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How do I remove perfume odors from clothes?


How do I remove perfume odors from clothes?

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Question: How do I remove perfume odors from clothes?

Many people are highly sensitive to perfumes and scents and some are diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Learn how to remove perfume, fabric softeners and other scents from clothes.


As you know, some scents are much more difficult to remove from laundry than others. Fabric softeners and dryer sheet odors are some of the worst because the product coats every fiber (that’s what makes them feel smooth and soft). This method may not remove every odor on the first try; but it is the most economical and reliable way to attack scents. This is for washable clothing only.

  1. Air them out. Hang clothing, even newly purchased clothing, in the open air. If you can’t hang things outside, hang the clothing in a breezy (you can use a fan), warm and sunlit room filled with lots of green leafy plants (they help absorb the odors). The length of time depends upon how saturated the clothing is with scent and the sensitivity of the wearer. The hanging length of time can be as little as a few hours to a couple weeks.
  2. Soaking. Soak clothing in a sink or washing machine filled with warm water and one cup baking soda before washing. Overnight is usually sufficient although some people will suggest up to several days. Rather than soaking for several days, it is probably more effective to repeat the airing – soaking – washing – drying cycle several times if necessary.
  3. Washing. After soaking, allow the clothing to complete the washer cycle. Then wash according to the manufacturer’s instructions using unscented laundry detergent. Add a cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle and stop the cycle. Let the laundry soak for an hour before completing the rinse cycle. To insure that all detergent has been rinsed from your clothing, select your washing machine’s extra rinse cycle if it has one and add nothing – just water – to this extra rinse.
  4. Drying and Airing. Dry on a clothes line or clothes rack in the sunlight. Sunlight will help remove odors and smells but bright sunlight can cause dyes to fade so hang dark colors in the shade. The line drying will also provide a final opportunity for clothes to air out. If you must dry in a clothes dryer, use a low temperature as high temperatures can actually cause any remaining odors to set into the fabric by bonding with fibers and dyes.
  5. Store away. You really don't want to store clothes away with a strong perfume odor. But, you can place the fragrant garments in a sealed plastic tub or heavy-duty plastic bag with a box of baking soda. Leave them sealed for a week or so. The baking soda will absorb the odors - similar to what it does in your refrigerator.
  6. Repeat if necessary. Once through this process will effectively remove smells and irritants for most people. If your clothes still have bothersome odors or are chemically irritating, you can repeat the process.

For dry-clean only clothing, allow the clothing to air out. If it is a garment that can be hand washed, follow the same steps as above only in a sink. Let the dry cleaner be the last resort and tell them about the fragrance sensitivity. Some dry cleaning chemicals can also cause sensitivity.

I have used Febreze to remove odors from dry-clean only garments with great success. Spray the clothing outside and let it continue to air. After a few hours, I can’t smell the Febreze and it does freshen the clothing.

Specific questions? Just ask here.

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