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7 Gentle Ways to Get Rid of That "Thrift Shop" Smell From Vintage Clothing

'Cut and Chic' came from the idea that every outfit should be styled with a mix and match of vintage pieces with high-street pieces.

Thrifted clothing can have a "old" smell that's hard to get rid of.

Thrifted clothing can have a "old" smell that's hard to get rid of.

How to Get Rid of That Moldy, Mildewy, Musty Old Thrift Shop Smell

You know that smell that fills thrift shops and lingers on vintage clothing, even after you've had it at home for well over a week? That odor may be enough to prevent you from buying vintage clothes altogether, especially anything that must be dry cleaned (who wants to cough up extra bucks?).

Here are seven ways that gently and effectively eliminate that "thrift store smell."

Tip No. 1: Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is a natural deodorizer. Much in the same way we put baking soda in our refrigerators to eliminate odors left over from food, we can use baking soda to eliminate odors from our clothes as well.

How to Get the Old Smell Out of Clothes With Baking Soda

  1. Sprinkle some dry baking soda into a large plastic bag.
  2. Put in your vintage garment.
  3. Close the bag with a knot.
  4. Gently shake the contents around a bit.
  5. Let the clothing sit with the baking soda in the bag for a day or two.

Tip No. 2: Use a No-Rinse Cleaner

Using a no-rinse, natural cleaner such as Eucalan is an effective way of eliminating odors and stains from vintage clothing.

How to Use Eucalan

  1. Mix about 4 liters of water with 1 teaspoon of Eucalan in a spray bottle.
  2. Spray and saturate the garment with the solution.
  3. Open a window or use a fan to air out the garment. The odor will dissipate when the garment is dry.

Eucalan comes in different scents, such as lavender and eucalyptus, which are also insect repellants. Two birds with one stone, right?

Tip No. 3: Use Distilled White Vinegar

Vinegar is a great natural household cleaner and a gentle disinfectant. There are two ways you can use distilled white vinegar to get rid of musty smells and b.o. on vintage clothing:

  • The Overnight Method: One way is to pour some vinegar into a small bowl and let it sit in a small room or closet with your vintage garment hanging over it. If you can find a smaller, airtight space where the vinegar doesn't touch the garment, even better. Let it hang there for a night or two. The vinegar should absorb the smell. If the scent of vinegar lingers, air out the garment by opening a window.
  • The Spray Method: Another way is to directly spray and saturate the garment with vinegar. This is best on more stubborn odors. As the vinegar evaporates, it takes the smell with it. Don't worry, your garment won't smell like vinegar either. Afterward, open a window and let the garment air out.

A little side note to remember: if you plan on airing out your vintage clothing outside after trying any of these methods, it's important to keep in mind that direct sunlight fades color out of garments, so don't leave them out for too long.

Tip No. 4: Use Vodka

Spray cheap vodka onto your clothes and let dry. When the vodka evaporates, so will the odor.

Tip No. 5: Use Newspaper

Stuff newspaper into the pockets and sleeves of your wool coat. Place the stuffed coat into a plastic bag. Leave for a few days. The newspaper should absorb any musty smells.

Tip No. 6: Use Charcoal

Use activated charcoal. Charcoal absorbs moisture in closets so clothes don't smell like mildew, but proceed with caution and don't let it touch the fabric, as it can also stain clothes.

How to get old smells out of old clothes.

How to get old smells out of old clothes.

Tip No. 7: Be Persistent

Using any one of these methods may not completely work for you the first time, but don't give up! It may take just another going over with the spray or it may take just another day of airing out.

If one method doesn't work, then try another on this list.

It just takes a bit of time and persistence, but trust us it's worth it and will save you an ongoing trip to the dry cleaners!

What If the Label Says "Dry Clean Only?"

All these tips are for items that are absolutely dry clean only. If you can wet your vintage garment, then any of these methods will work even better. You can mix any of the ingredients above with water to soak and wash your garments and eliminate odors. To learn more, read Dry Clean Only? Don't Be Afraid, It's Only a Tag!

Have you got another gentle method of eliminating odors from your vintage garments? Do let us know in the comments section below.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Do You Know Any Other Natural, Dry-Clean-Free Methods That May Work?

CutandChicVintage (author) from New York City on April 19, 2013:

I'm glad you've found this useful! :) Do keep us updated if you've tried any of them and which ones you find most effective.

Derrick Bennett on April 19, 2013:

Very useful hub! Ugh I hate that smell Thanks