Sitting around a campfire instantly transports you into a state of nostalgia…
The unique aroma, the dancing flames, the tangible warmth, and that guy who only knows one song on the guitar.
Yet, after time passes, the smell of the smoky, wood-burning fire lingers. I love the scent of a campfire as much as the next person, but only when it’s fresh.
When the fumes latch on to you for more than a day, it can lead to a nice headache. That’s why I have compiled a few tips and tricks on how to get smoke smell out of clothes.
How to Get Fire Smoke Smell Out of Clothes at Home
If you don’t mind a little flame-broiled perfume for a few days at the campsite, you could wait until you are home before you fumigate your clothes.
HOT, HOT, HOT Water
The hotter the wash, the better the clean.
Using the appropriate laundry detergent, put your smelly clothes in the washer on the hottest setting. Make sure to check the tags first, as not all fabrics can withstand high temperatures.
Compared to cooler water, the hot wash will cause fabric fibers to expand. Allowing more access for the detergent molecules to attack the pesky smoke residue.
A Little Bit o’ Vinegar
In addition to cleaning your clothes with hot water, try adding a cup of white vinegar to the washing machine.
The acetic acid in vinegar works to break down unwanted odors that the detergent may not reach.
Add In Baking Soda
My favorite multi-use cleaning product, baking soda, is a great way to remove the smoky aroma that has journeyed home with you.
Add one-half to one cup of baking soda to the wash after the cycle has started to ensure thorough mixing.
The baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) works as an odor fighter like vinegar but can be easier to handle since it comes in powdered form.
Use an Enzyme Cleaner
Finally, when all the other methods fail, it’s time to call in the big dogs.
Unlike common cleaning products, enzyme cleaners use good bacteria to remove campfire smells. It is also great at removing mold and mildew.
Remember, every product has a different application, so read the directions.
One of the more popular products on the market is Gear Aid (formerly McNett Mirazyme) Odor Eliminator.
Bio-enzymatic cleaners are great to rid your tent and gear of all outdoor odors. Read more about this method here, in our previous article about cleaning your tent.
How to Get Rid of Campfire Smell Without Washing
If you are light-headed and fed up with the scent of the campfire, you don’t have to wait until you get home to deodorize your clothes.
Here are a few ways to get the fire smoke smell out of your clothes without washing while you are still at the campsite…
Alcohol and Liquor
That’s the spirit! What would a campfire party be without a little “juice”?
Andrew is a whiskey man, but luckily I don’t mind a cocktail from time to time. So if you want to rid a smoky scent, you’ll have to use vodka.
Heat up some warm water in the campfire, and mix in the hooch at a 1:4 vodka/water ratio.
Then soak and rinse your clothes, or spray the mixture with a spray bottle if available.
The alcohol itself works to loosen the strong bonds of campfire chemicals that adhere to the cloth fabric, while the water rinses them away.
Sure, you may smell like you just got back from the club, but the potent odor should go away once the booze evaporates.
Don’t Miss: Check out the rest of our camping hacks for beginners…
When life gives you lemons, use them to get campfire smoke out of clothes.
The citric acid in the lemons helps to neutralize the bad odors. This happens when the lemons react with the smoke chemicals to form non-odorous compounds.
This is why so many household cleaners contain a lemon or orange scent.
Science is cool, right?
For the actual application, if you have whole lemons, cut a few of them and squeeze the juices into an airtight bag.
Add the rinds, some water, and your smoky clothes, then seal the bag for a few hours for maximal deodorization.
If you have lemon juice available, follow the liquor method noted above.
If you don’t have either one of these products available on the campsite, you’re not out of luck.
While it’s not the most effective method to rid your clothes of campfire smell… you can wash them with warm clean water and hang them to dry in the sun (preferable in a breezy area).
The chemical compounds that bind to the fabrics may degrade in the UV light and loose tiny molecules will blow away in the wind.
BONUS: How to Get Campfire Smell Out of Your Hair
Clothes aren’t the only thing that is tainted by smoky odors.
Luckily, I’m not going to leave you hanging when it comes to your fumigating your luscious locks.
Sure, you can try the previously mentioned methods, but I don’t think anyone wants to put bio-enzymatic cleaner on their scalp.
Dryer Sheets Aren’t Just for Clothes
Not only do dryer sheets help to rid clothes of static electricity, but they also are a great deodorizer.
The chemicals in the sheet react with the campfire residue to both neutralize and mask the smell.
Now, before you start rubbing dryer sheets all over your head, there is an easier method.
Wipe down your comb or brush with one sheet and run it through your hair.
Many wellness experts claim that there are toxic chemicals in dryer sheets, but fact-checking experts at Snopes have debunked this myth.
Still, take caution if you intend to use this method.
Why Does Campfire Smell Stick to Clothes?
As annoying as it is to have your clothes retain the smell of your camp fire there is a reason it happens. I am no scientist so bear with me as I explain why the fire smoke sticks to your clothes in the first place…
The combustion reaction is created by combining organic fuel – wood, oxygen and heat. The reaction then forms carbon dioxide and water vapor.
Firewood not only contains long-chain organic molecules like cellulose, but also aldehydes – like what they use to embalm bodies, nitrogen, trace amounts of heavy metals, and even mold spores.
When the wood burns, not all of these chemicals completely breakdown into smaller molecules like carbon dioxide and water, which is why you are physically able to see smoke.
When the fumes settle on your clothing, they contain a mixture of volatile organic compounds – VOCs – like aldehydes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and mold.
Which results in smelly clothes and hair.
Some of that sounds scary and gross I know. But in small doses, the components of the musty aroma are non-carcinogenic, so don’t worry.
Yet if you are constantly breathing in campfire smoke, then you may be at risk!
Wrapping It Up…
Campfires can evoke positive emotions about the past, but after a while, the smoky odor can take a toll.
You can either improve the aroma while you’re at the campsite with some homemade methods or wait until you get home before giving your clothes a thorough wash.
On top of that, you can fumigate your hair with some unusual but effective techniques.
Now that you have learned the basics to rid yourself of that stale, smoky scent, head back over to the campfire and roast some marshmallows.