Your Home Outdoors

How to Get That Smoke Smell Out of the House

Bring the outdoors back out with these tips for all-around odor-elimination.

January 28, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

Now that all of our social activities tend to happen outdoors—and now that the outdoors is not nearly as hospitable a place as it was a few months ago—it’s likely that backyard fire pits are all the rage again. Maybe your extended family is huddling around for s’mores, distanced six feet apart, calling for quite a substantial fire to warm the divide. It could be that you’re just grilling on the deck, shuffling back and forth into the house with steaks for a Friday dinner. Or perhaps you’re a serious outdoors-person and you’re braving the winter elements—in which case, a crackling fire is most definitely necessary.

The origins notwithstanding, smoke smell is one of the most notoriously clingy scents, latching onto clothes, hair, blankets, furniture, and anything that comes within a 10-foot radius of it. It can be tough to banish, too, often lingering well past the last s’more is scarfed down and steak digested. To remedy that, here are some tips (straight from the experts) that will be sure to get even the most stubborn smoke odor out of winter sweaters and summer patio furniture alike.

How to Remove Smoke Odor From Clothes

After a camping trip or bonfire, your clothes might have the unpleasant lingering odor of smoke. The following are a few ways to send that smell packing and leave your outfits smelling as good as new.

The Sunshine Strategy

The first deodorizing method you may want to try is to simply leave the garments out in the sun. It’s the longest-lead of all the below methods, but it also requires little to no effort. If you have a clothesline, simply hang your clothes out on a nice day—the combo of the sun’s ultraviolet rays and fresh air can work wonders on light odors.

No clothesline? No problem. Just drape clothes over a chair in a sunny spot. How long to leave them out depends on how much ocor trapped itself in the fabric, but doing a sniff check every 24 hours or so to check their progress. This method shouldn’t take more than 2-3 days.

Bring in the Baking Soda

Among all its manifold benefits (tub-scrubber extraordinaire, stainless steel warrior, fridge-deodorizer), baking soda is also known to be a potent deodorizer, and it can help remove the smell of smoke from clothes.

There are two strategies you can try: First, place your clothes in a plastic garbage bag with 1/2 cup of baking soda—you might want to bump it up to 1 cup if you have more than a few garments. Tie the bag shut, shake it up, and let it sit overnight. Laundry Care recommends tumbling the clothes on low or no heat for an extra odor-fighting boost.

The other option is to simply wash stinky clothes with baking soda. Groomed Home explains you can put a few tablespoons of baking soda into your washing machine’s fabric softener tray to remove odors from laundry. However, this method shouldn’t be used on wool or silk.

The Mouthwash Method

In our research, another tip that kept surfacing uses an unconventional ingredient to remove smoke odors. Apparently, mixing two cups of Scope mouthwash into each load of laundry will effectively remove smoke smells.

It sounds weird, but one commenter on ThriftyFun says this tip was actually recommended by the Red Cross after a house fire and worked wonders for them!

How to Remove Smoke Smell From Other Fabrics

OK, but what about the smoky items that aren’t so easy to launder? We’d recommend starting with the sunshine or baking soda strategies outlined above, but if that doesn’t work, here are a few more ways to get the stink out of things like cushions, tents, and other fabrics.

The Vinegar Wipe Down

Ah, vinegar. Quite like baking soda, it’s a natural cleaning powerhouse, adept at revealing streak-free glass, and when combined with baking soda, bubbles off grime and crud wherever it lands. Of course, it’s also another natural odor remover. You can clean camping equipment and cut through the smell of smoke by mixing one part white vinegar with one part warm water. Do a spot test on the fabric to ensure the vinegar doesn’t cause discoloration, then use the mixture to wipe down tents and other smelly equipment.

Get Help From Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are surprisingly effective at absorbing unwanted odors—my family always used them to treat carpets when our pets had accidents—and they’re especially helpful for deodorizing smelly tents!

Simply set your tent up in the yard on a nice day, then put a few generous bowls of coffee grounds inside. If you have sleeping bags, cushions, or fabric chairs that smell, put those inside the tent too! Let everything sit for a few days, and the ground coffee will help remove those gross odors.

How to Remove Smoke Stink From Furniture

Sure, it’s nice to have a chair sidled up to the grill to pause flipping and pop a squat, but at what cost? If your patio furniture tends to hold onto the faint smell of smoke from being too close to the grill, they might need a cleaning. While most metal or hard wood furniture won’t get too smelly, fabric or soft wood items may develop odors over time.

You can try the odor-removal methods recommended above on your furniture, or take one of the following strategies for a spin.

Pour Out Some Vodka

Cheers! Refinishing Furniture explains that wiping down furniture with vodka can help get odors out. Just pour a little onto a washcloth, then wipe it over the affected area. Alternatively, you can put the alcohol into a spray bottle and spritz it over your furniture.

Refinish Your Furniture

If you’ve been itching to give your patio a little makeover, now’s your chance! For wooden furniture, a quick sanding and a new coat of paint or finish will seal any odors in—plus, it will give your outdoor area an instant facelift.

How to Get the Smoke Smell Out of Your Hair

Your hair can definitely get a little smelly if you’re hanging out by the grill or a bonfire for too long, which is why dry shampoo is a must on any outdoor excursion. Most dry shampoos have an odor-fighting aspect that’s perfect for weekend getaways—or the day after a cookout when you don’t want to wash your hair.

Alternatively, Loxa Beauty recommends running a dryer sheet over your hair to eliminate odors and tame flyaways—two birds with one sheet!

What are your most effective ways for removing smoke smell from everything? Let us know below!

This article has been updated with more odor-removing tips in January 2021.

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1 Comment

caroline G. May 29, 2018
So we chargrilled oysters on our back patio and the door was left open and needless to say my house had turned into a bar pre-cigarette ban, if you know what I mean! The only thing that cleared the smell besides opening windows for cross ventilation for a few hours was cups of pure white vinegar placed around the house. Left them for 3 days to be safe, but after 24 hours the smell was gone!