Clothes and no smoking sign

How to Get Rid of Cigarette Smells on Clothes

Whether you’re a smoker or you’ve been exposed to second-hand smoke, cigarette smells can cling to your clothes and be tough to remove.

Fortunately, there are various methods you can try to eliminate this unpleasant odour and restore freshness to your garments.

Ready to get started? Here’s how to get rid of cigarette smells on clothes prior to washing, in the washing machine and without washing. We’ll also touch on the top products to use, including natural fresheners.


Removing Cigarette Smoke Smells in the Washing Machine

green sweatshirt, washing machine and iron

If you were only exposed to the smoke for a short time, cigarette smells will usually come out in the wash. This is especially true if your clothes were clean and fresh beforehand.

However, there are some things you can do to increase the chance of great results. Here are the steps to take:

  1. Air clothes – Start by airing out the garment on your washing line. Choose a dry day with a breeze and hang your affected clothing up for a couple of hours. The wind will help to dislodge many of the odour-causing nicotine particles trapped in the fabric prior to washing.
  2. Check the care label – Next, check the item’s tag to see what temperature it can withstand. Wash it on the hottest cycle possible and use a tough laundry detergent with a fresh scent. Both Persil Ultimate Active Clean and Surf Tropical Lily & Ylang Ylang Liquid Laundry Detergent are both good options. Or you can use scent-boosting Lenor Unstoppables alongside your regular detergent. Simply toss into the drum to keep clothes fresher for longer.
  3. Add white vinegar to the washing machine – Then, instead of fabric conditioner, pour ½ cup of white vinegar into the designated drawer compartment. This will help to lift out leftover odours during rinsing, as well as removing any residue and softening your clothes. For white garments, you can try ½ cup of lemon juice instead, which works to banish odours and remove any yellowing.
  4. Air clothes again – Finally, air dry your clothes, ideally outside, and conduct a smell check once they’re dry. If you can still smell smoke, rewash as above. Do not use a tumble dryer after the initial wash, as you could bake any remaining cigarette smell into the fabric for good. Likewise, don’t put clothes away in your wardrobe or drawers if they still smell of smoke. Otherwise, the odour will likely transfer to nearby items.

Tip: clean smoky clothing right away and don’t mix it with other items to prevent it spreading.


How to Remove Stubborn Cigarette Smells

Tried all of the above and still struggling to get rid of the cigarette smell on your clothes? Below are some additional steps you can try in order to combat the lingering smokiness.

Pre-treat with a white vinegar solution

soak clothes in basin and white vinegar

Known for its stain-fighting and odour-reducing qualities, using vinegar in laundry is a great option when dealing with cigarette smells.

Fill a sink or washing up bowl with warm water, then pour in 1 cup of white vinegar. Stir well, then soak the item in the solution for one hour, or up to two hours for very smelly items. When time’s up, rinse well, then launder on a hot cycle as above.  

Tip: some washing machines even have a pre-soak setting that you can use during this step.


Absorb the smell with bicarbonate of soda

bicarbonate of soda or baking soda

You can also attempt to draw the smell out with another natural deodoriser: bicarbonate of soda. All you need is a zip lock bag that is large enough for your garment and ½ a cup of bicarb.

Place them into the bag together, secure the top, then shake well to cover the item.

Leave overnight to give the bicarb chance to absorb the odour, then shake off the excess over a bin. Finally, launder with an extra rinse cycle to ensure all the particles have been removed.


Incorporate an in-wash odour-remover

As well as using laundry detergent with a pleasant fragrance, why not incorporate a specialist odour remover?

Top brands like Dr. Beckmann and Vanish both supply products designed to eliminate stubborn, engrained odours like cigarette smoke.

Just add one capful (liquid form) or half a scoop (powder form) to the wash cycle with your regular detergent.

If using powder, run a second rinse cycle or add vinegar to the fabric softener drawer to stop clothes feeling stiff.


How Do You Get a Cigarette Smell Out of Clothes Without Washing?

rotary washing line outside

Looking for quick and easy ways to remove cigarette smells from clothes without washing them? Here are some remedies you can try:

  • Air outside – Airing a smelly garment out on a washing line is a simple way to remove the odour. Alternatively, hang it up next to an open window and let the fresh air work its magic.
  • Fabric freshener spray – Spritz with a laundry refresher spray to mask the odour. You can buy ready-made formulas such as Febreze Fabric Freshener in various fragrances or make your own. All you need is a clean spray bottle filled with a 1:1 ratio of white vinegar and distilled water. Then add in 10-20 drops of essential oil to create a fresh scent. Lavender, lemon and peppermint oils are all popular and work well to disguise cigarette smells.
  • Oil diffuser – Another way to utilise essential oils is to hang the affected clothing in a room with an oil diffuser. You can close the door to the room to help keep the fragrance in, but open a window for ventilation. Leave for 3-4 hours, then switch off the diffuser and do a sniff test. If you can still smell the smokiness, run the diffuser for a couple more hours.
  • Tumble dry – Although using a tumble dryer isn’t typically recommended where odours are involved, a cool cycle may prove useful. The tumbling action of the machine will help to displace nicotine particles that are clinging to the material. You can also add a fresh scent with dryer sheets or scented wool dryer balls, but only ever use them on a low heat cycle.

Tip: skip the in-dryer products and mist the items with a laundry refresher spray after tumbling.