7 tips for removing that charity shop smell

Yesterday we discussed smelly charity shops and today I’m sharing my top tips for getting the charity shop smell out of clothes etc. If truth be known I’ve occasionally, actually scrap that, I’ve often worn items from charity shops before washing them (call me a dirt bag if you want) but some have a remarkable stench and really must be sorted out before you inflict their scent upon the general public.

1. Wash your item as soon as you possibly can. Be it in the washing machine or by hand (dependant on age and fabric). Give it a good wash and hope for the best.

2. Air the garment. Hang it outside (turn it inside out if you’re worried about the sun bleaching it), particularly on a breezy day, for as long as possible.

3. Add a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda to your machine wash.

4. Soak in a solution of 2 parts water, 2 parts white vinegar over night and wash as normal.

5. Wrap the (dry) item in newspaper (the print should absorb the odors) with bicarbonate of soda for around 3 days. Hang outside to air or wash as normal.

6. Tackle scent heavy areas such as arm pits and neck with a gentle hard hand soap such as Pears. I wet the soap and rub directly into the area before wetting the garment and giving it a gentle scrub.

7. Put the item on the washing line when it is raining for a bit of a natural bashing about, then wash as normal.

What are your tips for getting that charity shop scent out?


P.S. Dig out that vintage china and bunting you can do your own spot of help for charity by hosting a Blooming Great Tea Party in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care.

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  1. oooh fab tips, thanks, i tend to just use the white vinegar as i have not had anything too over powering

  2. Thanks for the tips, I’ll give them a try. If I have a few things that have that lingering moth-ball smell I hang them in over the bath, half-fill the bath (or sink if you don’t have a bath) with very hot water and put a small bowl of malt-vinegar in the bathroom, shut the door and leave them for a few hours. I find it gets rid of the vintage-moth-ball smell very well.

    Emily x

  3. I think you’ve pretty much covered it! I only deal with vintage though so I wouldn’t usually do all that you suggest on the really old garments. I find spraying fab-air works a treat on old hats.

  4. Great tips.

    I love bicarbonate of soda (is it possible to love a cleaning agent?).

    I recently bought a leather satchel from a market for £2 (I know!). It does smell slightly of smoke though. Do you think a good airing outside will do the trick?

  5. MHM – I put tea leaves in leather items with a stench (usually shoes) and shove them on the line. It tends to work really well in drawing the smells out of leather.

  6. I find that a small scoop of soda crystals (fabric robustness allowing) in a wash works wonders. And an extra rinse cycle at the end.

  7. Top tips thanks! I usually soak (sometimes in vinegar), wash and line dry/air for as long as possible but will now add bicarbonate of soda to my repertoire.

  8. Thank you for these useful tips! I shall no longer let these scents put me off..

  9. Great tips thanks.

    Madison xxx

  10. A great collection of tips there, Thrifty! (And friends!). Now….where’s that bicarb gone….
    Z xx

  11. With these really good tips i don’t have another one to share…
    Like your new header, nice!!


  12. My old tip would have been to immediately wear said item to the pub – on one’s return it would smell of smoke instead – but these are decidedly better for our post-smoking ban world (and I’m less of a skank now 😉 )

  13. i haven’t tried it-but i have heard spraying items with vodka removes the smell. not sure if you need to dilute it or what, so i would do a quick google search for better info :)

  14. Bicarb of soda is a great one..I sprinkled it over my rather whiffy eiderdown(bought off ebay) left it for 10 mins,brushed off,and… hey presto!…no more smells. :0)

  15. If it is a cotton fabric – BOILING – 90 degree wash on the washing machine and drying on the line!
    Julie xxxxxxxxx

  16. really fab tips, thanks for posting this haven’t seen such a good idea for a while! xox

  17. Hey,

    Love LOVE your blog!! defiantly following!

    follow me if you like?


  18. Fantastic tips. Thank you.

    X x

  19. Fab tips hun, I always enjoy reading posts like this because I always have a million questions on how to wash up vintage stuff, especially as I buy it quite regularly.

    Much love Amie


  20. Oooooh *prints*! Awesome tips!

  21. great tips, thanks!
    if fabric and condition of garment allows i do like to soak in napisan.
    i also like to put a bit of canisten (an anti-fungal solution) in the rinse cycle.
    and another one i like to do is to hang dry garments on the line and give a very light spray with diluted eucalyptus oil. x

  22. i find much the best way of subduing that smell is to bundle the garment with eucalyptus leaves and boil it. that way it gets a beautiful new design printed on it AND it smells heavenly!

  23. Fab tips for those stubborn smellies or non washable items!

  24. Great tips, any ideas on how to clean/de-stink a leather skirt?! Picked on up months ago but it has been sat in my utility room waiting to be cleaned!

  25. Ladybug – I’d put it in a paperbad with tea leaves for about three days and then give it a good airing.

  26. I’ve always wondered how to get that musty smell out which can be off putting at the point of purchase – I’m going to print this out and try it!

  27. Brilliant tips – thanks Thrifty!

  28. Great tips! I’m planning a big thrifting trip this week, and I’m sure these will come in handy!

  29. Anonymous says:

    I was told by a dear old lady to hang the garment on the clothes line when you know there will be a frost. It worked a treat but then I live in a part of Australia where Late Autumn, Winter and until mid Spring we can have a frost overnight then heavenly sunny days ( up to 25 C )

  30. hiya..how bout getting rid of them in vintage pendeltons, and vintage wool items… i have used Dryel and it helps most, but sometimes strong orders I cannot get rid of..

  31. Anonymous says:

    Hi, I have a pair of suede heels that smell so bad. I have tried bi carb. And still smell. I can’t wash them as they
    are suede. Any ideas as they are lovely. But the smell :(
    Any help?

  32. What about dry-clean only? I bought a corduroy suit jacket that I love but it smells of old man.

  33. Chromakala says:

    I have just bought a laundry basket (Lloyd loom style, and very pretty) from ebay, it smells of old lady’s dirty clothes. It’s wicker and wood. Any ideas?

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