How to Remove Excessive Perfume Odors From Clothes

Get rid of those heavy fragrances

Hanging clothing
Ines Perkovic/Getty Images

Many people are highly sensitive to perfumes and scents and some people simply do not want to smell like a gardenia, patchouli, or a perfume counter. If you get a lingering perfume smell, it is the preservatives and other additives like alcohol, silicone, and petroleum chemicals that give that odor staying power. You can easily remove perfume or excessive odors from detergent or fabric softeners with items you likely have in your kitchen pantry.

Odor type Perfume chemicals
Detergent type Unscented liquid laundry detergent
Water temperature Warm

Project Metrics

  • Working Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 8 hours to several weeks (depends on the potency of the odor)

Before You Begin

If your clothing is labeled as dry clean only, air it out just as you would for washable clothes. You may find that a fabric refresher like Febreze, which comes in both scented and unscented formulas, may remove odors great success. Take the clothing to an outside area and spray it lightly and allow it to continue to air out. Febreze will trap odor molecules and keep them suspended until the garment can be cleaned.

Discuss Perfumes With Your Dry Cleaner

When you take the items to a dry cleaner, tell them about any fragrance sensitivity that you may have. Some dry cleaning chemicals can also contain perfumes.

What You'll Need

Supplies

Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Soaking basin or sink
  • Clothesline (optional)
  • Sealable container (optional)

How to Remove Excessive Perfume Odor From Clothes

Some scents are much more difficult to remove from laundry than others. Scents marked "eau de parfum" will always be more concentrated than "eau de toilette," and body sprays are the least concentrated scents. Meanwhile, fabric softeners and dryer sheet odors are some of the hardest to get rid of since the product uses a silicone formula that coats every fiber. This is what makes fabrics feel smooth and soft, but the scent can also be overwhelming.

The following method may not remove all of the odor on the first try, but it is the most economical and reliable way to attack unwanted scents.

  1. Air Out the Clothes

    Hang the scented clothing—even newly purchased clothing—in the open air. If you cannot hang the item outside, hang it up in a breezy (you can use a fan), warm, and sunlit room filled with lots of green leafy plants. The plants will help absorb the odors. The length of time the clothing needs to air out depends on how saturated it is with scent, and the sensitivity of the person wearing it. It may take as little as a few hours or as long as a couple of weeks.

  2. Soak the Clothes Before Washing

    Soak your clothing in a sink or washing machine filled with warm water and one cup of baking soda before washing. Be sure the soaking vessel is large enough to completely submerge the smelly garment. Overnight is usually a sufficient amount of time, although some suggest as long as a few days. Rather than a long soak, it is probably more effective to repeat the airing–soaking–washing–drying cycle several times, if necessary.

  3. Wash the Clothes

    After soaking, wash the clothing as usual following the care label guidelines, either in a clothes washer or by hand with unscented laundry detergent. Add one cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle and stop the cycle. Let the laundry soak for an hour before completing the rinse cycle. The vinegar will help cut through perfume residue in the fibers. To ensure that all the detergent has been rinsed from your clothing, add an extra rinse cycle.

  4. Dry and Air Out the Clothes Again

    For the best results, dry the freshly washed clothes on a clothesline or clothes rack in the fresh air and sunlight. Sunlight will help remove the odors, but bright sunlight can also cause dyes to fade; so hang dark colors in the shade. The line drying will also provide a final opportunity for clothes to air out. If you must use a clothes dryer, use a low-temperature setting like the permanent press option. Excessively high temperatures can cause remaining odor molecules to adhere more deeply to the fabric.

  5. Store the Clothes Properly

If the season is changing, do not store clothes away with a strong perfume odor. But, if you don't have time to clean them, you can place the fragrant garments in a sealed plastic tub or heavy-duty plastic bag with a box of baking soda. The baking soda will absorb the odors, just like it does in your refrigerator.

How to Remove Fragrance Odors from Clothes
 The Spruce

Generally, one pass through this process will effectively remove smells and irritants in most clothing. If your clothes still have bothersome odors or are chemically irritating, repeat the process as often as necessary.