How to Remove Smoke Smell from Yarn with One Simple Trick

My dad was a longtime pipe smoker. It didn’t really bother me except when he smoked in the car. He quit after 30+ years—kudos to him.

Now that I’m a crafter, I’m much more concerned about smoke smells. I don’t want my balls of yarn smelling like cigarette, pipe, campfire or (in the case of Colorado, where I live) marijuana smoke. I’ve tried many methods to remove smoke smell from yarn, but my one simple solution came after many failed attempts to remove the smell from a bag full of yarn I purchased through Craigslist from a cigarette smoker.

remove smoke smell

Fail: Unsuccessful Ways to Remove Smoke Smell from Yarn

The first thing I did after buying yarn that smelled like smoke was scour the internet. I tried several different methods that people recommended and was dismayed and discouraged when they didn’t work. The main problem was that the solutions I tried often just masked the smell; they didn’t get rid of it completely.

Do NOT try these at home. They don’t work.

1. Febreze or other air fresheners

Method: Spritz yarn with air fresheners or disinfectant sprays.

Fail: This only masks the smell, and the effect doesn’t last. The fresh scent wears off, and you’re back to smoky-smelling fibers.

2. Newspaper

Method: Place yarn in a garbage bag with a bunch of newspaper, and let it sit for several days.

Fail: This had no effect on my smoky yarn, so it was a total waste of time. I have placed newspaper in my car to remove odor, which works great, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work on a skein of yarn.

3. Fabric Softener

Method: Place yarn in the dryer with a sheet of fabric softener.

Fail: This simply adds one more layer of smells to the yarn . . . and not in a pleasing way. At first you think it smells nice, then there’s an aftersmell that makes you want to gag. Perfume and smoke are not a pleasant combination.

remove smoke smell

The One Simple Secret to Removing Smoke Smell from Yarn

After all of these failed attempts, I made one last-ditch effort to remove the smell from my newly acquired balls of yarn. I was hesitant to try it because I was afraid that it would bleach the color out of my yarn, but after the failed experimentations mentioned above, I was giving this yarn just one last chance before sending it to the curb.

This worked for me, but you’ll want to experiment on a sample ball of yarn to see if it will work for you and the fiber content of your yarn.

1. Mother Nature

Method: Place balls of yarn outside in direct sunlight for several days.

Success: After several days in the sun (and rain), the smoke smell was completely burned out of my yarn. And because it was only out in the sun for a few days, the sun did not have time to bleach the color.

Side Note: I did this in the middle of the hot summer, and I confess that the skeins may have been rained on once or twice (because at this point, I thought they were a lost cause). I’m not sure if rain is needed or not, but I suspect it’s the sun and fresh air that are the key ingredients.

remove smoke smell

Advice from Interweave Staff

I asked my coworkers at Interweave what they recommend for removing smoke smell. I haven’t tried these methods myself, but they may work just as well. Try them at your own risk! (OK, I am saying that with an air of doom and gloom, but these may work great. I just don’t know.)

If you try any of these, let me know how it works out for you. Inquiring minds want to know.

1. Suggestion: Soak the yarn in no-rinse soaking cleaner like Soak or Eucalan.

2. Suggestion: Air out the yarn on a shaded porch for a couple of days.

3. Suggestion: Soak it in a baking soda and water solution.

4. Suggestion: Seal it in a box with activated charcoal.

5. Suggestion: Soak yarn for 20 minutes in a solution that’s one glug white vinegar to one gallon of water.

I wish you much success in getting your yarn smelling as fresh as a daisy or as sweet as cool mountain air. Do write and let me know what methods have worked for you.

Dana

PS: The sun pattern is the Incan Star from Harmony Guides: Crochet Stitch Motifs by Erika Knight.


Which Project is Best for Your Fresh-smelling Yarn?

 

12 Comments

  1. Donna H at 6:45 am August 14, 2017

    I did this same thing with an upholstered chair that had pick up on the side of the road. When I got it home, it wreaked of smoke. So I set it outside on my patio to air it out. We then had a five-day rainstorm, which I was sure would ruin my chair. But when the sun reappeared, it dried out the chair, and the smoke smell was completely gone. This article is a good reminder that mother nature can be better than chemicals when it comes to fiber.

  2. Mary O at 7:17 am August 14, 2017

    There is a product called Ozium. You can purchase it at auto parts stores or Walmart. My husband’s company uses it to remove odors from the trucks when the change drivers. It works well on removing smoke and other odors (pet smells) . Just spray it into the container of yarn , seal it up and leave it for a day or two. It got the smoke smell out of things that were in a house fire.

    • Rozann G at 8:59 am August 14, 2017

      It doesn’t work if you have a high sensitivity.

  3. Anonymous at 8:58 am August 14, 2017

    I have a multi-chemical sensitivity especially to fragrances. I spin pet fur for lots of folks and find that fragrance from bathing is a problem. What I have done to remove it enough to spin is put in a closed container with a box of baking soda. Takes a week or more depending on amount. I have also placed it in a mesh curtain tied closed and hung out on my deck to air. Takes a few days and no rain on it. Both worked well for me. I generally soak the yarn in a vinegar rinse for 20-30 minutes before I set the twist.

  4. Rozann G at 8:58 am August 14, 2017

    Foolproof method: throw it out and know that you have to ask if yarn is coming from a smoke free environment in future.

  5. Darline d at 9:16 am August 14, 2017

    I buy yarn at yard sales and thrift stores also, I always try to smell it to see if there is an odor. Sometimes because of surroundings I might miss that it has a musty/moldy/cellar smell. I have tried to air them out but there is still a sent and I end up getting rid of them. Anyone try these methods on this problem? I’ve also gotten a material and furniture like this. Washing the material did nothing or just making it worse. Thanks in advanced

  6. nancy h at 9:17 pm August 14, 2017

    I have found that murphy’s oil soap works on everything leather, head liner of my truck, carpet, paint and every Surface i have used it on

  7. Mhairie L at 3:12 am August 15, 2017

    Thank you for your article on removing cigarette smell from yarn, I’ve had a similar problem, an elderly lady who lived down the road from me was down sizing her stash and and she asked me if I would like it, and I replied woo hoo! Does a wallaby pop in the paddock! Which put a smile on her dial. Well, I got it home and opened the containers, and…well….oooh noooo! The smell of mothballs wafted out! Oh dear! So after trying a number of washes which were futile, disheartened, thinking I won’t have all this wonderful yarn to boost my stash, I hung it all out on the line, now it’s winter here transitioning into spring so there’s not a lot of sun especially where my home is. But Tasmania at this time of year has plenty of wind and rain, and for a while I forgot all about it, when I did bring it in nature had done a great job of clearing the mothball smell, and so far so good not even a hint! I reckon the wallabies were wondering what it was all about, they’d give it all a bit of a sniff as they passed by. Hope my story helps someone else too and maybe put a smile on their dial as well. Cheers everyone happy spinning, weaving, and stashing, etc!

  8. Mhairie L at 3:16 am August 15, 2017

    Thank you for your article on removing cigarette smell from yarn, I’ve had a similar problem, an elderly lady who lived down the road from me was down sizing her stash and and she asked me if I would like it, and I replied woo hoo! Does a wallaby poo in the paddock! Which put a smile on her dial. Well, I got it home and opened the containers, and…well….oooh noooo! The smell of mothballs wafted out! Oh dear! So after trying a number of washes which were futile, disheartened, thinking I won’t have all this wonderful yarn to boost my stash, I hung it all out on the line, now it’s winter here transitioning into spring so there’s not a lot of sun especially where my home is. But Tasmania at this time of year has plenty of wind and rain, and for a while I forgot all about it, when I did bring it in nature had done a great job of clearing the mothball smell, and so far so good not even a hint! I reckon the wallabies were wondering what it was all about, they’d give it all a bit of a sniff as they passed by. Hope my story helps someone else too and maybe put a smile on their dial as well. Cheers everyone happy spinning, weaving, and stashing, etc!

  9. Sue S at 8:43 pm August 15, 2017

    The library I worked at once ad some books returned that smelled like they’d been stored in a fish rendering plant. We took the (expensive art) books and put them in a sealed bag with a container of kitty litter (I can’t remember if it was scented, but I think not) and left to sit on a shelf. It took a few weeks, but the smell was gone by the time we were done. I don’t know if this will work as well on fibre, but it was a low-cost technique, and the kitty litter could be returned to the colleague that ‘loaned’ it to us; it was eventually put to its intended use. If the fibre was loosely arranged around an open container of kitty litter, it may have the same effect. Good luck!

  10. Ann B at 3:24 am August 16, 2017

    The SUN!! I bought an American Girl doll online (eBay). She was in perfect condition but smelled like she’d been kept in a Smokers’ Lounge. These dolls have stuffed cloth bodies with soft rubber arms, legs and a wigged head. No one smokes in my house so pulling her out of the box was really a shock to my senses (my eyes, nose and throat burned and I got this instant headache). I soaked her clothes in a cleaning solution (Twin Pines of Maine’s D-Stinker and Woolite). The doll was a challenge because unless you are willing to take her completely apart, clean her and re-stuff her, you are stuck. (You are not supposed to get the body wet – water “stains” the fabric.) I cleaned her hair with the Twin Pines of Maine Shampoo and Conditioner and set it. Washed her body with a solution of Baking Soda. Then I covered her head, arms and legs with thick towels to keep her rubber parts as cool as possible and put her in the sun on the porch during the day. At night, while she was still warm, I closed her up in a plastic bag with “dry cleaning sheets” (the kind you use to “Dry Clean” your clothes in a drier) – I covered her in a light cotton towel so the sheets weren’t right up against her but were in the bag to absorb the odors that were emanating out of the stuffing and cloth. I did this switch from outside in the sun to inside in a bag every day for a week. It probably took less than a week but I kept thinking that I smelled something. Presently: You would never know that she smelled at all. I believe the sun made the difference. Note: Twin Pines of Maine sell cleaning solutions for all kinds of fabric heirlooms; like wedding dresses, etc. I’ve found them extremely helpful with various challenges. (FYI: I don’t work for them or get any compensation for saying so. But if you have a problem, I recommend calling them.)

  11. Anne M at 7:09 pm August 22, 2017

    I don’t recommend a baking soda/water solution for wool and animal fibers, which prefer an acidic instead of alkaline environment. (It will probably be fine in small doses, but if I were deciding between vinegar/acetic acid/citric acid bath and baking soda/ammonia, I’d choose the acid.) Any of the above can affect dyes.

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