8 Ways to Remove Odors From Clothes Without Washing Them


With California in the news battling a  very forward-facing drought, why not an article on how to remove odors from your clothes without washing them? As we see groups worldwide opening up bigger picture conversations on how to conserve, desalinate and reuse the water currently being used, everyday men, women and children are also examining ways they can save water in small ways. Our #10WEARS1WASH campaign is in full effect until June 17th for the United Nations World Day to Combat Desertification and only requires you to wear your jeans a full ten times without washing.

Ask yourself what you can do to conserve water today and maybe your idea will spread further than just you!

In the meantime, here are those 8 easy ways to remove odors from clothes without them ever seeing your washing machine.


1. Air them out. Hang them in fresh air. This will help remove smoke, fumes or smells that may be trapped in your clothes. Ideal airing-out placement is outside if you can swing it, but a breezy (you can use a fan), sunlit room works as well. Bonus points for the nearby occurrence of leafy green plants, which can help absorb chemicals left over from the garment dying process. (Organic Clothing)


2. Pick up a bottle of cheap, high-proof vodka (any kind will work, but we wouldn’t want the good stuff to go to waste). Mix with water in a spray bottle until the vodka ratio is about 60-70%. Spray it liberally on the area in question. Vodka dries odorless, kills bacteria, and will successfully remove smells. Reddit user and professional theater wardrobe manager kiwiberrie87 swears by it. (Reddit)

Related story: Are Self-Cleaning Fabrics In Our Future? New Research Says Yes


3. Put em in the freezer. For denim, many in-fabric smells are created by bacteria, which can be killed by freezing temperatures. If you’re okay with letting your jeans hang out in the freezer for a couple of hours – a large canvas bag will protect them from the icy depths – it can be a great alternative to washing. And since the freezer’s already running, you’ll be conserving energy. (Elle)

baking soda

4. The baking soda method for odorous patches on clothing: mix baking soda and water into a paste, and apply to affected areas. Turn the item inside out if you need to. Allow it to dry completely, then brush off the baking soda with a stiff brush. Another method is to place the clothing in a plastic garbage bag with half a cup of baking soda. Shake the bag vigorously and allow it to sit untouched for 10 minutes. Remove the clothing, brush off the baking soda, and enjoy a fresh-smelling dud. (Hubpages)

lemon juice

5. Two words: Lemon power. Replace harsh dry-cleaning chemicals with something that came straight from the earth. Simply mix lemon juice and water and scrub it on a stain or smelly patch. Hang dry.  (Prevent Disease)

Related story: 10 Fashion Industry Water Facts to Know for World Day to Combat Desertification


6. Fresh coffee grounds in a bowl will absorb the sometimes musky or stuffy scent found in dresser drawers. If this method isn’t strong enough, try placing an item of clothing in a brown paper bag, adding the coffee grounds, and letting it sit overnight. No need to shake it up for the coffee to work its odor-absorbing magic. (How to Clean Stuff)


7. Essential oils – Even if re-worn clothes aren’t outwardly dirty or smelly, they can lose that fresh scent, the desire for which often drives us to wash unnecessarily. To freshen up yesterday’s outfit, mix a few drops of essential oils with water in a spray bottle and spritz on target areas. Lavender, lemon, clary sage, or grapefruit are all lovely options. (Organic Authority)


8. Call the doctor, Dr. Bronners that is. Hand-wash bras and underwear in the sink with the fair-trade and fabulously effective Dr. Bronner’s soap. If you use Dr. Bronner’s in the shower, bring the undergarments in with you for even more water conservation fun. Socks can come too – but if they are particularly thick, try soaking them overnight in baking soda and water beforehand. (Dr. Bronner)

Are you thinking about how to incorporate sustainability into your designs? We work with designers to provide them with a general overview of sustainable manufacturing principles— with particular expertise in apparel. Based on your needs, we can advise on both specific sourcing requirements or basic understanding of production for soft or hard goods. Book a consult with us to learn more.

Images: sauliuspeleda, RyanMcguire, Hans, Pixabay, EvolvingScenes, Jaro_N, Eliasfalla