One of the consequences of daily living is smells. An afternoon at the gym results in sweaty clothes that can leave a lasting odor in a gym bag or a hamper. A monthly poker game with friends can result in cigar or cigarette smoke that cling to your clothes and spread its distinctive odor around a room. Getting rid of these smells in the house results in a fresher smelling home and it may also help you feel more comfortable having guests over.

In this excerpt from the book Household Magic by Joan and Lydia Wilen the authors share some tips and tricks for getting rid of smells in the house.


According to The Fragrance Foundation in New York City, the average human being is able to recognize approximately 10,000 different odors—and tell where the odor is coming from because a nose can smell directionally. This is all the more reason to keep your clothes smelling clean and fresh. Here are some tips for common scents…

Steam Out Cigarette Smoke

If you’ve spent time in a smoke filled room, chances are your clothes will reek from it. To get rid of the odor, fill a bathtub with steamy hot water and add one cup of distilled white vinegar. Carefully hang the smoky garment so that the steam envelops it.

Use a padded hanger so that the garment doesn’t get pupkees (those unwanted epaulettype shoulder bumps). If you don’t have a padded hanger, you can pin shoulder pads around the ends of a hanger to avoid getting the pupkees.

Booze for Cigarettes

Fill a plastic spray bottle with one ounce of vodka and three ounces of water. Mist spray the smoky garment and hang it up to dry. The booze mixture should help to neutralize the cigarette smoke smell. But you may still smell like a saloon.

Just Like New…

If you have a new washable garment that has an unpleasant chemical finish or dye smell, add 1⁄2 cup baking soda to one gallon of water in a sink or basin, and presoak the clothing for at least two hours.

After soaking, toss the clothing into the washing machine and wash as usual. During the rinse cycle, add 1⁄2 cup of distilled white vinegar.

NOTE: This desmelling process will also work if you (and your clothes) have been sprayed by a skunk.

Hinder Hamper Smells

Cut off the foot part of a pair of clean pantyhose and fill it with baking soda or kitty litter. Tie the open end closed and keep the soda or litter-filled foot in your hamper. It will absorb moisture and help prevent stinky mildew from building up. Refresh the baking soda or kitty litter every month.

Hamper Freshener

In addition to—or instead of—the baking soda in a stocking, sprinkle a little baking soda on clothes that you put in the hamper each day. The hamper won’t smell, and when you do wash the clothes, the baking soda will make them softer and smell fresher.

Scentsational Gym Bag

Place a fabric softener sheet in the bottom of a gym bag. This will help mask the smell of sweaty clothes and sneakers—and you’ll know when it’s time to put in a new softener sheet.

Managing Mothballs

If you store clothes in mothballs, let them air out for several hours when you first take them out. Then toss the clothes in a warm dryer for about 15 minutes. You may want to add a fabricsoftener sheet, but check the information on the softener box to make sure the softener won’t stain the clothes.

Tablecloths, Mats, Curtains (Plastic)

If a plastic item doesn’t lose that yucky plastic smell soon after being unwrapped and out in the open, then help it along by soaking it in a sink with 1⁄2 cup of baking soda.

If the item also needs softening, add ⁄2 cup of distilled white vinegar to the baking soda water. Let it soak for three to four hours, then rinse and airdry.

For additional tips and other advice for you, your laundry, and your home, purchase Household Magic from

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