detergent, Oxyclean, ammonia (this stuff smells awful itself!). Nothing helped. Until I tried vinegar!

Tutorial: How to Remove the Smell of Smoke from Fabric - In Color Order
Yum Fabrics, originally uploaded by jenib320.
It doesn't take much, or anything fancy! Depending on the amount of fabric you have it may take a lot of vinegar, but that's okay, because it's cheap! This method can also be used to help set colors in fabric and prevent running.

Bowl or container big enough to hold your fabric
Hot water
White vinegar

*Your vinegar/water ratio should be around 1 part vinegar for every 3 parts water.

1. Unfold your fabrics, you want them to be completely drenched in the bath.

2. Fill your container with hot water with enough water to cover your fabric.

3. Add your vinegar.

4. Add your fabric.

5. Let the fabric soak for an hour and then check it. If it still smells pretty strongly, add more vinegar and let it continue to soak.

6. When the fabric no longer smells of smoke, wash it as you usually would!

As an added bonus, your fabric will be smell-free and really soft! Vinegar is a natural fabric softener.

Disclaimer: These recommendations are based on my personal experience. If you're nervous about potentially damaging your fabric, please test a small swatch before continuing. I have never experienced any issues with this method.


  1. Thanks for sharing! I traded for some fabric and it is a bit stinky . . . I almost threw it out!

  2. Geez I wonder if that would work on the Liberty I got from ebay which smells like old lady perfume!

  3. I often will use white vinegar instead of fabric softener when machine-washing fabrics that smell musty or smoky. Works every time!

  4. Vinegar is the wonder cleaner for sure. I use it for everything. Who'd a thought that something so cheap would have SO many purposes!? Thanks for sharing your tip...I've used vinegar on general laundry washes but didn't think about the fact that it would remove the scent of smoke! Great idea! :-) And, so glad that you were able to save your fabric from that awful stinch...

  5. vinegar is the wonder ingredient! i use it in ALL of my cleaning. If I have something extra stinky (think re-usable puppy pads), i use vinegar!

    Oh, and i hate it when you buy something and it smells like smoke. Yuck. that's rude too.

  6. Great idea! I don't like smoke smell in anything either.
    Sincerely ~ Tricia

  7. I always use 1/4-1/2 cup vinegar in my rinse cycle - it takes all the soap residue out and it eliminates static cling; so no need for fabric sheets! Great for baby clothes with your clothes.
    The one thing I can't seem to get out is moth ball smell - suggestions anyone?!

  8. my house burned last week and I am rescuing my fabric and vintage sheets by washing in vinegar, oxyclean and arm and hammer detergent. They are all coming out great and it is even removing the soot. Sometimes on the light colored ones I am having to wash twice. But most are coming out fine with just one washing. I am not presoaking at all.

    I have been able to remove smoke from polyester and nylon fabrics with a degreaser/cleaner called the Awesome Cleaner I got at the Dollar Store. I am just adding a bit to the sink, diluting it and soaking.

  9. White vinegar also works great for cleaning your iron plate if you happen to have a boo boo with any type of adhesives such as steam a seam, interfacing etc.


  10. ik gebruik deze tip/advies ook altijd voor mijn klanten als hun quilt klaar is en ze vragen hoe moet ik de quilt wassen? dan voeg ik er nog aan toe :neem ook een kop keukenzout + 2 flessen azijn in de wasmachine of met de hand . het werkt altijd het is goed en ook goedkoop ik wens u nog een fijne dag. lenie

  11. I'm going to try this with "musty attic smell" too. I'll update how it turns out.

    jmwhit (at) gmail

  12. White vinegar plus baking soda in each wash load will remove all sorts of odors. It'll bubble up at first, but that's OK. Cheap/generic store brands of each work just as well as the name brands.

    I've even soaked new self-healing cutting mats (for sewing) in the tub with that mixture to remove the plastic odor.

  13. I had a fire in my quilt studio caused by an Ott Lite falling over, turned it on, burned the carpet. $40,000 later (rebuilding the room, tools, fabrics etc. The insurance company would not give me anything for the quilts except the supplies. I found that taking everything to the laundro mat and washed each batch twice, the smell was removed. I found that washing all my surviving fabric over again helped me de-stash. I got did get a fair reimbursement on my burned yardage - I had to convince them that I did not have a "business." Lesson learned - unplug the light.

  14. Brilliant! I was given a lot of fabric from my nan and she's a big time smoker; I hate it! I washed the fabric a bunch of times with all the big name fabric detergents and Clorox 2 and dried them in the sun to get. That nice fresh air smell and they still stink! I gave up and threw them in my closet but now I'll try this! Thank you for saving beautiful memories :)

  15. As a smoker I rarely can join in swaps because of the noxious stench from this habit. I never thought to try vinegar in my wash and will be so glad to know this as now any swaps that allow for prewashed fabric or items I can join with the comfort of not having sent the "STINKY" stuff!

  16. This method can also be used to help set colors in fabric and prevent running. Rocky Mountain Air

  17. After Hurricane Andrew we were told about this NIFTY idea to help get the mildew and stale water smells out of our clothes & linens.
    Worked GREAT and I've been sharing this for years.

  18. I used 1 cup vinegar my regular laundry soap in an extra rinse. Then when drying used 3 bounce sheets. My fabric was horrible was in a smokers home for over 4 years...

  19. Have you ever tried this with a completed quilt? I was given two beautiful, handmade twin size quilts but I cannot get the smoker smell to “air out”.

    1. I haven't soaked a finished quilt in a vinegar solution specifically for removing smoke smell, but I did soak one once to remove some stains and it worked well. You could try adding some vinegar to a long cycle in a washing machine first, before committing to soaking!

    2. Thank you! I’ll try the wash before a soak! :)


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