How to Get Campfire Smell Out of Clothes


We all love a campfire while spending time with loved ones outside. The crackling of the fire, the smell of the cherry tree wood burning, and the warm comforting glow keeping us relaxed after a long day of hiking.

Although the smell of campfire smoke can bring back fond memories of that perfect camping trip, sometimes the smell can linger for a bit too long. 

When you’ve got a load of laundry filled with smoky clothes, it can be quite a challenge getting them to smell fresh and clean again.

Not to worry- we’ve got the solution for you.

Hot water is key to removing unwanted smoke odors from your clothes. This is because heat mobilizes the molecules causing these smells, and breaks them down much faster than cold water.

The hotter the wash, the better the results (in general). But be sure to read your clothing care instructions before you decide on a hot wash. You’ll want to make sure your smokey-smelling clothes can withstand the high heat of a very hot wash.

However, hot water alone may not be enough (or even be available) to get that campfire smell out of your clothes. 

In this article, we’ll outline a few other easy alternatives to get your clothes smelling smoke free.

What Does a Campfire Smell Like?

Campfires can take on all sorts of different smells. Largely, your campfire smell will depend on the type of wood your burn.

Every type of wood has a scent and our taste in wood smells, of course, differs – but there are some generally more accepting types of wood smells.

The condition of your chosen firewood will also play a part in its overall smell. Rotting wood will generally not smell nice and will give off an awful smoke that will linger for days to come.

One of the best-smelling firewood available is cherry firewood. Offering a unique sweet aroma. What’s more is that if you use it to cook with, you’ll infuse that wonderfully sweet taste into any meat you’ve chosen.

Red oak is an example of firewood that has an unappealing smoke smell. Build a campfire with red oak and you’ll have your clothes smelling horribly for days on end.

How Long Does Campfire Smell Last on Clothes?

How long the campfire smell lasts on your clothes depends a lot on the material of the clothing- and, of course, how long you spent near the campfire.

You might have noticed that some of your clothing seems to hold onto odor even after multiple washes. This is likely because of the material, which can either resist or retain odor. 

Natural materials, such as cotton, wool, and linen, are typically more odor-resistant as their fibers are more breathable, allowing odors to pass through.

You can still expect some lingering campfire smell on your favorite woolen jersey- just not for long.

On the other hand, synthetic, or artificial, materials such as nylon, polyester and microfiber, can actually retain odors. 

Unlike natural materials, these fabrics do not breathe well and instead trap odor-causing bacteria.

In fact, bacteria absorbed by artificial materials can build up over time if they’re not washed properly.

So, if it’s your waterproof jacket that still smells like the campfire, it’s definitely best to get it cleaned sooner rather than later. Otherwise, the smell might last longer than you’d like.

So, What’s the Best Way of Getting Campfire Smell Out of Clothes?

It’s pretty simple: Adding liquid (not powder) laundry detergent to a hot wash will work extremely well in getting that campfire smell out of your clothes quickly. 

Liquid detergent often performs better than powder detergent because it dissolves faster, meaning it has more time to actually clean your clothes.  

 However, if you’re thinking you might need something a bit stronger, try one of the following: 

Soak Clothes in Vinegar

Soaking your clothes in white vinegar before putting them through the washing machine will increase the chances of removing any smells after just one wash. 

Simply add one cup of white vinegar to a bucket or sink of hot water, and soak the clothes for an hour before doing your washing as normal. 

Avoid adding vinegar directly to your washing machine cycle, as this can damage the rubber seals in your machine and cause leaks. 

Soak Clothes in Baking Soda

Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is the not-so-secret ingredient for odor removal.

Just like vinegar, soaking your clothes in baking soda before putting them through the washing machine will help deodorize the clothes after only a single wash. 

Half a cup of baking soda added to a bucket of hot water will neutralize that campfire smell into nothingness.

How to Get Campfire Smell out of Clothes Without Washing Them

Washing your clothes in hot, soapy water is by far the most effective way to get rid of that campfire smoke smell. However, sometimes you’re on the go, and that’s simply not an option.

So, how can you get that campfire smell out of your clothes without washing them?

Here are some effective ways to achieve just that:

Air Your Clothes Out Under the Sun

The sun’s ultraviolet rays of light are quite adept when it comes to killing odorous bacteria that cause bad smells. 

It’s even better if it’s hot and windy.

During a hot, summer day, any undesirable smells should dissipate after around 3 hours. 

If it’s not so warm out, allow for approximately 6 hours instead.

Make sure to keep an eye on dyed items of clothing, as the ultraviolet rays can also have a potent bleaching effect.

Overnight Baking Soda Remedy 

A super easy and effective method of getting the campfire smell out of your clothes is to put your clothing in a large, airtight bag and add about half a cup of baking soda.

Shake the contents up so the baking soda covers the clothing, and leave it overnight! 

In the morning, take the clothing out of the bag and give it a good shake to get any remaining baking soda off.   

You should find that nasty smells are greatly reduced.

Steam your Clothes as you Take a Shower 

Just like the heat from hot water (or UV rays), steam also has an odor-removing mechanism that works by expelling odor-causing bacteria from the fibers of your clothing. 

Steam your clothes while you take your next shower by placing the clothes on hangers and hanging them up on the shower curtain rail next to you!

Homemade Odor-Eliminating Spray

All you need is water and white vinegar to naturally- and effectively- remove that campfire smell from your clothes.

Simply mix equal parts water and white vinegar, pour the mixture into a spray bottle, and apply it to your clothes. 

This is a handy mixture to keep on any camping trip, as it will help with other camping-related odors that you’ll likely encounter as well during your adventure.

Store Bought Odor-Fighting Spray

There are many odor-fighting sprays available on the market. Febreze is one brand that is available, for example. Many of these store-bought brands claim to eliminate odors but many of them just mask the offending odor, with the smell returning after the solution dries up.

They can be effective though and they will reduce odors – just not as much as you would have hoped.

They are a perfect stop-gap for when you can’t get your smelly clothes to a washing machine in time.

How Do You Remove Campfire Smell from Silk, Cashmere or Other Sensitive Materials?

It seems easy enough to throw an old t-shirt in a hot wash to get rid of unwanted odor, but what about your more precious garments? 

Although baking soda and vinegar are still recommended, we’d advise using cold water to preserve the dye and texture of more sensitive materials.

When trying to get the campfire smell out of your more expensive items, it’s best to get those clothes airing as soon as possible. 

Following that, shake half a cup of baking soda over the clothing while it’s dry. The longer you can leave the baking soda there, the better; aim for overnight if possible.

Next, soak the item in a bucket or sink of cold water mixed with half a cup of white vinegar. If that campfire smell is particularly strong, feel free to add in a bit of mild liquid laundry detergent as well.

After about an hour, remove the clothing and drain the water mixture.

Re-fill the bucket or sink with cold water and place the item back in again. Gently rub the clothing to release any remaining vinegar or detergent. 

Finally, dry the clothing by laying it flat on a towel. Instead of wringing the item, which can cause textural damage, roll up the towel to help get rid of the excess water. 

In Summary

All in all, there are plenty of ways to get rid of that campfire smell from your clothes. We’ve tried to narrow these down to give you the simplest, most affordable, and most accessible options while you’re camping.

Simple solutions such as airing your clothes out in the sun or soaking them in vinegar or baking soda are all it really takes to get your clothes- even your more expensive ones– smelling fresh again.

Mitch Taylor
With over 20 years experience with camping and hiking, I've taken it upon myself to share my insights. From common camping and hiking questions to gear recommendations, your adventure starts here.

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