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.
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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 odor 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 two to three 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!
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.
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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.
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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!