How to Get Campfire Smell Out of Clothes

how to get campfire smell out of clothes

Fires are one of the best parts of outdoor life. Starting the day by drinking a hot cup of your beverage of choice while sitting next to a campfire is one of life’s best experiences. Sitting around a fire chatting with friends after the sun goes down is a fantastic bonding moment for many people. Yet fires have one big problem for most of us: the smell. In this article, we’re going to show you how to get campfire smell out of clothes so you can smell civilized when you emerge from the wilderness.

What causes that campfire smell?

To begin, let’s be clear about the source of the problem. Smoke is the residue of a bad fire. Sounds serious, right? Smoke is made up of the stuff your fire didn’t burn. It is primarily a mix of gases such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide plus particulate matter – soot. Smoke isn’t good for you and the smell lingers for a long time. At the end of this article, we’re going to give you a few quick tips for avoiding a smoky fire altogether.

Why not wash your stuff?

Many people will react to the problem of smoke smells with one simple solution: stick it all in the washer. If you want to know how to get rid of campfire smell from your normal clothes, this method will probably work great. Your jeans, t-shirts, and socks probably don’t need any special effort. Just wash them. The surfactants in the detergent will bind to the smoke chemicals. A good hot rinse followed by a trip to the tumble dryer and the smell will probably be gone.

What about the things you can’t wash? Here’s a little list of things many campers can’t put in the washer:

  • Gore-Tex and waterproof fabrics
  • Sleeping bags
  • Tents
  • Sleeping pads
  • Dogs

These items can’t be washed in a machine because they are too big, or the process would damage them. We’re going to show you how to get rid of smoke smells from all of them.

Campsite methods

What can we tell you about how to get campfire smell out of clothes while you’re still in the outback? For some people, this could be important for managing sensitive noses or even allergies. Others might want to smell nice when they are hiking or meeting friends. We’ve prepared three quick methods you can use to smell better very quickly.

Vodka spray

Trade the campfire smell for the aroma of alcohol! Not for long, anyway. Use some cheap vodka to remove the terrible smoke smell. The high concentration of alcohol in vodka is the magic ingredient. Alcohol will react with the smoke chemicals and render them harmless. Then, the alcohol will evaporate, and the vodka smell will be gone.

To make this work, simply pick up a cheap bottle of vodka and a spray bottle before you set off on your trip. When you need to get rid of the odors, simply spray the fabric with vodka. Hang it up and let it dry for a short time and you’re good to go.

bottles of Smirnoff vodka
Bottles of Smirnoff vodka light | Hans

This simple trick has been used in the theater world for decades. It really does work very well!

Lemon and lime juice

Like using vodka, lemon and lime juice can be how to get rid of campfire smell. The trick to this method is only using a little juice. Too much juice will stain your fabric or leave it sticky. To make this work, here’s what you do:

  1. Cut up a few lemons or limes, then squeeze the juice into a spray bottle.
  2. Add water until the bottle is full. The strength of the formula will change depending on your fruit and your bottle. Start out too strong, test it out on some fabric, and dilute more if necessary.
  3. Once you have the mix right, spray the fabric until it is damp but not soaking.
  4. Leave it to dry for a little while. Give it a sniff and be ready to be amazed!

This is an easy method for those who want to avoid alcohol. The fabric should dry quickly. Just be sure to spray the inside and outside of the items.

Sunshine and fresh air

One of the best cures for smells of many kinds is nature. Leaving your gear hanging for a while will probably remove most of the smell for you. Of course, this takes more time. To make the most of this method, you can plan for the time needed to air out your fabrics. Simply hang a drying line while you are setting up camp. When you are ready to break camp, hang up your fabrics before you get started. If the weather is dry and sunny, they will have plenty of time to air out while you are packing everything else.

old wooden clothes pegs hanging on a rope
Old wooden clothes pegs hanging on a rope | RyanMcGuire

Easy home remedies

While all three of the campsite methods will work at home, there are some more intense things you can do as well. If the weather wasn’t great during pack down time, then you might get home with wet, stinky gear you need to sort out properly. These three tricks will help you get it done right the first time.

Vinegar steam

Vinegar is one of the best natural cleaning products you can buy. You can use vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice to clean just about anything. It’s also very cheap! Be sure to buy distilled white vinegar, though. Malt vinegar isn’t useful for cleaning at all.

You can remove smells from your gear by hanging it over a bath filled with hot water and vinegar. This method is very easy and gentle on the fabric. Your expensive Gore-Tex shouldn’t be crammed into the washer. Instead, hang it over the bath.

Here’s how to get campfire smell out of clothes using vinegar:

  1. Use a line or clothing rack to hang everything over the bath. Your things should not get wet during this process so make sure they’re up high.
  2. Add four or five cups of vinegar to the bath and then pour in the hottest water you can get.
  3. Leave the fabric above the steaming water for as long as you wish. A minimum of twenty minutes will be useful.
  4. Remove the gear and put it away. If it feels a little damp, then drain the bath. Leave the fabric to dry completely.

This is one of the easiest ways to get rid of smells in your stuff. It will work for pet odor or cigarette smoke as well.

Baking soda

A more intense solution is to use vinegar with baking soda. This method will not be as harmful to the waterproofing as using biological detergent. You can also do this in your bathtub – or an even bigger pool – to wash a lot of gear all at once.

baking soda in a glass bowl
Baking soda in a glass bowl | evita-ochel

To make this work, put all your gear into the tub and fill it with warm water. Once everything is submerged, add in four or five cups of distilled white vinegar. On top of this, throw in some baking soda. You can use more or less depending on how much water and gear you are cleaning. There isn’t a magic formula and you won’t hurt yourself or your gear by using too much.

Give everything a quick stir and then pull the plug. Once the water is drained, you can put your gear through the spin cycle in your washer to get rid of most the water. Hang it all up again to dry. The smoke smell will be gone.

Here is a simple video of the process:

Activated carbon

People use activated carbon to get rid of smoke smells in a passive way. This method requires very little effort and is a great way to store your gear. You need to have an airtight box to store everything in and some activated carbon. Buy a plastic box with a lid from any store you want. The activated carbon can be ordered online or purchased at fish supply stores. It will look like small black pebbles.

Place all your gear into the plastic box. Then fill a small container, such as a Tupperware jar, about halfway with the activated carbon. Put this container in the box with your things, taking care to keep it from spilling. Put on the lid and store your equipment for your next trip. When you’re ready to pack, just pull out the box and everything will smell great.

The ultimate solution for your gear

If you’re an avid outdoors enthusiast, then you probably have a lot of equipment to store. You might be using your garage or a special cabinet. An ozone machine could be your easiest way to keep all of it smelling fresh.

To use one, simply hang all your things in your garage or storage cabinet, place the ozone generator in the room, and turn it on for a few hours. Ventilate the room or cabinet and you’re done. This is the method many car dealerships use to remove smells from used cars. It works very well!

One note about ozone machines: they can be dangerous. Ozone is a potentially harmful gas. Be sure to follow the safety instructions and use it in its own room. Keep pets, plants, and people out of the space.

How to avoid smoke in the first place

As we said earlier, smoke is a signal from a bad fire. Smoke is created when your fire isn’t burning all its fuel. Here are three quick tips to avoid excess smoke in the first place:

  • Use good wood. Your fuel should be dry and not green.
  • Open your fire pit on one side. Don’t use a complete circle. Instead, try a “U” shape fire ring.
  • Build a looser fire. Too much wood, too close together, and your fire won’t have enough air to burn efficiently.

Building a great fire is a skill. Practice as much as you can. You’ll have smokeless, efficient fires that don’t leave you smelling like wood smoke in no time.

log cabin fire
Log cabin fire | skeeze


Now you know how to get campfire smell out of clothes. We’ve given you seven different methods to remove unwanted smells from your clothes and your gear. Try them out and let us know which one works best for you!

Featured image src: How to get campfire smell out of clothes | 4854615

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