How to remove fragrance/scents from clothing?

Quick question here--does anybody know how to remove scents from clothing? I got some fabulous items from the swap party but a few of them smell like perfume. It's not a "bad" smell, just a light fragrance. Unfortunately I've always been very sensitive to smells and right now any type of strong odor (good or bad) makes me queasy. I never wear perfume and always use unscented laundry detergent and deodorant and soaps, no fabric softener, etc. I've already tried machine washing and drying these items twice now with my usual unscented detergent and Oxi Clean but it hasn't helped at all. I think even Febreze or Dryel would be too strong for me (since they are scented products). I haven't tried dry cleaning them yet because I'm not sure that would actually remove the scent (the items are clean). Am I out of luck or is there some other remedy I should try? I really want to wear them! I am worried my sensitivity is going to limit my ability to swap/thrift/eBay (unless it's new with tags, but even then sometimes it still smells like someone's else's house) in the future! I've even returned new online items before to Anthro that smell like someone tried it on previously while wearing perfume. Thanks for any suggestions!

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • Jjsloane replied 6 years ago

    I have the same problems with scents. Airing them out can help somewhat, but if they are washable try vinegar in the rinse cycle. Sometimes it can take a few rinses to really get everything out of the fibers.

  • replied 6 years ago

    Since these items are machine washable, try putting white vinegar in the fabric softener compartment of your washing machine. That might help.

  • replied 6 years ago

    I was going to suggest vinegar, but others beat me to it. You might also try some baking soda in the wash water.

  • Diana replied 6 years ago

    Agree with the vinegar suggestion but I have to say that I have had very limited luck with this. Even if the smell reduces with vinegar, baking soda, etc, it often seems to return when the item gets warm (i.e. when you are wearing it). Synthetics seem to hold smells more strongly too, so you may have better luck with natural fibers.

    This is the primary reason why I don't thrift other than jewelry and accessories.

  • catgirl replied 6 years ago

    I just read something about this in Instyle from this month but can't remember what it was. It may have been spritzing with vodka - something about the alcohol drying and lifting the smell. Will check when I get home!

  • replied 6 years ago

    I once thrifted a nylon half-slip that reeked of cheap perfume. The smell didn't come out in the wash either. I finally read somewhere (like Heloise) to soak it in a really strong ammonia solution. Believe it or not, the odor came out completely, and the ammonia odor came out when I laundered it again, after soaking. Good luck!

  • catgirl replied 6 years ago

    Okay, InStyle say "Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vanilla vodka and water, generously mist the article and let dry." Vodka apparently kills the spores that cause the odor. Have not tried it but sounds plausible! And bonus cocktails!

  • Jonesy replied 6 years ago

    I wonder if washing it or treating it with some of these suggested solutions would work, then maybe letting it dry outside in the sun? Sunshine and fresh air seem to help with smells, though I could just be imagining it :).

  • goldenpig replied 6 years ago

    Thanks for the suggestions! Will try some of them and hope for the best!

  • lyn* replied 6 years ago

    Have you tried airing them after tossing into the freezer? I find this works for most of the shirts my dad gets from Winners - he complains they smell like "Man Perfume" :p

  • Queen Mum replied 6 years ago

    Baking soda is always my go-to odor remover. You could either sprinkle the garment with BS, or put a half cup or so of BS in a paper bag with the garment, close up and let sit over night.
    Let us know what works!

  • Mander replied 6 years ago

    Definitely try the vodka, or any kind of alcohol you are willing to sacrifice for the cause (that is, don't use the single malt scotch!).


    I had a couple of polyester scarves that reeked of old perfume despite multiple washings, hanging out in the sun, etc. Soaking them overnight in some cheap gin I happened to have in the house helped a lot.

  • Kelly replied 6 years ago

    i am a fervent thrifter, but sensitive about smells. i have great success with hanging smelly things outside (sometimes for several weeks, so it should be in the shade). time conquers all.

  • Isis replied 6 years ago

    Mander, single malt scotch, LOL!

    GP, out of curiosity, do patients who wear perfume bother you?

  • Abie replied 6 years ago

    I got a top one time resale that was very perfumy. I washed it 3x and it didn't come out. I left it outside on my covered deck for a few days and it all came out.

You need to be logged in to comment