How to avoid/eliminate cigarette smell in clothes?
March 11, 2011 8:59 AM   Subscribe

How do I keep my clothes from smelling like cigarette smoke? And what do I do to get the smell out given the limitations of a carry-on bag in a hotel?

I have a professional conference in a few weeks, and I'm stopping to visit my mom for a few days before the conference, as part of the same trip. I'd been planning to bring a carry-on only (I'm flying) as my suitcase, and wear some of the same clothes for visiting her and for my conference. However, my mom is a heavy smoker. Whenever I've visited her before, I open my suitcase once back at home and release tons of smoke smell, and have to re-wash even my (ostensibly) clean stuff. Since I'll be going from my mom's to the conference hotel, I'd rather avoid the smell from the start. Is this possible?

My mom doesn't usually smoke in her basement, where the washing machine is, so that's a bit helpful.

I figure my options are the following:
1. Take two suitcases (ugh) or at least two sets of clothes in one large suitcase (slightly less ugh). Keep the conference clothes wrapped in plastic in the suitcase, and perhaps leave the suitcase in the basement. I'm still worried they'll absorb some odor though--and I won't know until I'm out of her house. (Which she thinks smells just fine.)

2. Clean my clothes right before I leave and pack them in the basement, and then use Magic Product at the hotel to get rid of any lingering smoke odors. Is there a Magic Product that will get through airport security? Like a travel-sized Febreeze?

3. Some other very sensible approach I hadn't considered.

I saw this thread (which prompted my question), but it doesn't speak to prevention or the confines of a hotel room.

Thanks for helping me avoid smelling like a tobacco factory at my conference!
posted by bluedaisy to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Febreze to go. I know it sounds like the smell is gross, but it's fine.

Clothes in plastic in a suitcase in the basement aren't likely to absorb very much smoke order. The stuff's not that strong.

Or ship your conference clothes to the hotel and have them hold the package until your arrival.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:03 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Zip-lock bags. Put everything in bags, with an eye to keeping your conference clothes bags unopened while you are there, and then seal your smoke-exposed clothes up before you leave her house.

Consider also keeping the suitcase itself sealed in a giant bag (look in the storage-bin section of your preferred store) ZipLoc makes XXL bags that might work, otherwise you might have to use a trash bag.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:05 AM on March 11, 2011

Store the bag in the dryer, for an added wall of protection, perhaps?
posted by backwards guitar at 9:07 AM on March 11, 2011

I've had this problem as well when my parents were heavy smokers. The only thing that worked for me was the following:

(1) Bring some articles of clothing that you will wear only on your visit and leave them at your Mom's place. You can even send them ahead of time so you don't have to bring a second suitcase. These will heretofore be your smoke-riddled clothes.

(2) If possible, store the bag and your conference clothes outside - literally outside the house. Even areas of the house that may seem OK - including the inside of the dryer - while you're there will pick up enough smoke residue to stink when you leave. So if she has a shed or any sheltered outdoor area, that is where I would store things. If that is impossible, store the entire suitcase in a couple of tightly sealed garbage bags.
posted by googly at 9:19 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would invest in some of those vacuum-seal bags. They make packing easier anyway, but be careful 'cuz you can get stuck with a much heavier suitcase than you would if your clothes took up the normal amount of space. (Or you could be smarter than me, and just use a smaller bag. Bonus: maybe it'll be a carry-on and you can avoid baggage fees).
posted by purpletangerine at 9:23 AM on March 11, 2011

Strongly agree with googly's second point. My MiL used to smoke and even after washing clothes in her house, they still smelled like smoke.

Those vacuum seal bags are neat, but mine broke after just a couple of uses, and I've seen other people report similar problems. Still, they are pretty cheap and might be worth it even if they do break.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:28 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

1) Pack only the clothes that you are going to wear to your mom's house.
2) Leave them there when you go (as googly said)
3) Ship conference clothes to hotel.
4) Take empty carry-on to hotel, take clothes home in that.

Or, if you are getting to the hotel in enough time, there should be time for you to wash a load of clothes before the first day of the conference. Most hotels have a coin laundry, you could call ahead to see if yours does and bring lots of quarters.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:38 AM on March 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yep, FedEx your work clothes to the hotel.
posted by nicwolff at 9:46 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh hi. I'm an expert on this because the smell of smoke at my parents' house is overwhelming, and I say that as a smoker. The only thing that has ever worked for me is:

Launder and pack at home. Go to smokey destination. Put suitcase in garage or on porch the instant you have unpacked it. (That step is vital.) Wear clothes in smokey house as per normal. Launder *everything* at the last moment. Wipe down anything you can't wash, like toiletries. Pull clothing immediately from the dryer and WALK DIRECTLY TO THE SUITCASE. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Fold, repack and depart.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:51 AM on March 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Remember to thoroughly wash your hair before the conference. Laundry is the first thing I do upon returning home after visiting mom, but until recently I didn't realize just how badly my hair needs washing too.
posted by plaintiff6r at 12:04 PM on March 11, 2011

Before my SO and I lived together and when we both still smoked, I usually had my next-day work clothes with me for hours in a very, very, very smoky bar. I rolled or folded them and put them in 2-gallon ziplock bags inside my messenger bag, this worked like a charm.
posted by desuetude at 5:10 PM on March 11, 2011

You guys are the best! Every answer was very helpful! I'm going to look into shipping my conference clothes to the hotel, and then shipping back my smoky clothes from my mom's.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:00 PM on March 11, 2011

pack clothes in plastic bags with scented dryer sheets, rub dryer sheets on the inside of clothing for an extra burst of smell. i can't remember if it's tressemme or pantene but there is a product for getting smells out of hair without washing. dryer sheets can work on hair in a pinch as well, and also help with frizz...
posted by peykron at 8:27 PM on April 2, 2011

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