Skip to Content
From The Guest Room is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read more

Does Cigarette Smoke Stick to Denim? 9 Ultimate Ways to Remove it

Does Cigarette Smoke Stick to Denim? 9 Ultimate Ways to Remove it

As an avid enthusiast of Western fashion, denim is more than just a fabric; it’s a defining element of my style.

Equally, my occasional enjoyment of a cigarette adds a touch of smoky allure to my Western lifestyle.

It was during one of my internet surfing sessions, combing through forums and communities that share my passions, that I stumbled upon a curious question: “Does cigarette smoke cling to my cherished denim?”.

This article is born from that chance discovery, as I embark on a journey to answer a question that unites two of my great passions.

Does Cigarette Smoke Stick to Denim?

Denim, known for its durability and rugged appearance, is a staple in Western wear. But can it hold on to the scent of cigarette smoke? The answer is yes.

Cigarette smoke contains a complex mixture of chemicals, including tar, nicotine, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These components are responsible for the distinct smell and stickiness of smoke.

When smoke encounters denim, it interacts with the fabric’s fibers, allowing these compounds to cling to the material.

Denim’s porous nature facilitates the absorption of smoke particles, and as a result, the scent lingers. Smoke particles can become trapped within the fabric’s fibers, making it challenging to remove the odor.

A man wears jeans and is smoking cigarette

Solutions for Smoke-Infused Denim:

So, what can you do if your beloved denim has absorbed cigarette smoke? Fortunately, there are effective solutions:

1. Washing with Odor-Neutralizing Detergent:

Washing with an odor-neutralizing detergent involves using a detergent specifically designed to tackle tough odors, such as those from cigarette smoke.

The enzymes and compounds in these detergents work to break down the odor molecules on the fabric’s surface, neutralizing the smell.

The surfactants in the detergent help lift the odor molecules from the fabric, allowing them to be rinsed away during the washing cycle.

Cold water is typically recommended to prevent setting the odor, and a thorough rinse cycle helps ensure all traces of smoke odor are removed.

jeans in the washing machine

Here’s how to wash your jeans with this detergent:

  1. Odor-neutralizing detergents contain enzymes and compounds designed to break down and remove stubborn odors.
  2. Sort your denim by color and fabric weight.
  3. Use a cold water cycle, as hot water can set odors.
  4. Add an appropriate amount of odor-neutralizing detergent as per the product instructions.
  5. Let the washing machine finish the entire washing cycle.

Check the odor after washing; repeat if necessary.

2. Vinegar Soak:


A vinegar soak involves submerging your smoke-infused clothing in a mixture of white vinegar and water for a specified duration.

Vinegar’s acidity helps neutralize the smoke odor by interacting with and breaking down the odor-causing molecules within the fabric.

The water in the solution helps distribute the vinegar evenly through the clothing, ensuring thorough odor removal.

After the soak, the clothing is rinsed with cold water and washed with detergent to remove any remaining vinegar and odors.

Here’s the process:

  1. Fill a basin or large container with one part white vinegar and three parts water.
  2. Submerge your denim in the solution for about 30 minutes.
  3. Rinse the denim thoroughly with cold water.
  4. Follow up with a regular cold water wash using detergent.

3. Bamboo Charcoal Bags:

Bamboo charcoal is a natural and highly porous material with excellent adsorption properties. It can capture and trap odor molecules, including those from cigarette smoke.

The bags contain activated bamboo charcoal pieces that work by adsorbing and neutralizing odors over time.

They are safe, and eco-friendly, and can be used repeatedly by simply rejuvenating them in sunlight.

Let’s follow these steps to remove the smoke!

  1. Seal the clothing in a breathable storage bag or pillowcase or hang it with the bamboo charcoal bags inside.
  2. Allow them to sit together for a few hours or overnight to remove the smoke odor.
  3. Periodically, place the bags in direct sunlight for a few hours to reactivate them.
  4. Depending on odor severity, repeat until desired freshness is achieved.

4. Sunlight and Fresh Air:

Hang denim jeans outdoor to dry it

Sunlight contains UV radiation, which has the ability to break down and neutralize odor-causing molecules.

When your clothing is exposed to sunlight, these UV rays interact with the molecules responsible for the cigarette smoke odor, causing them to break apart and lose their odor properties.

Sunlight also has a natural deodorizing effect, helping to eliminate and refresh the fabric.

Fresh air plays a crucial role in removing trapped odors. When clothing is hung outdoors in a well-ventilated area, the breeze carries away odor molecules, helping to disperse and dilute the smell.

The combination of sunlight and fresh air works synergistically to effectively reduce and remove smoke odors from clothing.

You can follow these simple steps:

  1. Hang your freshly washed denim outdoors in direct sunlight.
  2. Ensure it’s well-ventilated.
  3. Leave it for several hours to allow the sunlight to work its magic.

It’s essential to avoid direct sunlight for extended periods, as it can lead to fabric fading or damage.

A few hours of exposure should suffice to help eliminate odors without causing harm to the clothing.

5. Specialized Fabric Sprays:

Fabric sprays typically contain enzymes that break down odor-causing molecules.

Follow the product instructions carefully for the specific fabric spray you’re using.

Typically, you’ll spray the affected areas and allow them to air dry.

6. Steam

Steaming involves the use of warm steam, generated by a garment steamer, to relax fabric fibers and release wrinkles.

The warm steam can help reduce mild odors by loosening and dispersing odor molecules from the fabric.

Denim clothing, while sturdy, can be sensitive to high temperatures, which may lead to shrinkage or damage.

When using a garment steamer with warm steam, the fabric fibers gently relax without exposing them to excessively hot conditions.

steam a denim shirt

This helps release trapped smoke odor molecules from the denim’s surface.

  1. Fill it with water and set it to produce warm steam, not hot.
  2. Use a clothing rack or hanger with enough space around it.
  3. Plug it in and allow it to heat up according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Hold the steamer nozzle a few inches from the fabric, moving it in a back-and-forth motion. Focus on smoke-prone areas.
  5. Concentrate on areas with strong odors, like cuffs and collars. Steam the inner side if needed.
  6. Hang it in a well-ventilated area, ideally outdoors in the shade, to let the remaining odors dissipate.

Check for any lingering smoke odor. If necessary, repeat steaming until the desired freshness is achieved.

7. Hydrogen Peroxide:

Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful oxidizer. It breaks down odor-causing compounds and bacteria on the fabric’s surface.

Hydrogen peroxide’s oxidative properties enable it to interact with and break down these odor molecules, neutralizing the smell.

The water dilution helps to prevent potential damage to the fabric and ensures a safe application.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Blend an equal ratio of hydrogen peroxide and water. Use a concentration of around 3% hydrogen peroxide.
  2. Before applying the mixture to your clothing, perform a spot test on an inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn’t cause any discoloration.
  3. Dampen a clean cloth or sponge with the hydrogen peroxide and water mixture. Gently blot the areas of the clothing that have absorbed the smoke odor. Do not saturate the fabric; just dampen it.
  4. Hang the treated clothing in a well-ventilated area to air dry. Ensure it’s not exposed to direct sunlight, as this can cause fading.

After the clothing has dried, check for any remaining smoke odor. If necessary, repeat the process.

8. Essential Oil Diffuser:

Essential Oil Diffuser

Essential oils have been used for centuries for their ability to mask and eliminate various odors, including cigarette smoke.

These oils contain volatile compounds that can interact with and neutralize odor molecules, effectively replacing the unpleasant smell with a pleasant fragrance.

When used in an essential oil diffuser, the oils are dispersed into the air, allowing them to permeate the room and, subsequently, the clothing stored in that environment.

Here’s the process:

  1. Select essential oils known for their odor-neutralizing properties. Lavender, lemon, eucalyptus, and tea tree oils are good choices.
  2. Fill your essential oil diffuser with water, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Add a few drops of your chosen essential oil(s) to the water in the diffuser. The number of drops can vary depending on the diffuser’s size and your preference for fragrance intensity.
  4. Turn on the diffuser and allow it to disperse the essential oil-infused steam into the room where your clothing is stored. The pleasant aroma will help mask and eliminate smoke odors.
  5. Hang your clothing in the room with the diffuser, allowing it to absorb the essential oil-infused air. This can help freshen the fabric.

9. Baking Soda Pre-Treatment

Baking soda pre-treatment involves creating a paste with baking soda and water, which is then applied to areas of your clothing most affected by smoke odor.

baking soda paste

As the paste sits on the fabric, the fine particles of baking soda penetrate the fibers and interact with the odor molecules, breaking them down and rendering them less pungent.

After a designated time, the baking soda paste is removed, and the clothing is washed as usual to ensure the complete removal of both the baking soda and any remaining odor.

Follow our steps below:

  1. Form a paste by blending baking soda with a small quantity of water.
  2. Apply the paste to the areas of your denim most affected by smoke odor.
  3. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes.
  4. Brush off or shake out excess baking soda.
  5. Wash your denim in cold water with detergent.

How Long Does Cigarette Smell Last on Clothes?

The duration cigarette smell lingers on clothes can vary depending on several factors, including the intensity of exposure, the type of fabric, and the steps taken to remove the odor. Here’s a general guideline:

  • Mild Exposure:

If you’ve had brief exposure to cigarette smoke, such as being in a smoky environment for a short time, the smell may linger for a day or less.

Hanging the clothes in a well-ventilated area can help dissipate the odor.

  • Moderate Exposure:

For moderate exposure, where you’ve spent an extended period in a smoky environment, the odor can last for several days.

In such cases, washing the clothes with odor-neutralizing detergents and using additional methods like steaming or bamboo charcoal can be effective in reducing the smell.

  • Heavy Exposure:

If your clothes have been in close contact with heavy smoking or have absorbed smoke over an extended period, the odor may persist for several weeks or longer.

Dealing with heavy smoke odor may require multiple washings, using specialized odor removal products, and proper airing out of the clothing.

It’s essential to take prompt action to address cigarette odors on clothing to prevent them from becoming deeply embedded.

The sooner you treat the clothing with odor-removal methods, the easier it is to eliminate the smell.

Additionally, proper storage and avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke can help maintain your clothes’ freshness over the long term.

A man is smoking Cigarette and is wearing jeans

Why do my clothes smell like cigarettes when I don’t smoke?

There are several reasons why your clothes might smell like cigarettes even if you don’t smoke:

  • Secondhand Smoke Exposure:

If you spend time in environments where people smoke, such as in public places or around friends or family who smoke, your clothes can absorb the smoke odor.

Secondhand smoke particles can adhere to your clothing, resulting in the smell of cigarettes.

  • Shared Spaces:

Living in an apartment building or sharing a laundry room with smokers can also lead to your clothes picking up cigarette odors from shared spaces or equipment.

  • Residue Transfer:

If you have handled or been in close contact with someone who has been smoking, the residue on their hands or clothing can transfer to your clothing when you come into contact with them.

To reduce or eliminate these odors, you can follow the previously mentioned methods, such as washing your clothes with odor-neutralizing detergents, using baking soda, or steaming, to refresh your clothing and remove smoke odors effectively.

Additionally, being mindful of your surroundings and taking steps to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke can also help keep your clothes smelling fresh.

  • Barbecue Smoke:

Additionally, smoke from activities like barbecue parties can contribute to your clothing smelling like cigarette smoke.

Barbecue smoke, with its distinct odor, can cling to your clothes and, at times, resemble the scent of cigarette smoke.

barbecue smoke


In conclusion, cigarette smoke can indeed stick to denim, but understanding why and how it happens allows us to take better care of our Western-style clothing.

By following the provided solutions and taking care of your denim, you can enjoy the best of both worlds – a Western-inspired wardrobe that’s free from the lingering scent of cigarette smoke.