How to Get Campfire Smell Out of Clothes

There’s nothing quite like the aroma of a crackling campfire, with its smoky, woodsy scent wafting through the cool evening air. But while that smell is welcome outdoors, it can be a nuisance when it clings stubbornly to your clothes after you’ve returned home. Campfire odours are notoriously difficult to remove, and standard laundering often falls short. If your garments have taken on that unmistakable “eau de bonfire,” don’t despair – we’ve got some tried-and-true tips to help you get the campfire smell out of clothes for good.

Get Campfire Smell Out of Clothes

The Science Behind Smelly Smoke

Before we dive into odour-elimination strategies, it helps to understand what you’re up against. The persistent campfire stench isn’t just surface grime; it’s the result of microscopic smoke particles penetrating the fibres of your clothing. When wood burns, it releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like creosote, guaiacol, and syringol. These molecules cling tenaciously to porous materials like cotton, wool, and synthetic fabrics. To make matters worse, proteins in smoke can cause stubborn yellowing on light-coloured garments.

Act Quickly for the Best Results

The sooner you can treat smoke-saturated clothing, the better your chances of removing unwanted aromas. While it’s still fresh, the smoky smell will be more concentrated on the surface of the fabric, making it easier to dislodge. If you let smoke-infused clothes sit for too long, the odour molecules will penetrate deeper, becoming more deeply set. Always wear smoky clothes as soon as possible after your campfire adventure.

Assess Fabric Care Requirements

Before attempting any odour removal methods, carefully check the care labels on your smoke-infused clothing. Abrasive treatments like vigorous scrubbing or bleaching could potentially damage delicate fabrics. When in doubt, take smelly items to a professional dry cleaner and explain the situation. They have specialized solvents and techniques to handle tough odour cases.

Tried-and-True Home Remedies

If your smoky clothes can withstand do-it-yourself treatments, there are several home remedies worth trying:

Baking Soda

This pantry staple is renowned for its odor-absorbing abilities. Add 1/2 cup to your washing machine’s detergent dispenser, along with your usual laundry detergent. The baking soda will help neutralize and lift smoke odours.


The acetic acid in white vinegar is a natural deodorizer. Add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to your wash cycle, either during the rinse cycle or with your detergent. You can also try soaking smelly clothes in a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water before washing.

Enzymatic Cleaners

Enzymes break down organic compounds, making them a useful weapon against smoke residue. Look for enzymatic pre-treat sprays or detergents formulated to tackle tough odours. One excellent option is Puracy Natural Laundry Stain Remover, which harnesses the power of plant-based enzymes to lift stains and eliminate odours.

Sunlight and Fresh Air

Nature’s bleaching power can go a long way toward refreshing smoke-laden fabrics. Hang smoky clothes outside on a sunny day, allowing UV rays and circulating air to work their magic. This method is especially useful for delicate items that can’t withstand harsh chemical treatments.

Commercial Odor Removers

If DIY methods fall short, you may need to invest in specialized commercial odour removers designed to tackle smoke smells. Look for products containing cyclodextrin, which traps and removes odour molecules. One highly rated option is the Zep Smoke Odor Eliminator, which uses advanced odour encapsulation technology.

Heavy-Duty Washing for Persistent Stenches

For especially stubborn campfire stenches, you may need to pull out the big guns. Here are some heavy-duty techniques to try:

Presoak in Washing Soda

This powerful alkaline cleaner can help dislodge tough, embedded smoke particles. Dissolve 1/2 cup of washing soda (like Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda) in hot water, then soak smelly garments for several hours before washing normally.

Borax and Washing Soda Booster

Add 1/2 cup of borax and 1/2 cup of washing soda to your washing machine along with detergent for extra cleaning muscle. 20 Mule Team Borax is a trusted brand for boosting laundry power.

Hot Water Cycles

Smoke odours tend to release better with hot water, so run your smoky laundry through the hottest cycle safe for the fabrics. Check care labels carefully, as hot water can potentially shrink or fade some items.

Oxygen Bleach

Look for a laundry additive containing oxygen-based bleach, which can help remove yellowing and odours. OxiClean White Revive Laundry Whitener + Stain Remover is a good option. Avoid chlorine bleach, as it can react with smoke residues.

Repeat as Needed

Don’t be discouraged if one washing cycle doesn’t do the trick. You may need to repeat odour removal steps multiple times to fully refresh smoke-saturated fabrics. Persist, and that campfire stench will eventually surrender.

Deodorizing Between Washes

Even with diligent laundering, you may find that stubborn smoke smells linger in clothes between wash cycles. Try these tactics to maintain freshness:

Charcoal Sachets

Activated charcoal has an incredible ability to absorb odour molecules from the surrounding air. Place charcoal sachets like PURGGO Bamboo Charcoal Air Purifying Bags in your closet, dresser, or hamper to soak up smoke scents.

Kitty Litter

Believe it or not, ordinary clay-based kitty litter can act as an effective odour absorber in your laundry hamper or gym bag. Just place some in an open container and refresh the litter periodically for the best results.

Enzyme Sprays

Spritz enzyme-based fabric deodorizers directly onto smoky garments. Febreze Fabric Refresher and Zero Odor Laundry Odor Eliminator are two options formulated to tackle smoke odours.

Professional Cleaning Services

Sometimes, despite your most valiant efforts, smoke odours simply won’t budge from certain garments. In these cases, you may need to enlist professional help. Most dry cleaners offer specialized odour removal services utilizing advanced techniques like ozone treatment or thermal fogging. Be sure to explain that your clothes have smoky, campfire-like odours so they can recommend the most effective process.

Prevent Future Smoke Saturation

Once you’ve finally purged campfire smells from your wardrobe, you’ll want to avoid future smoke-saturation scenarios. While there’s no way to eliminate smoke exposure while camping, there are some precautions you can take:

  • Pack dedicated “campfire clothes” that you only wear while tending fires. This will prevent smoke residues from permeating your entire wardrobe.
  • Stay upwind of the fire whenever possible to minimize direct smoke exposure.
  • Avoid wearing synthetic fabrics around the campfire, as they are more prone to absorbing smells than natural fibres like cotton and wool.
  • Keep a spare set of clean clothes sealed in an airtight bag or container when camping, so you have smoke-free garments to change into.
  • Use a camping “smoker” or smokehouse to keep food smoke exposure to a minimum when cooking over the fire.
  • Consider investing in a pop-up portable fire pit with a chimney, which can help vent smoke up and away from your clothing.

Smokey Clothing Protection

Another preventative measure is to treat your outdoor clothing with a smoke odour protectant spray designed to create a barrier against smoke penetration. Products like Atsko Sno-Seal Smoke Odor Eliminator and Star Brite De-Smoke Odor Eliminator are formulated to block smoke particles and prevent them from deeply embedding into fabrics.

Fire-Resistant Outdoor Apparel

For serious campfire enthusiasts, it may be worth investing in specialized fire-resistant outdoor apparel from brands like World-Renowned Bulwark. Their line of FR (flame-resistant) clothing is engineered with technical fibres and treatments to provide superior thermal protection while also releasing smoke and odours more easily after exposure.

The Great Outdoors Can Get…Funky

That unmistakable smoky campfire aroma is simultaneously comforting and cringe-worthy when it becomes embedded in your clothes. By acting quickly and employing the right deodorizing methods, you can remove unpleasant smoke smells so your outdoor wear smells fresh and clean once again. And by taking preventative steps, you can minimize smoke saturation to begin with. With vigilance and some elbow grease, it’s possible to keep the scents of your camping adventures confined to happy memories rather than funky laundry.

Sharing Is Caring:

As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

Leave a Comment