How to Get Campfire Smell Out of Clothes and Hair

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Nothing completes an RV trip like a campfire. Yet, when it’s not a welcomed smell by others when you return to the daily routine. There are many methods of getting the campfire smell out of clothes and hair.

Whether you need a quick fix or a thorough cleaning, we’ll show you some easy ways of removing the campfire smell from your clothes and hair.

Why You Want to Remove the Campfire Smell From Your Clothes and Hair

Before I get started on how to get the campfire smell out of your clothes and hair, here is why that beautiful campfire also provides us with smelly clothes and hair. Scientifically speaking, the combustion reaction in a campfire is created by combining the organic fuel—wood—with oxygen and heat.

This forms carbon dioxide and water vapor. Firewood also contains aldehydes, nitrogen, trace amounts of heavy metals, and even mold spores. When the wood burns, not all those chemicals are completely broken down into small molecules. When the fumes settle on your clothing, they contain that mixture of organic compounds which makes your clothes and hair smell.

I do like the campfire smell in my tea and when I am sitting around the fire, but I don’t particularly like smelling like a campfire in my clothes and hair over the next several days. So, how do I get that campfire smell out of my clothes and hair?

6 Ways of Getting the Campfire Smell Out of Your Clothes

1. Use Hot Water When Washing the Campfire Smell Out of Your Clothes

Use Hot Water
To get the campfire smell out, use the hottest water you can without damaging your clothes.

Plan to do a load of laundry after an evening enjoying a campfire and wash all your smokey clothes in hot water and detergent. Be sure and check the clothing label first, for water temperature instructions. You wouldn’t want any item damaged or shrunk by the hot water. If your campfire-smelling clothing is more delicate, here are other ways to get rid of the smell.

2. Use White Vinegar to Combat Smoke Smell in Clothes

Use White Vinegar to Combat Smoke Smell in Clothes
White vinegar helps break down odors.

You can also add a cup of white vinegar to your wash load to help break down the odors. Vinegar is also great to get your whites clean and helps your laundry detergent to be more effective. Add vinegar to the rinse cycle after the detergent has done its job, for best results.

3. Baking Soda Helps Remove Campfire Smells From Clothes and Hair

Baking Soda Helps Remove Odors and Stains Too
Baking soda is a multi-purpose product for cleaning and deodorizing.

Baking soda is a multi-purpose product that will also help to remove smoky odors from your clothes. Add one-half cup to the wash after the cycle has started. Baking soda is also a natural fabric softener and helps to control excess suds.

It’s recommended that you don’t use baking soda and vinegar together. Although no harm will come to your clothes, you can achieve the best results by using them separately.

Later, we’ll show you how baking soda also works to get the campfire smell out of your hair.

4. Use Alcohol to Get the Smell Out

Use Alcohol to Get the Smell Out
Alcohol works to loosen the bonds of chemicals that adhere to the fabric. (Courtesy of WikiHow)

Alcohol is also another solution to your campfire smell problem. Heat some water and mix with vodka at a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio. Then soak your clothes or spray the mixture with a spray bottle.

The alcohol works to loosen the bonds of those chemicals that adhere to the fabric. Once you rinse the article of clothing, the water will wash the chemicals away.

5. Lemon Juice Removes the Campfire Smell From Clothing

5. Lemon Juice Removes the Campfire Smell From Clothing and Hair
Citric acid also helps to neutralize odors.

The citric acid in lemons will help to neutralize the bad odors. The lemons react with the smoke chemicals to form a non-odorous compound.  Cut a few whole lemons and squeeze the juice into an airtight bag. Add some rinds, and your smoky clothes, and seal the bag for a few hours.

6. Use Enzymatic Odor Removers

Use Enzymatic Odor Removers

Enzymatic odor removers contain beneficial bacteria that have enzymes to break down molecules into smaller pieces. Once the enzymes do their job, the bacteria swoops in to consume the molecules.

Defunkify is a great solution to remove campfire odors from your clothes. This product deep cleans between the fibers to remove the stink, as well as stains.

Other products such as OxyClean or Simple Green are also great odor removers.

4 Ideas to Get the Campfire Smell Out of Clothes Without Washing

You may have clothing that is dry cleaning only or has complicated washing instructions. Here are some easy methods to get the campfire smell out of clothes without washing them.

1. Air Out Your Clothes To Get the Campfire Smell Out

Air Out Your Clothes To Get the Campfire Smell Out

You might not want to wash jackets or coats in a washing machine so fresh air and sunshine are a great way to get the smell out without washing.  

2. Remove the Campfire Smell From Clothing With Odor Eliminating Sprays

Remove the Campfire Smell From Clothing With Odor Eliminating Sprays

An odor-eliminating spray can also work to get the odor out. Febreze is a great option for this. Just spray the product all over the front and back of the garment.

Make your own odor-eliminating spray with equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Add some essential oil such as lemon or mint.

3. Baking Soda Absorbs the Campfire Smell From Your Clothing

Baking Soda Absorbs the Campfire Smell From Your Clothing

You can also use baking soda to help get rid of the campfire smell in your clothes. Place the clothing in an extra-large zipper bag or garbage bag. Add a half cup of baking soda and give the bag a quick shake and let the bag sit overnight.

That will give the baking soda time to absorb the odor. Once that is done, take the bag outside and shake out the excess soda. You can tumble dry the garment in low or no heat.

4. Remove the Campfire Smell From Your Clothes With Steam

How To Get Campfire Smell Out of Clothes Without Washing
Steam can also be used to remove odors.

You can also use steam to reduce the odor, particularly in clothing that can’t be washed in a machine. Steam the item slowly. You can also use a 3:1 distilled water to a rubbing alcohol solution for extra odor elimination.

3 Ways to Get the Campfire Smell Out of Hair

Now that you know how to get the smell out of your clothes, you might want to check your hair. It can easily absorb the odor too and while a regular washing might do the trick, here are a few ideas that will have you feeling fresh and smelling delightful.

1. Double Wash with a Clarifying Shampoo

Double Wash with a Clarifying Shampoo
A clarifying shampoo traps impurities and washes them away.

What is a clarifying shampoo? A clarifying shampoo is specially formulated to trap impurities and wash them away. Find a shampoo that is free of sulfates, and parabens and preferably has ingredients such as eucalyptus, rosemary, willow bark, dog rose, ginseng, or sage, to name a few. These all have specific properties that are good for your hair and will leave it smelling wonderful.

2. Add Baking Soda to Your Shampoo

Add Baking Soda to Your Shampoo

As we’ve seen already, baking soda is an all-around good home remedy for several common household needs. To wash your hair in baking soda, mix 4 TBSP of baking soda with ¾ cup of water and make a paste. You can apply the paste to dry or wet hair.

Work it through from your roots to the ends. Let the mixture sit for one to three minutes and then rinse with warm water. Baking soda can also be used to exfoliate your scalp and cleanse your hair from product buildup, dirt, and oil.

3. Do an Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

Do an Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
Apple cider vinegar will leave your hair with a glossy shine.

Mix one part shampoo with one part apple cider vinegar. Wash your hair and rinse it thoroughly. Not only will the smell be gone but the vinegar will leave your hair with a glossy shine.

4 Ways to Get the Campfire Smell Out of Your Hair Without Washing

It’s not always practical to wash your hair when you’re camping so there are several ways to get the smoke smell out with no water.

1. Deodorize Your Campfire Smelling Hair With Dry Shampoo

Deodorize Your Campfire Smelling Hair With Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoo is a great way to get the smoke smell out of your hair but is also a practical tool in your RV beauty routine. For me, not washing my hair every day is a problem, but dry shampoo can change that habit particularly when you might be boondocking and need to conserve water.

2. Dryer Sheets Can Get the Campfire Smell Out of Your Hair

Dryer Sheets Can Get the Campfire Smell Out of Your Hair
A dryer sheet is a great deodorizer and can be used on your hair to get the campfire smoke smell out.

Dryer sheets can help rid your clothes of static electricity and are a great deodorizer, but did you know that chemicals in the sheet react with the campfire residue and help to neutralize and mask the smell. Just wipe down your comb or brush with one sheet and run it through your hair. You can also apply the sheet directly to your hair.

3. Try a Refreshing Spray To Remove the Campfire Smell From Your Hair

Try a Refreshing Spray To Remove the Campfire Smell From Your Hair

A refreshing spray is easy to make and will give you great smelling hair. Mix the zest of a lemon, lime, or orange into a spray bottle filled with water. Let it sit for about 30 minutes so the water can fully absorb the citrus. They spray it evenly on your hair. The citric acid will deodorize your hair as it dries.

4. Let Your Campfire Smelling Hair Breathe in the Sun

Let Your Campfire Smelling Hair Breathe Out in the Sun

Brush until your hair is fully separated. Then lay out in the sunshine until you feel like your hair is fully saturated with the sun. This might even be a good excuse to head to the beach for an afternoon. The sunshine and breeze will help to get the smell out.

4. Put Your Campfire Smelling Hair up or Under a Hat Until Washing

Put Your Campfire Smelling Hair In a Bun or Under a Hat Until You Can Wash it

If you must go to work or somewhere that you need to look presentable but don’t have time to wash your hair. Put your locks up into a bun or under a hat. You and others shouldn’t be able to smell the smoke if your tresses aren’t waving around under your nose.

Final Thoughts On Getting the Campfire Smell Out of Your Clothing and Hair

Don’t let a little smoke smell keep you away from enjoying a campfire. Whether it’s your clothes or your hair, baking soda is a great go-to for deodorizing just about anything. Vinegar is also a great help and even just a regular wash should get most of the smell out the first time. If not, try one of these great ideas to get your clothes and hair smelling fresh.

If you have a great idea for getting the smoke smell out of your hair and clothes, share it in the comments below.


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4. 8 Most Common RV Problems You Can Fix Yourself

5. 19 Pro Tips for RV Newbies


About the Author

Terri Nighswonger and her husband Todd are full-time RVers and work campers. They have been living full-time in their RV for nearly three years with their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Newton, and their Minnie Australian Shepherd, Remi.

They originate from the Midwest but plan to enjoy the west for a few years, wintering in Arizona and summering wherever the road may lead. Writing is Terri’s passion, but she also loves hiking, kayaking, walking her dogs, and anything she can do outdoors.

Full Time RVer Terri Nighswonger

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