How to get cigarette smell out of dry clean only clothes?
March 9, 2011 5:50 AM   Subscribe

How do I get the cigarette smell out of 3 dry-clean only suits that have spent years in a heavy smoking environment?

I have been given 3 suits that I would like to keep. The suits were owned by a heavy smoker. When not being worn, the suits stayed in the closet of a heavily smoked-in house.

I took the suits to the dry cleaners, and the smell is just as bad as before.

Is there some kind of special de-smoke-ifying treatment that I can request? Wash them in tomato juice and wear red suits? Consider them a lost cause and toss them?
posted by BigVACub to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Steam it with vinegar?
posted by valkyryn at 5:55 AM on March 9, 2011

Have you tried hanging them outdoors? Hanging in the sun would be best, but that may fade them. You can also try folding each piece into a paper bag with activated charcoal.
posted by kellyblah at 5:56 AM on March 9, 2011

Dry clean repeatedly. I quit smoking a month or so ago, and the smell is gradually washing out of my clothes. I can't see why it would be any different for clothes requiring dry cleaning.
posted by Ahab at 6:01 AM on March 9, 2011

You can also try renting a steamer or finding a place to do it, which is much gentler on the suits than dry cleaning.
posted by dnesan at 6:08 AM on March 9, 2011

You can put the suits into sealed garment bags with dryer sheets. Every couple of days, remove the dryer sheets and put in new ones (make sure the sheets don't touch the suits, or they can stain). This can really help pull odors out of garments.

After a few rounds of dryer sheets, hang the suits out in open, breezy air. Depending on how bad the smell is, this will probably help remove most of the smell, then have them dry-cleaned.
posted by xingcat at 6:25 AM on March 9, 2011

Febreeze. Perhaps, repeatedly.
posted by paulsc at 6:34 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a Christian Dior trench coat which had a penetrating mould smell.

I found repeated use of a odour neutralising spray (like febreeze) combined with repeated airing worked well ... but it took months.

Still, it worked, and the coat is fantastic now.
posted by jannw at 6:50 AM on March 9, 2011

Back when smoking wasn't banned in bars, I would hang whatever I had worn outside for a day in order to get the smell to go away (or wash it, but at the time I didn't have a washing machine at home). And it worked! If you have a protected porch area I'd hang the suits outside for a few days.
posted by chowflap at 6:55 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Before you throw them away, I'd try washing one, letting it hang dry, then getting it dry-cleaned. It may or may not work, depending on the fabric of the suit, but soap and water will get out a lot that dry-cleaning won't.
posted by mercredi at 6:59 AM on March 9, 2011

What is the lining on the suits? Silk or polyester?

Polyester-lined wool suits can be gently (GENTLY) hand-washed in warm water with a little liquid detergent, rinsed, and dried on a flat surface. I would at least try this on one suit before throwing them away.
posted by muddgirl at 7:01 AM on March 9, 2011

Oddly enough newspaper gets out a lot of cigarette smell. Wrap offending item in newspaper and allow it to sit for a long time (weeks). Remove from newspaper and dry clean.

Trick discovered after a friend was cleaning out the estate of a heavy smoker and she managed to get the smoke smell out of leather and paper goods this way. I imagine it would be worth a try for fabrics.
posted by countrymod at 7:27 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I should add the dry cleaning bit is specific to your suits. Dry cleaning step not attempted for leather or paper goods.
posted by countrymod at 7:31 AM on March 9, 2011

I have successfully used the spray bottle with water and vodka method on dryclean-only clothing that reeked of nightclub cigarette smoke. Mix vodka with water 1:4 in a spray bottle and liberally spray the garment. Hang to dry. Hanging to dry in the sunshine helps, but can fade delicate fabrics. It's essentially Febreeze, I guess, but a couple shots of vodka is probably cheaper, if you've already got it in the house, and it has no perfumes, which I think is a bonus.

We used (dried, used) coffeegrounds to draw the cigarette smoke smell out of the closet in our new place when we moved in. We had replaced all the carpets and the previous owners had done a good job of washing the walls (which we repainted), but the one closet was still reeking of cigarette smoking after years of storing smoke-filled clothes. That worked, too.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:39 AM on March 9, 2011 [4 favorites]

ZeroOdor Molecular Odor Eliminator has worked wonders for me. They sell it for less on their website and at my local Bed Bath and Beyond. It has no perfume smell. It smells like...I am not really sure. Perhaps the tiniest hint of detergent? I hate "cover-up" air fresheners and all things artificially stinky.

Not a shill!
posted by futz at 7:54 AM on March 9, 2011

There are some products for dry cleaning at home, I've never tried them. I'd go to the best dry cleaner in town, explain the problem, and ask what it would cost for them to resolve it. Most cleaners will re-clean clothing if you aren't satisfied. In this case, they might be willing to clean the suits several times, and not press them until the last time, which is less work/cost for them.
posted by theora55 at 8:58 AM on March 9, 2011

Well I just read that costume shops spray the arm pits with vodka. It's like a scentless febreeze they say. But I also read about life in space rocks, so YMMV.
posted by beccaj at 9:38 AM on March 9, 2011

Grrr.. I didn't can the other answers as well as I thought. What crush onastick said....
posted by beccaj at 9:39 AM on March 9, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers! I will try lots of these over the next few days and report back results.
posted by BigVACub at 9:48 AM on March 9, 2011

Back in the day when I partied more and there was still smoking in bars where I live, I would just febreeze the shit out of my dry clean only clothes after a night out and hope nobody noticed/cared.

Though I realize this might not be the best option if you hope to wear the suits in a professional context and don't happen to be a 22 year old hipster/bohemian type working in a bookshop.

If it's not a matter of personal reputation, but more that you are allergic to/revolted by the smell of smoke, you should probably just get rid of the suits. Unless they are so incredibly valuable that the cost of having them dry cleaned over and over again is still an economical thing to do, of course.
posted by Sara C. at 10:06 AM on March 9, 2011

Along the same lines as:

ZeroOdor Molecular Odor Eliminator has worked wonders for me. They sell it for less on their website and at my local Bed Bath and Beyond. It has no perfume smell. It smells like...I am not really sure. Perhaps the tiniest hint of detergent? I hate "cover-up" air fresheners and all things artificially stinky.

I like Zep Air & Fabric Odor Eliminator. It has no perceptible odor and, well, eliminates smoke and cat smells. I buy it at Home Depot but I just found it on Amazon.

Oh, and like futz, I am not a shill.
posted by slmorri at 10:32 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've had very good luck with just airing smokey garments out in the open, for days if necessary.

Avoid putting products on the fabric, you don't know what they might do. Try non-invasive (so to speak) methods first.
posted by Dragonness at 1:58 PM on March 9, 2011

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