How to Remove Cigarette Smoke Smells from Thrifted Items

Whilst many of you may have swooned at the red vintage suitcase I picked up at a bootsale the other week, I just wish you guys had smell-o-vision. After a few days of cluttering up the hallway I noticed a cigarette smell clouding up our flat and upon further investigation discovered in buying the vintage suitcase I’d brought home several decades of cigarette smoke. A mission folks, a mission. I set about removing smokey smells from that vintage beauty so I could use it without the aid of an inhaler. Here are my tips for removing the smell of cigarette smoke from charity shop and bootsale finds -

how to remove cigarette smoke smells

If it’s an item that can be washed give that a go first, failing that soak in 50/50 white vinegar and water over night or see my tips for removing charity shop smells. For items that can’t be washed/submerged in water use these tips -

How to Remove Cigarette Smoke Smells

1.Wipe with a damp cloth, then a dry cloth and leave outside to air out. This is often all you need to remove cigarette smoke smells from a vintage item so always give this a go before moving on to the other options.
2. Spritz (spray bottles are endlessly useful) with any of the following (one at a time please folks!)
- white vinegar
- white vinegar with a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil
- cheap vodka
then leave outside to dry out and air.
3. Scatter bicarbonate of soda on or into your item and leave for 48 hours. You can then wipe the bi carb into the item with a sponge or cloth lightly soaked in white vinegar.
4. Fill or cover your item with tea leaves. This especially works well with leather – I use it a lot on second hand shoes and boots which come with a bit of a nif. I found buying value teabags and snipping them to get the tea leaves out works out vastly cheaper than buying a packet of tea leaves.
5. Pour some kitty litter onto or over the item and leave to one side for around 3 days.
6. If you think the item will survive it, leave it out in the rain. I’ve saved many a stinky leather handbag by leaving it hanging outside in the rain. Make sure to thoroughly wipe dry and clean afterward and allow to air well.
7. Fill the suitcase with charcoal. Line the item with newspaper first if you think it may stain or leave dust (the news ink may also help absorb the smell.
8. Coffee grounds give off a strong smell so scatter them over your smoke filled item. Some coffee shops even give these away free for scattering onto plants, so keep your eye out if you’re passing a coffee chain.
9. If you can stand them use cheap and heavily perfumed fabric softeners as a diluted wash or spray.

red vintage suitcase

The one thing that worked for removing cigarette smoke smells from my vintage suitcase this time? Kitty litter. It was suggested by numerous people on Twitter after I’d exhausted all of my normal smoke removal routes. So thanks Twitter folks. We don’t have a cat but we do keep cheap kitty litter in our cupboard for those days when our front steps freeze up with ice and we need a bit of grit under foot. I left the kitty litter in the suitcase over the weekend and it was as fresh as a daisy come Monday morning.
A word to the wise, if drying leather outside please make sure you do it out of direct sunlight – search out shade – because sunlight can create cracks in leather. The same goes with other fabrics and clothes, turn them inside out so they’re not bleached by the sun.
You might find useful:
Image: tat


P.S. How do you remove smokey smells from thrifted items?


  1. Tina Of CASTFALL says:

    Loving that suitcase.

  2. Glad you managed to de stink the case, its There aren’t many stinks worse that cigarette smoke in my opinion!

  3. I use wiping, airing and bicarb… has always worked. :)

    Kitty litter sounds v clever for larger items, will deffo try it!

  4. Love the colour of that case and thanks for some very useful tips!

  5. Just what I need after buying some leather sandals off ebay.

  6. I feel your pain. Mr Betty often comments that our house ‘smells of loft’
    Have you any tips on the removal of whiney Mr’s? Might throw some cat litter at him!

  7. All great tips! If one doesn’t work try another & you will usually be able to tame the stink! Thanks for listing all these fab destinkifying hints!

  8. Yesterday you were talking about sharing bathwater, which while ickky to some, I said I had no problem with.

    But dealing with something that stinks of someone else’s smoke stench? Now that I couldn’t cope with, it really turns my stomach.

    So while I don’t need your tips for smokey smelling things, I can use it for something new. I love the painted trunks that Dunelm sell, and have a couple, but both have a horrible stink inside. Can’t describe it other than acrid. I’ve tried so many things to get rid of it, but it still hangs around. So right now, I’m about to go and pinch some of Dudley’s cat litter (clean, not a handful from his tray! eww!), and give it whirl!

    I thank you for the tip!
    have a fab weekend

  9. We had to try quite a few of these when my gran had died and we were clearing her things out. It always surprises me just how much that smell of smoke sticks to things.

  10. If I had a penny for the times friends had asked if I’d been smoking…! I sometimes fail to wash my opshop clothing in my keenness to wear it. Grim eh.
    We have some cute old kitchen cupboards we skins on the street which HUMMED of cats and smoke. Layers of lemon juice and bicarb sorted it out.

  11. really glad I read your post today. Got the cat litter, and went to the trunks to put it inside, and found my little girls Rapunzel doll. She’s been driving me crazy asking me to find it, and I’d looked everywhere. She is going to be delighted, and I am going to have a rest from her nagging!

    So hurrah, and thank you! x

  12. These are really great tips. I recently bought a train case that had that old smell to it. I put a fabric softener sheet in there for a couple of days and now it smells great.

  13. The bicarb trick worked a dream on my ciggie smelly,ebay find,eidy.
    Great tips as always Mrs T,thank you and have a lovely weekend. :0)

  14. Mrs. Thrifty, you are a genius! I already knew the vinegar trick for smelly items but it never came to my mind to fill it into a spray bottle! :D

  15. Ehm btw now I feel stupid ;D

  16. Kitty litter in a pop sock sorts stinky shoes every time! I managed to buy some weird cheapo pink slightly perfumed stuff from somewhere. The smell is not overly offensive and actually works a treat for masking the pong if u haven’t got time to leave them be long enough to dry out properly. It’s reusable too, and small volumes of the clay stuff (maybe not the pink version) can be thrown onto the garden for disposal. (It’ll disintegrate in the rain)

  17. Ooooh, this is mega useful – I have some vintage suitcases that I store old clothes in, and they don’t smell smoky, just musty. Which is a smell that quickly transfers to the clothes – but now I will try some of your tricks!

  18. I don’t suppose this would work on yarn/wool though. My Mum gave me a huge bag of yarn from her friend (who has apparently given up knitting), and I almost puked when I opened the bag. Its in the garage just now because I cant knit with it and I don’t suppose I can wash it as balls :(

  19. Love love looove your site! Right up my ally! Thank you so much for sharing, i really enjoy all your hard, wonderful work of putting this beautiful blog togheter.

    And thank you for a good post, i will try some of your tips!

  20. Fantastic to hear its no longer stinky :)

  21. these are great tips!! I’m so glad I found this! I saw your blog on HelloCotton and I’m a new follower. I can’t believe I didn’t find your blog before. I can’t wait to read more thrifty tips and finds! :)

  22. I’ll have to give some of these a try! Thanks for the tips!

  23. I was wondering whether the cat litter trick might work inside some old furniture we have in our bedroom. We bought a huge oak wardrobe and chest of drawers on ebay but one of the drawers in the chest and the drawer in the bottom of the wardrobe smell weird. Not even like smoke or anything like that, just… musty and weird. I have discovered that clothes also start smelling weird when stored in them so that writes off half of the storage we’ve got for clothes!
    When we got the furniture I washed it out with soapy water and left some bicarb in for a couple of days, but no joy.

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