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How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Closet

Men's jackets and a hat hanging on a metal clothing rack

Photo by Amanda Vick on Unsplash

Our clothes can pick up the smell of smoke from our environment and bring it into our closets in many ways. Only a few hours at the bar where smoking is allowed, or a camping trip that involves singing by the bonfire, and your sweaters, t-shirts, and all other attire will absorb a lot of smoke particles that can make your closet smell of smoke, too.

If you’re thinking, “but my clothes didn’t smell when I came home,” that’s probably because, with time, you got used to the smell and stopped feeling it as much. However, chances are you were unpleasantly surprised the next day when you discovered that your whole closet smelled of smoke. It takes very little for the odor to permeate your other clothes, walls, shelving, ceiling, and floors of your closet.

At this point, washing your clothes is not enough, as the odor-causing particles are already stuck on your closet walls. And the longer you wait to get rid of it completely, the worse it will get.

In this article, we’ll discuss how to eliminate the smoke smell in your closet through a series of simple steps.

How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Closet

Depending on how much your closet is affected, you may need to go through all the steps or even repeat them a few times until you’re certain that your closet is free from that nasty smoke smell. In mild cases, you may notice that the smoke smell is out before you go through all of the steps.

Clear Out the Closet

Clear all items out of the closet before you try to eliminate the smell. If the clothes inside the closet already smell of smoke, check out our article on removing the bonfire smoke smell from clothes, as you’ll probably need to deal with that problem separately. If you also keep your shoes in the closet, look at our article on how to get smoke smell out of shoes. Standard smoke absorption techniques like baking soda, activated charcoal, or cat litter can sometimes help solve the problem of smoke-smelling shoes.

Once your closet is empty and the smelly clothes have been dealt with, you can proceed with treating the indoor walls of the closet. This is very important because if you return the clean clothes inside a smelly closet, all your hard work would be for nothing.

Wash the Inside Walls of the Closet

Using a mixture of distilled white vinegar and water, wipe the entire inside walls of the closet with a soft towel. That includes the ceiling, hard floors, shelving, and doors. The ratio of water to vinegar can be anywhere between 4:1 and 2:1 (depending on how strong you want the solution).

We recommend you use any lemon scent-enriched cleaning vinegar to more efficiently remove the smoke odor-causing molecules, but you can also use distilled white vinegar.

Alternatively, if the vinegar doesn’t remove all the smell, you can try a citrus cleaner. These are also inexpensive yet very successful at eliminating smoke odors.

Baking Soda and Other Absorbers

Baking soda is one of the most popular household odor absorbers. But if you don’t have some at home, you can easily find baking soda online and at your local stores. Some products are multi-purpose, and you can use them for odor absorption, cleaning, and cooking.

Activated charcoal, unused coffee grounds, and scented or unscented cat litter should work, too. You can spread these powders over the floor or leave them in an open container inside the affected areas (inside the closet). Let it sit for a few days, and then vacuum-clean the leftovers.

In addition, you can place any of these powders into a bowl with some crumpled-up newspaper and put one or two bowls into the corners of the closet. Let them sit for at least a few days for best results.

Use an Odor Neutralizer

Apply an odor-neutralizer inside your closet. Spray directly onto the walls, shelves, ceiling, and floors. Feel free to use a scented neutralizer, such as citrus or lavender, as these two are particularly good at eliminating smoke smells.

If you prefer, you can also use an essential oil and water solution. Simply dissolve a few drops of essential oil in a bowl filled with room-temperature water. The ratio can vary depending on your personal preferences. Then, dip a towel into the mixture and wipe the closet with it. In case of a more pungent smell, add more drops of an essential oil. Like neutralizers, citrus and lavender oils work best for smoke smells.

Air Out the Closet

Let some fresh air in your closet by opening windows and doors. The whole room where your wardrobe is should be ventilated. If possible, create a draft by opening opposing windows or add ventilators to help move the stale air out of the room faster.

If it’s a sunny day, you’re lucky. The fresh air will weaken the smell, while a draft will help move the odor molecules toward the outside.  If possible, expose your closet to direct sunlight because it’s known to kill germs and other toxic chemicals, so it might also be able to destroy smoke particles.

Steam Cleaner

Many people are unaware that steam cleaners can be used on some surfaces. For instance, if the flooring in your closet is made of hardwood, you’ll need to be careful with the steam cleaner – we do not recommend it. But you can freely use it on carpet, grout, or linoleum.

Both larger steam cleaners that look like vacuums and smaller ones should do the job.

You can use the steam cleaner to clean closet walls. Once again, if they’re made of hardwood, be careful. Otherwise, the steam cleaner should be very efficient at removing any kind of unwanted odor molecules.

Vanilla Cotton Balls

Soak cotton balls in the vanilla extract. After this, place groups of two or three balls in different corners of the closet. Vanilla is a good smoke odor absorber and leaves a pleasant smell inside the closet.

Ozone Generator

Ozone generators are quite successful at removing the smoke odor molecules. However, use them cautiously and follow all the safety measures. This is because breathing ozone is not healthy, and you should always close the door of the room where the generator is working. Additionally, see if it’s possible to set it up to work with a timer so you don’t enter the room during the ozone generation.

Once the generator is done, wait an hour or two to enter the room and air it out well.

Although precaution is recommended when using an ozone generator, this device is very effective at breaking down and separating the molecules that make up the smoke odor. This process helps them disperse, and after airing out the treated room, the odor should be eradicated.

Paint the Walls

Finally, if nothing else works, you can paint your closet walls. Paint seals the smell of smoke. This is not the most practical solution, which is why we recommend it only in cases where nothing else gives results.


Removing smoke odor from the closet can be tedious, and the earlier you notice the smell, the better. Smoke odor molecules stuck to the surface of objects in a closed space tend to smell worse with time, and before you know it, you may find out that the smell was transferred to all of your clothes, too.

That’s why acting fast, being patient, and mixing various methods is the key to success. From cleaning the closet with distilled vinegar to treating the surfaces with absorbers and essential oils or placing soft scents inside, the smoke odor molecules will eventually dissipate, and your closet will remain free from smoke smells.

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