How To | Get the Odor Out of Vintage Clothing

When you shop with us at Dalena Vintage, you know our clothes are, in the timeless words of Andre 3000, so fresh and so clean. Not only do we take serious pride in the quality of our vintage, we also genuinely love giving each piece whatever extra attention and TLC is required before listing. Sadly, not all vintage shops take the same pride in cleaning their garments, and if you're a fellow thrifter, you're well aware of the signature vintage smell that accompanies so many pieces. It's funky. There's really no nicer way of putting it. 

How to rid clothes of vintage smells

Over the years, we've experimented with many different methods of removing that musty odor from our stock. God knows it's not always easy to do, but we've learned a thing or two in ensuring all our beauties are good as new and odor-free, and today we're here to share. So if you find yourself with a newly purchased vintage dress whose odor you just can't seem to shake, struggle no more! We've compiled a list of our tried-and-true tactics in eliminating that vintage smell.

White Vinegar
If you're dealing with a cotton dress or a piece you know can be hand washed, then vinegar is the way to go. Wash your piece as you normally would, then rinse in a vinegar solution to counteract any odors. If washing in a sink, we recommend adding a few tablespoons of vinegar to the water. Let sit for about 15 minutes then rinse with cool, clean water. The vinegar smell will dissipate fairly quickly, so don't worry, you won't be walking around smelling like kimchi! As vinegar is acidic, there are some fabrics that cannot handle the intensity due to age or delicacy and will dissolve in a vinegar wash, so be sure to use with caution.

Steam
Using heat to rid odors may seem counterintuitive, but steaming a garment will actually release unpleasant odors that have been lodged in fabric for years, especially wrinkled or napped fibers. You may need to repeat this method a few times in order to rid all the odors, but the benefit of steaming is that you've taken care of all your ironing needs along the way. By the time you've finished, your dress is ready for a night out! 

Fresh Air
It may sound like common sense, but if you have a piece that has just a slight odor, sometimes all you need to do is hang it outside on a sunny day and let mother nature take care of it. The sunlight will help remove odors, but keep in mind that intense sunlight can also cause dyes to fade. If you're in a bind, you can also try using a clothes dryer on air dry. Using air dry or the lowest temperature is imperative, as high temperatures can actually set the smell into the fabric by bonding with fibers and dyes.

Baking Soda
Many people use baking soda to eliminate odors from leftover food in their refrigerator, but the thought of using it to dispel those pesky vintage smells may be a foreign one. Well, we think it's time to domesticate that idea! Baking soda is a natural deodorizer, and sometimes eliminating smells can be as simple as sprinkling a bit of it into a plastic bag, placing your vintage piece inside the bag, closing it and allowing it to sit for a day or two.

Vodka
Admittedly, we were skeptical upon first trying this one, but spritzing your clothes with vodka really can help with the stench, especially if you need a quick fix. The alcohol takes on an absorbent quality, neutralizing the funky smell. Remember to test out a small spot before spraying the entire garment, as you never know how a fabric or dye will react. Oh, and use cheap vodka, of course! 

Now for our disclosure! Let it be known that we have definitely had our fair share of mishaps throughout the cleaning game. Nothing is ever straightforward when it comes to cleaning vintage clothing. Even with years of experience under our belt, we still have catastrophes from time to time. Our best advice is to exercise caution and test a garment in as inconspicuous a place as possible. 

Have any other vintage deodorizing tricks up your sleeve? Let us know in the comments below!

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