How to Get Rid of the Dank Smell From Vintage Clothes

A vintage leather jacket and other such outfits can look cool. But you can get loads of side-eyes because of the smell. The dreaded vintage smell is the most common issue with vintage or secondhand clothing and accessories. You can’t miss that odd misty smell. There can also be a heavy perfume smell or the lingering scent of things one smokes, like cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or pot.

vintage leather jacket

In the case of garments that are launderable, the solution to the problem is a pretty easy one – wash it. Maybe add a half cup of an odor eliminating laundry booster like white vinegar, Borax, or baking soda if the smell is especially pronounced. However washing isn’t an option for a leather jacket, bag, or a silk tie.

vintage clothing

So what do you do? You can try the following.

Spritz It

white vinegar for cleaning

This is probably the best option for a leather jacket. Fill a small spray bottle with white vinegar and lightly spritz the garment. That’s all! The acid in the vinegar will counter the odors by leveling out the pH. The vinegar smell will dissipate quickly, so you don’t need to worry about smelling like salad dressing.

vodka for cleaning

If you are averse to vinegar, you can do it with vodka. Go ahead and use the cheap stuff for deodorizing and save the good stuff for drinking. Hanging the item outdoors or near an open window will speed along the freshening up.

Because the item is old leather, it’s not a bad idea to follow the freshening-up with a bit of leather conditioner, to ensure the vinegar or vodka doesn’t lead to additional dryness. There are lots of leather conditioners you can choose from.

Steam It

travel steamer

Good old steam is another great deodorizing option. Either a standing or travel steamer will do the trick. If you want to get really fancy, you can add a scent to the steaming water. Citrus is a good choice, since the acid in lemon, for example, will add another level of odor elimination.

Seal It

When it comes to removing smells from items that can’t be washed and shouldn’t even come in contact with a light spritzing or steaming, activated charcoal is what you need. Activated charcoal is also called activated carbon, active carbon, or active charcoal.

activated charcoalYou can buy loose activated charcoal in the fish section of pet stores, or you can buy it in brick form. Many brands of kitty litter contain activated charcoal, so if you have a cat, check your bag of litter to see if that’s one of the ingredients. Go ahead and use it.

Seal the stinking item in a lidded container, zipper bag, or trash bag along with the charcoal. Then leave it at least overnight, and up to a week depending on the smell you are trying to eliminate. Give it the sniff test to see how it’s going.

Also, fresh air and sunshine are really great natural deodorizers. If you have a back yard or balcony, and the weather is good, hanging a smelly item in the outdoors is a cheap and easy way.