new denim jeans

How to Get the Dye Smell Out of Jeans

A new pair of jeans can be a great feeling. However, what isn’t great is the dye smell you often get, which is particularly common on darker colours because of all the processing needed.

Luckily, getting rid of this smell is fairly easy. In this article, we’ll look at how to get the dye smell out of jeans.


Why Do My Jeans Smell Like Chemicals?

woman smelling denim

The short answer for why your jeans smell like chemicals is because of all the chemicals used.

The dyes used can smell funny, often metallic. It’s more common with darker colours because of the extra dyeing and washing needed to achieve the right colour.

You might also notice it in cheaper denim because manufacturers are more like to use cheaper and quicker processes.

Some of the odour can come from formaldehyde, which is used as a fixative and to reduce wrinkles.

You might recognise this chemical as the stuff used to preserve scientific specimens in jars. It can be a skin irritant, but it’s generally nothing to worry about as it’s very easy to remove.


How to Get the Dye Smell Out of Jeans

Method 1: Wash your jeans

jeans on tumble dryer

The most obvious option is to wash your jeans before you first wear them. It’s best to wash them on their own if possible, as denim can be prone to dye loss, which you don’t want staining your other clothes.

Just wash the jeans as normal with some standard laundry detergent, ideally at 30 degrees Celsius. Air dry to prevent shrinkage, and they’ll be good to wear.

Some brands recommend not washing your jeans if possible. This is often the case with raw denim, which needs to be broken in.

You should generally wash denim infrequently to prevent unnecessary wear, but getting rid of the dye smell is as good a reason as any to wash them!


Method 2: Air them outside

dry jeans in clothesline

If you want to avoid putting your jeans in water, giving them a good dose of fresh air can do the job.

Hang them outside on a washing line for as long as possible, ideally on a sunny, breezy day, and you should find the smell is gone.

UV light can help break down odour molecules, and a breeze will carry away the smell.

Sunlight can bleach fabrics, but this shouldn’t be an issue if they’re only outside for a day or so. If you’re concerned, turn them inside out just to be safe.


Method 3: Spray with vinegar

spray white vinegar on denim jeans

Another option that doesn’t involve getting your jeans too wet is to spray with diluted white vinegar.

Mix 1 part white vinegar with 4 parts water and put in a spray bottle. Give the jeans a good spray inside and out and leave them to dry.

Provided you air the jeans properly, you shouldn’t be left with a vinegar smell. Vinegar helps because the acetic acid (the main component of vinegar) easily bonds with volatile molecules, which typically cause smells.


Method 4: Soak your jeans

white vinegar and baking soda for jeans

If you don’t want to machine wash your jeans, soaking them in cold water will do the same job.

Mix in either vinegar or bicarbonate of soda and leave them for an hour or so. You’ll want 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water, or 2-3 tablespoons of bicarb for 5 litres of water.

After soaking for an hour, rinse them in fresh cold water and leave to air dry.


Method 5. Spray with a bicarbonate of soda solution

Similar to spraying your jeans with vinegar, spraying with a bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) solution will work.

Ideally, we’d use bicarb powder, but this’ll leave your jeans white and dusty. Instead, mix it with water and spray onto the jeans.

For a 1-litre spray bottle, dissolve a tablespoon of bicarb in water. Spray it on and leave it to dry.

This method does the same thing as vinegar, but doesn’t risk replacing the chemical smell with another unpleasant odour!


Method 6: Steam your jeans

jeans and clothes steamer

A garment steamer can be a quick and easy way to get rid of the chemical smell from jeans.

Although it’s best for getting rid of odour-causing bacteria, it should help flush out that chemical smell stuck in the fibres of your denim.

Steaming is gentle enough to not shrink your denim, so don’t worry about being liberal with how much you use. Plus, it uses far less water than washing, so there’s no danger of fading the dye.


Method 7: Commercial odour eliminator spray

odour eliminator spray for jeans

Finally, if you’ve tried the non-washing options, and still don’t want to chuck your jeans in the washing machine, you’ll need to bring out the big guns. A commercial odour-eliminating spray will be your best option.

Something like HG Odour Eliminator should do the job. In theory, Febreze would work too, but this is usually a more temporary solution for eliminating odours. HG is pretty heavy-duty stuff but it should work to get rid of the chemical smell.


Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are plenty of options for getting the chemical smell out of new jeans. If possible, avoid washing them, as this can cause denim to wear down more quickly.

Provided the jeans don’t smell too bad, a spray of vinegar or bicarb should be enough to get rid of the smell.

However, if you try these options and they still smell, washing is the obvious solution.

Just make sure you wash them as gently as possible and you should be able to prevent your jeans from shrinking or going hard.