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Feature Articles-Clothing Concerns

What works for odor removal?
Sharon Stevens, Former Coordinator, Missouri Textile and Apparel Center,
College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia

Activated charcoal, calcium carbonate (chalk), and baking soda are three major home-cure products for odor removal.

Clothing and Fabric odors: Place clothing or other fabric items in an open container with these products for several hours. Wash well afterwards. If the odor persists, try closing the container for a few hours, but be sure that you do not leave it unattended for very long. If moisture gets into the container, it may cause the growth of mildew.

Febreze, is a spray from Procter & Gamble that is designed to permanently remove garment odors, such as cigarette smoke or pet odors without washing or dry cleaning. P&G also recommends Febreze for household fabrics such as draperies, upholstery, and carpeting.

Refrigerator and Freezer odors: Wash the inside of the cabinet with detergent and water. Rinse with a clean cloth and clear water. Wipe dry. The plastic gasket which seals the door is likely to hold odors. Wash it thoroughly, rinse and dry carefully.

If odor persists, wash with a solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda to each quart of warm water, or I cup vinegar or household ammonia to a gallon of water.

Activated charcoal will soak up odors. Spread about 3 ounces of fine powdered charcoal on a sheet of aluminum foil in a shallow pan. Place on refrigerator or freezer shelf. Foods can remain in the refrigerator with the charcoal. After 6 or 8 hours, put the pan of charcoal in a moderate 350 degree oven to reactivate it so it can be re-used. Repeat until the odor disappears.

Flood odor: scrub all interior surfaces that were in contact with flood waters. Use hot, sudsy water followed by a rinse solution of 2 tablespoons chlorine laundry bleach (such as Clorox) to a gallon of water. Another option is to use a household disinfectant such as Lysol. Odor removal may take several applications.


No endorsement of companies or their products mentioned is intended, nor is criticism implied of similar companies or their products not mentioned.

For more stain removal information, refer to the Textile and Apparel Management section at MU Extension Publications