How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Clothes After a Fire

Brad LackeyCleaning Tips and Checklists, Fire Damage

Woman Taking the lent of Dryer Machine

Washing smoke damaged clothes in a washing machine

Wildfire, bonfire, cigarette smoke, or fire damage can leave a lasting smoky smell on your clothes. Spraying it with perfume or other products is only a temporary solution; the smoky smell will remain on the clothing for days or even weeks. If the clothing item has been near a fire disaster, soot and smoke may set in forever. Also, cigarette smoke residue left on clothes can be detrimental to your health, so you want to remove smoke smell for health reasons as well.

Before throwing out and replacing all the clothing items, consider salvaging some of them that are not severely damaged to save some money.

To properly handle all clothing and other damaged items from a fire disaster, calling for a professional fire restoration company is usually the safest option.

For less damaged clothing items, follow the procedure below as quick as possible before the smoke smell completely set in.

1.  Throw away any clothing that is beyond repair

If your clothing was damaged in a fire, go through each of the items before the start of the cleaning process. Clothes with a burnt hole should be thrown out.

Also, keep an eye out for clothing with accessories such as metal buttons or spiky decorations that can damage other fabrics during the cleaning process. You want to keep them separate from the rest of the clothing.


2.  Sort the remaining clothing by fabric types

Pay close attention to the fabric type and washing instructions for each clothing items. Separate them according to fabric type, especially the bleach-safe ones from the non-bleachable ones. Add bleach to bleach-safe clothing when it is time to put in the washing cycle.


3.  Remove soot from fabric

There are a few extra steps before throwing the clothes into the washing machine. If there is soot on the clothes, you want to gently shake off the excess soot. DO NOT beat it or do anything else. Aggressive shaking or beating might create more stains and let the residue set in.

You can also use a high-powered vacuum cleaner with a narrow tip to remove the soot. Keep it one or two inches away from the fabric. DO NOT use vacuum heads with brush tips. This is to prevent soot particles from sinking into the clothing deeper, which will make it harder to clean.


Hanging smoked damaged clothes on clothes line at the balcony

Hanging smoked damaged clothes on clothes line at the balcony

4.  Process to remove smoke from washable fabrics

Without washing machine

In some circumstances, you may not have a washing machine at the moment. Without a washing machine, complete removal of smoke smell would be very difficult. However, there are some techniques you can try that would lessen the smoke odors.

The first technique you can use is to air out the clothing items with smoke smell. If you are unable to do so, keep it in a room with good ventilation.

The second technique is steam cleaning. Check the label before using this method, make sure you can steam it. Cover every spot when you are steaming the item, repeat for a few times to see results.

The last technique involves a Ziploc bag and a piece of dryer sheet. Put one or two pieces of clothing in the Ziploc bag and add the dryer sheet to soak up the smoky smell. Leave it in the bag for a few days and check the results. Replace the dryer sheet if necessary.


With washing machine

First, soak all the clothing items in a tub or a large sink so you would not clog the sinks. Put warm water in the tub, or the hottest temperature the particular fabric can handle (Always check the label!) Add some white vinegar and/or baking soda to the tub, whatever amount it feels right to you. Leave the clothes soaking in the mixture for a couple of hours or overnight before continuing to the next step.

Next, wash all the clothes in the washing machine normally, preferably in water with scentless detergent. You may want to repeat the cycle a couple of times to get rid of the smoke smell completely. If you have time, hand-wash the clothes the first two or three cycles; it will remove the stain better and won’t contaminate the washing machine from previous loads.

After the clothing has been washed, do not use drying machines, air dry the clothes if it is possible. Fresh air helps remove the smoke odor.


5.  Dry-clean only clothing

Due to the nature of dry-clean only fabrics, it makes it harder to remove the smoke smell, but it is not impossible. If a piece of clothing just has heavy smoke smell from fire or from cigarettes, try using dry baking soda. Sprinkle dry baking soda on that piece of clothing, let it set for a few hours before shaking it off.

If it is from a fire disaster, shake off excess soot from clothing, and take it to the dry cleaner, preferably a cleaner with experience in dealing with smoke-damaged clothes. Make note of all the stains on the clothes and ask the dry cleaner to pay extra attention to these spots.

Again, you want to avoid washing the dry-clean only fabrics because washing it could destroy it completely.


Calling for Professional Help

If you have more damage than smoke smell or soot stains from the fire, reach out to a fire restoration company in your area. We can help you with all the restoration work, including smoke damage from carpet or upholstery. ServiceMaster by Restoration Contractors even provides document restoration and electronics restoration. Any fire damage and water damage restoration are best done by a disaster restoration technician.

Contact ServiceMaster by Restoration Contractors at (260) 420-1502 in Fort Wayne, IN today if you need fire damage cleanup and restoration.