How To Get Campfire Smell Out of Clothes (Without Washing)?

Happy family sitting around a bonfire campfire and fire pit in a camping site

Campfires offer so much more than warmth and a means to cook some food while you’re on the road — they also have a way of bringing people together. Once the cozy fire has died down, though, a strong and very characteristic smell of char will already have settled deep within your clothes.

Whether you’re camping or adventuring in an RV, you may not be able to wash the clothes that smell of campfire. You may also simply not be willing to wash clothes that aren’t dirty, but “just” smell of campfire. You still want to get rid of that dreaded campfire smell, though. Is there any way to do that without washing your clothes?

Here’s a look at strategies that actually work.

After your campfire dies down, you’re left with more than charred wood and ashes — because as your fire burns, particulate matter (big enough to be visible to the naked eye, as well as too tiny to be seen) first rises and then settles back down. Some fibers, like cotton and fleece, are more vulnerable to lingering campfire odors than others, and this is particularly true for natural, loosely woven, fabrics.

Can that campfire smell be removed from your clothes, sleeping bags, and other fabrics, such as your tent? Of course! Washing clothes and bedding, whether by hand or in a washing machine, will reliably eliminate all campfire residue and help your clothes smell like new again!

If you can’t — or don’t want to — wash your clothes, however, you absolutely do still have a few other options.

What Neutralizes the Smell of Smoke?

As you decide how you’re going to try to get rid of the smell of a campfire, fire pet, or bonfire while camping or RV-ing, you’ll first want to see if you can work with what you already have lying about. Browse the internet for answers, and you’ll come across some odd suggestions.

Before you go ahead and try to remove the smell of a campfire from your clothes, bedding, and perhaps your tent, keep in mind that not all methods you’ll see recommended work, or are even safe for that matter. Also remember that although the smell of cigarette smoke might have a thing or two in common with the smell of campfire smoke, the two have very different chemical compositions. What works for one may not work for the other.

Here’s what not to do to eliminate campfire smells from clothes without washing them:

  • Douse your clothes, bedding, and tent in alcohol in an effort to remove the smell of a campfire. While some recommend this, you have to ask yourself if smelling of alcohol is any better than smelling of campfire smoke — and keep in mind that alcohol is flammable.
  • Use neat bleach, or even diluted bleach. Not only will this likely ruin clothes, you’re also at risk of breathing in dangerous chemicals.
  • Simply spray deodorant or perfume, or even bug repellent, onto your clothes. That’ll just add new smells, without removing the smell of smoke.

Are you looking for some first-aid tips for clothes that smell of campfire smoke? Here are two that actually work — at least somewhat. 

Leave your clothes to air outside, obviously away from any active campfires, and pour some baking soda onto them.

Baking soda is a harmless substance (that also actually acts as a fire repellent) that will absorb much of the odor. When you’ve given in some time, you can simply shake your clothes out, and the campfire smell will at least be less noticeable. 

How Long Does Bonfire Smell Last in Clothes?

How long will that campfire smell stick to your clothes, giving everyone who happens to walk past you a royal whiff of “Eau de Campfire”? The answer depends entirely on the circumstances.

  • If you wash your clothes, the campfire smell will be gone.
  • If you leave your clothes out to air, the smell of bonfire will be greatly reduced within a matter of three to four hours.
  • If you follow the tips ahead, you can have great odor-reduction results immediately.
  • If you place your post-bonfire clothes into one of those vacuum-sealed bags and never take them out, that campfire odor may still be present a decade later. We doubt that anyone has tested this theory, but air exposure is one of the primary factors that eliminates the smell.
  • If you just keep wearing a set of clothes that’s been exposed to a campfire, the odor will lose its potency over time. Wear the same clothes you used for a barbecue for a day full of hiking, fishing, and general outdoor adventuring, and honestly, it’ll be a lot better by the end of the day. Good as new? No. Better? Yes.

6 Tips to Get Campfire Smell Out of Clothes Without Washing

Do your clothes positively reek after a fun night around a campfire while camping, and do you want to get rid of the smell?

If you’re at a camp site, there’s really not much you can do beyond working with what you already have. If, on the other hand, you’re planning to go camping and think you won’t be able to wash your clothes after a campfire, you have more options.

To get a campfire smell out of your clothes without washing them, you could:

  • Take a bottle of Smoke Blaster Odor Neutralizer Spray with you when you go camping! Designed to deal with cigarette smoke, it’ll also greatly reduce campfire odors. The best thing? All the ingredients are natural!
  • The Febreze pet stain and odor eliminator is also surprisingly effective at eliminating campfire odors! Many camping enthusiasts swear by pet odor eliminators in general, but this is one of the best, as it’s powered by enzymes that absorb, rather than mask, the smell.
  • It’s even cheaper to use baking soda to eliminate the smell of a campfire from your clothes. Simply place your clothes in a plastic bag, add baking soda, shake the bag so the baking soda reaches every nook and cranny, and enjoy relatively fresh-smelling clothes the next day.
  • Store your clothes overnight with some good dryer sheets with fabric softener, like these Downy Infusions Lavender Sheets.
  • Allow your clothes to air for three to six hours.
  • Some people use lemon or vinegar. While this works great as a wash for your synthetic tent, you probably don’t want your clothes to smell of either of these things.

Enzyme-based odor neutralizer sprays should be your go-to method to get rid of campfire smoke smells if you want immediate effects. If you’re looking for an all-natural and DIY way to eliminate the smell of a bonfire from your clothes, meanwhile, airing the clothes or using baking soda will work well.

You could also opt to keep a set of designated campfire clothes. Place the clothes you don’t want to smell of campfire in a plastic bag as you enjoy your cozy night around the fire, and simply put them on the next morning.

Are Propane Camping Fire Pits Smokeless?

So, you really love camping, and you enjoy nights of cooking in the field and socializing with your friends or family around a nice campfire? But you hate the smell of campfire residue that seems to invade not just washable clothes and other fabrics, but basically everything you have with you when you go camping.

A propane camping fire pit may the the solution you have been looking for. Yes, these camping fire pits are smokeless. They have the additional benefits of giving off a warm and beautiful flame and not requiring any firewood.

If you’re after a portable propane camping fire pit that can come with you wherever your wanderlust takes you, check out this Outland Living Firebowl on Amazon. Are you after a more permanent focal point, for your backyard, for instance? Some brave folks have already designed and made their own DIY smokeless fire pits, and with their tips, you can follow in their footsteps!

A smokeless fire pit is a great solution for anyone who enjoys campfires, but doesn’t appreciate the lingering smells — and that’s definitely true for full-time RV-ers who want to be able to walk into any meeting or store without letting everyone know what they were up to the night before!

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