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

Updated on April 18, 2019

You know that smell that fills vintage thrift shops and lingers on the clothing even after you've had it in your home for well over a week? It may be enough to prevent you from buying vintage clothes altogether, especially if it's an item that must be dry cleaned and you don't want to cough up extra bucks. Here are three gentle ways that effectively eliminate that "thrift store smell."

Tip No. 1: 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.

One way is to pour some vinegar into a small bowl and let it sit in a small room 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 stay 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.

Another way is to directly spray and saturate the garment with vinegar. This is best on more stubborn odors. Open a window and let the garment air out. As the vinegar evaporates it takes the smell with it. Don't worry your garment won't smell like vinegar either.

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.

Tip No. 2: 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.

Sprinkle some dry baking soda into a plastic bag and put in your vintage garment. Close the bag with a knot at the top. Shake the contents around a bit and let the clothing sit with the baking soda in the bag for a day or two.

Tip No. 3: 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. Mix about 4 liters of water with 1 teaspoon of Eucalan in a spray bottle. Spray and saturate the garment with the solution. 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. 4: 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. 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!

Remember 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.

Other Natural, Dryclean-Free Methods That May Work

The following tips we haven't tried yet, but we've heard it works for others, and it may work for you too.

  • Spray cheap vodka onto your clothes and let dry. When the vodka evaporates, so will the odor.
  • 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.
  • Use charcoal. Charcoal absorbs moisture in closets so clothes don't smell like mildew.

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

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.


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    • CutandChicVintage profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from New York City

      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.

    • soconfident profile image

      Derrick Bennett 

      7 years ago

      Very useful hub! Ugh I hate that smell Thanks


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