How to Remove Fragrance from Clothes & Hand-Me-Downs

By Allison Evans |

How to Remove Fragrance from Clothes & Hand-Me-Downs

Have you ever used a conventional laundry detergent in the past and the smell lingers on your materials? 

Maybe you previously used perfume but have since become aware of the health risks associated with fragranced chemicals, prompting you to detox your clothing from the now off-putting scent. 

Or perhaps you an avid thrift store shopper for yourself or your family, or like many of us, your children frequently inherit hand-me-downs from cousins or friends.

Over time, the use of toxic laundry detergents can cause odors to become seemingly permanently embedded in these garments. The lingering scent is a common issue, but we're here to help! 

Regrettably, the fragrances found in laundry detergents raise particular concerns, especially for babies, children, and individuals with chronic illnesses.

Why You Should Avoid Fragrance in Laundry Products

As we’ve covered in previous articles, fragrance is one of the most insidious and harmful toxins we are exposed to. Like a wolf in lamb’s clothing, it seduces us with its pleasant, nostalgic, and “clean smelling” aromas; yet the word fragrance on a label represents a fragrance recipe that can contain hundreds of chemicals that have never been tested for safety!

Now, think about how many products with synthetic fragrance the average person is exposed to daily: shampoos, conditioners, soap, moisturizer, air fresheners, scented candles, perfumes, laundry products, etc... that adds up to a significant chemical onslaught every single day.

And they affect our health in ways we are just beginning to document and understand. A report confirmed the link between fragranced laundry products and cancer1.

Fragrances have also been linked to many other chronic diseases including:

  • asthma
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • breast cancer
  • liver cancer
  • migraine headaches
  • neurological disorders
  • respiratory disease
  • and hormonal imbalances to name but a few 2, 3

So many people suffer from these conditions, yet unknowingly continue using fragranced products.

Thankfully, you can detoxify your clothing and hand-me-downs of fragrance fairly easily.

Removing Fragrance from Clothing

If you already use safe fragrance-free laundry detergents like Branch Basics, you can typically smell laundry fragrance from a mile away!

Here’s how to get that fragrance out without adding any more harmful toxins to the mix.

These steps can also be used to detoxify any clothing that’s been washed in fragranced laundry soap, to remove a musty smell from clothes, or on new clothes to help eliminate factory and textile toxins.

Step 1: Combine fresh air + sunshine

It doesn’t get much simpler -- put your clothes outside to air! This process is called outgassing or offgassing. 

Plus, if you add sunshine to the mix, the sun’s rays and heat will drive out toxic substances, like fragrance and VOCs, from fabrics.

If you have a clothesline, that’s perfect. If not, use clothespins to hang them over a fence, lawn chairs, porch railing, etc. and let them air out as long as possible---at least 12-48 hours.

To avoid sun bleaching, turn garments inside out.

If weather does not permit, you can hang them in your laundry room or basement with the windows open, or in your garage; you won’t get the sunshine but it’s better than nothing.

Continue to air and sun until the smell is gone or significantly reduced. The main point is to avoid polluting your indoor air with the laundry fragrance.

Read How To Outgas (Or Offgass) & Remove Toxic VOCs for more info.

Step 2: Soak clothes before washing

Once your clothes have been outgassed, we recommend soaking your clothes for a few hours in Oxygen Boost and 2 tsp. Concentrate to help remove any lingering scents.

You can also add a cup of baking soda or white vinegar for extra deodorizing.

Step 3: Wash with Branch Basics Laundry

After airing and soaking, run your clothes through a heavy-duty wash cycle using a capful of Branch Basics Laundry solution plus a scoop of Oxygen Boost.

Add an extra rinse to help remove any lingering smell.

Step 4: Do a fragrance-check before drying

One of the tricky things about laundry products is that the signature fragrances are designed to impregnate the fabrics, which makes some scents very stubborn to remove.

Thus, it’s a good idea to do a quick whiff-test before drying. If the fragrance smell is gone or mostly gone, you’re done (the dryer will take care of the rest). Go ahead and dry them and enjoy.

But, if fragrance is still noticeable, don’t give up! Perhaps you need to offgass the pieces more (back to step 1!) or try a second heavy-duty wash adding 1 cup of vinegar and a scoop of Oxygen Boost to the wash cycle in addition to Branch Basics Laundry solution.

Step 5: Let your dryer remove the last bits of scent

By using a long dryer cycle to heat up these fragrances, you’ll increase the volatilization of the chemicals so they can be eliminated. The key is to ensure good ventilation, so be sure to open a window or have a vent/air purifier running.

Start by running the longest cycle you can on the hottest setting appropriate for the fabric.

When that cycle is complete, smell the clothes to determine if another cycle is warranted.

Extra Deodorizing Tips (for super stubborn fragrance)

  • Utilize the sun’s heat
  • Add more air! The longer you air out your clothes, the easier they’ll be to wash.
  • Plain vodka can be sprayed onto the clothes to help absorb some of the smell.
  • Wash, dry in the dryer, and repeat. It takes a bit of patience, but eventually, the smell will come out! 
  • No sun?! Use a Lady Bug Dry Steam Heat Cleaner to accelerate fragrance removal. The Lady Bug can be used for dust-mite, smoke, mold, chemical and fragrance contamination. 



Allison Evans

Allison Evans

Allison has dedicated herself to helping others reap the benefits of clean living. She, along with her husband and two daughters left Houston for the country life as she heals from a recent mold exposure and diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease. Follow her story on our Instagram and read more about her Journey to Fertility.