How do I get smoke out of my bags?
February 20, 2007 9:38 PM   Subscribe

How do I get the smell of smoke out of my bags?

Long story short: My boyfriend's downstairs neighbor is an idiot and put a towel on a heater, which of course caught on fire. Luckily nobody was hurt but a significant amount of smoke came upstairs - enough to wake us up at 6am and make us think that there was a fire in the apartment, evacuate the building, etc. It took us a while to get the smoke out, even with putting box fans in the windows and leaving the doors open. I suspect the landlord is going to have to replace the sheetrock on one whole wall of the building.

I was staying there for the weekend so I had my Waterfield briefcase and my Queenbee bag and various clothes. I washed my jeans and tees and am sending the jacket to the dry cleaner.

However I am concerned about my bags. They both smell like they've been sitting in a slow-smoker. How the hell do I get smells out of them? The briefcase is made out of a canvass-like material with leather accents. The messenger bag is leather-like vinyl with a velour material under the flap.
posted by radioamy to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You can probably handwash the messenger bag. For the briefcase, try putting it in an enclosed area with a bunch of baking soda. Put the baking soda in a pan or something for maximum surface area and odor absorbing. If the briefcase can stand up to having baking soda sprinkled on, left overnight, and vacuumed off that would be something to try.
posted by yohko at 9:51 PM on February 20, 2007

Empty them, open them up as much as you can, and leave them sitting outdoors for all of the next sunny, breezy day. That should knock the smell back to tolerable proportions.
posted by flabdablet at 9:55 PM on February 20, 2007

i had a full-on fire in my house and everything got smoke damaged- to the point where even stingy insurance agents readily replaced lots of my stuff. i was very surprised to notice that the smoky-smells in the stuff they didn't replace were gone within weeks- i'm talking synthetic cushions and blankets, an armchair, books, my bathrobe-- stuff that the insurance agents said they'd typically dryclean or just throw out. all the stuff was fine in under a month. so just be patient- maybe hang stuff outside, weather permitting- but they'll smell fine soon enough. til then, you could make a button that says "i can't believe it's not bacon".
posted by twistofrhyme at 9:56 PM on February 20, 2007

I stick a sheet of fabric softener in stored luggage, and linen cabinets that rarely get opened. The areas smell just-washed, and the softener sheets always smell funky when I take them out, as if there's been a swapping of odors.

Perhaps give that a try after the airing out phase. I would seal each bag up tight with the fabric softener sheet inside for at least a week or so, uninterrupted.
posted by nadise at 10:20 PM on February 20, 2007

For the canvas bag, if it isn't too delicate or heavy, run it through the dryer on the no-heat cycle with a dryer sheet. The circulating air and agitation will get rid of many of the smoke particles.

It works for my jackets after I've been out at a smoky bar.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:07 PM on February 20, 2007

I also recommend airing out - outside if you can. A good friend who is a smoker gave me her cool hippie bag, and it reeked of cigarette smoke. After washing it with water, I let it hang outside for a day in sunshine, and the smell was gone. Also worked for clothes that have a particularly musty smell.
posted by lucyleaf at 6:58 AM on February 21, 2007

I've heard that to get that musty smell out of old books one should seal them in a container with clay cat litter. You could try it on your bags with little risk of damage.
posted by frecklefaerie at 7:25 AM on February 21, 2007

febreze or odoban should take the smell out of the bag and will be safe to spray all over except for the leather (you'll have to test a small spot to see if it leaves a mark and I'm betting it will). I personally would spray the inside of the bags liberally and let them air out for a couple of days.
posted by estronaut at 7:47 AM on February 21, 2007

Mist thoroughly with a spray of 3 parts water, 1 part vodka.
posted by decathecting at 8:59 AM on February 21, 2007

The clay cat litter is a great idea. I 've heard of that too. I also have a Waterfield bag--the Cargo. It's boss. I love it. Good luck. Hopefully the landlord will get rid of your idiotic downstairs neighbor.
posted by flyawaygal at 10:40 AM on February 21, 2007

Actually, the people run Waterfield are incredibly helpful and eager to communicate about anything having to do with their bags. If my Waterfield bag got full of a bad smell, I would just email them using the contact info on the site and I bet they would give fast good advice.
posted by allterrainbrain at 11:26 AM on February 21, 2007

Don't Febreze! My house caught on fire a year ago, and I ended up throwing out everything that I used Febreze on, as it seemed to trap the smoke smell in with the Febreze scent. Find a ServiceMaster's in your area (or another restoration company) and ask them to run it through the ozone process. It works. Anything that I had that still smelled of smoke after the process, I sat outside for ~month, and it was cured.
posted by messylissa at 4:17 PM on February 21, 2007

I meant to add, you'll need to disregard a lot of this advice, as many people assume that smoke from fire is the same as maybe cigarette smoke or smoke from a campfire. It's not! Smoke from a housefire permeates in ways that people cannot even imagine. Even my tupperware absorbed the smell.
posted by messylissa at 4:18 PM on February 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

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