How To Get Smell Out Of Polyester: A Comprehensive Guide

Unwanted odors in polyester clothing can be very frustrating. If you’ve ever had a shirt, dress, jacket, or other garment made of polyester that developed a funky smell, you know how difficult it can be to get the stench out.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Soak the polyester item in a solution of white vinegar and water for 30 minutes, then wash it with detergent, baking soda, and borax in hot water. Air dry the item in direct sunlight.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain why polyester is prone to holding odors, discuss the most common sources of smells, and provide multiple methods and homemade recipes for getting every trace of odor out of polyester fabric.

Why Polyester Holds Odors

Polyester is a popular fabric choice due to its durability, wrinkle resistance, and affordability. However, one downside that polyester fabric has is its tendency to hold onto odors. Understanding why polyester holds odors can help you effectively tackle and eliminate unpleasant smells from your polyester garments.

Made from Petroleum

Polyester is a synthetic fabric made from petroleum-based products. The chemical composition of polyester makes it less breathable compared to natural fibers like cotton or wool. This lack of breathability traps odors within the fabric, causing them to linger even after washing.

Lacks Absorbency

Another reason why polyester holds odors is its lack of absorbency. Unlike natural fibers that have the ability to absorb moisture and odors, polyester repels liquids, making it more prone to trapping odors on the surface of the fabric.

This lack of absorbency can result in persistent and noticeable smells.

Attracts Oils and Sweat

Polyester has a unique ability to attract oils and sweat. When we wear polyester clothing, our body’s natural oils and sweat can cling to the fabric, creating an environment that is conducive to odor-causing bacteria.

These bacteria thrive in the warm and moist conditions, leading to the development of unpleasant smells.

It is important to note that while polyester may hold onto odors more than other fabrics, there are effective ways to remove smells from polyester garments. By understanding the reasons behind polyester’s odor retention, you can take the necessary steps to keep your polyester clothing fresh and odor-free.

For more information on removing odors from polyester, you can visit websites like Good Housekeeping or The Spruce which provide practical tips and techniques to eliminate odors from different types of fabrics.

Common Sources of Odors in Polyester

Polyester is a popular synthetic fabric known for its durability and wrinkle-resistant properties. However, like any other fabric, polyester can sometimes develop unpleasant odors. Understanding the common sources of odors in polyester can help you effectively tackle the issue and keep your garments smelling fresh.

Let’s explore some of the most common sources of odors in polyester:

Body Odor and Sweat

One of the primary sources of odors in polyester is body odor and sweat. When you wear polyester clothing, your body heat and perspiration can get trapped within the fabric, leading to an unpleasant smell. This is particularly true during hot and humid weather or when engaging in physical activities.

Regular washing and proper care can help prevent and eliminate these odors.

Cooking Odors and Food Stains

Another common source of odors in polyester is cooking odors and food stains. Polyester garments can absorb smells from the food you cook or consume, resulting in lingering odors. Additionally, food stains can contribute to the development of unpleasant smells.

Promptly treating and washing stained polyester items can help remove these odors.

Smoke and Environmental Smells

Polyester can also absorb smoke and environmental smells, such as cigarette smoke or strong odors from the surroundings. These smells can be particularly stubborn and may require special treatment to eliminate.

Washing polyester items with odor-neutralizing products or utilizing home remedies like vinegar or baking soda can help eliminate these smells effectively.

Mildew and Bacteria

Mildew and bacteria growth can also cause odors in polyester, especially if the fabric has been exposed to moisture for an extended period. Mildew odors can be musty and difficult to remove. Regularly washing and thoroughly drying polyester items can help prevent the growth of mildew and bacteria, thus preventing associated odors.

By understanding the common sources of odors in polyester, you can take proactive steps to keep your fabrics smelling fresh. Regular washing, proper care, and the use of odor-neutralizing products can help combat unpleasant smells effectively.

Remember, prevention is key, so ensure proper ventilation and storage of your polyester garments to minimize the chances of odors developing.

Methods to Remove Odor from Polyester

Wash with Vinegar, Baking Soda, and Borax

One effective method to remove odor from polyester is to wash it with a mixture of vinegar, baking soda, and borax. These ingredients have natural deodorizing properties and can help eliminate unpleasant smells.

Simply add a cup of vinegar, half a cup of baking soda, and a tablespoon of borax to your washing machine along with the polyester item. Run a regular cycle with cold water and let the garment air dry afterward. This method is particularly useful for removing strong odors like sweat or mildew.

Soak in Vinegar Water

If the smell persists after washing, you can try soaking the polyester item in a solution of vinegar and water. Fill a basin or sink with equal parts water and vinegar, then submerge the garment and let it soak for at least 30 minutes.

Vinegar is known for its odor-neutralizing properties and can help eliminate stubborn smells. After soaking, rinse the item thoroughly with cold water and allow it to air dry.

Use Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is another effective method for removing odor from polyester. This odor-absorbing substance can be found in the form of sachets or bags. Simply place the activated charcoal near the polyester item and leave it for a few days.

The charcoal will absorb the odor particles, leaving your garment smelling fresh. You can also try placing the polyester item in a sealed bag with the activated charcoal to speed up the odor-eliminating process.

Air Dry in Sunlight

Sunlight is a natural deodorizer and can help remove odors from polyester. If the garment is not too delicate, hang it outside in direct sunlight for a few hours. The UV rays will help kill bacteria and eliminate odor-causing molecules. Additionally, the fresh air will help refresh the fabric.

Just make sure to turn the garment inside out to prevent any damage from direct sunlight.

Steam the Item

Steaming the polyester item can also help remove odor. Hang the garment on a hanger and use a handheld steamer or a steam iron on the lowest setting. Steam penetrates the fabric fibers, helping to release trapped odors. Make sure to steam both the inside and outside of the garment for best results.

After steaming, let the item air dry completely.

Freeze It

Believe it or not, freezing can be an effective method to remove odor from polyester. Place the item in a sealed plastic bag and put it in the freezer for a few hours. The cold temperature will kill odor-causing bacteria and eliminate the smell.

After freezing, let the polyester item thaw naturally and air dry before use.

Use an Odor-Eliminating Spray

If you’re looking for a quick fix, an odor-eliminating spray can come in handy. Look for a spray specifically designed for fabrics and follow the instructions on the label. Simply spray the polyester item lightly and let it air dry.

The spray will neutralize the odor, leaving your garment smelling fresh.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to check the care instructions on your polyester garment before trying any odor-removing methods. Some fabrics may require special care or be sensitive to certain ingredients. If in doubt, test a small, inconspicuous area of the garment first.

Homemade Recipes for Deodorizing Polyester

Polyester is a popular synthetic fabric known for its durability and affordability. However, it can sometimes retain unpleasant odors, especially after being stored for a long period of time or after being exposed to strong smells. If you’re wondering how to get the smell out of polyester, worry not!

There are several homemade recipes you can try to deodorize your polyester items. These recipes are easy to make and use ingredients that you probably already have at home.

Vinegar Soak

Vinegar is a versatile household ingredient that can effectively neutralize odors. To use vinegar to deodorize your polyester items, you can create a vinegar soak. Fill a basin or sink with warm water and add one cup of white vinegar.

Submerge the polyester item in the vinegar solution and let it soak for about an hour. After soaking, rinse the item with cold water and hang it to dry. The vinegar will help eliminate any unpleasant smells, leaving your polyester fresh and odor-free.

Baking Soda Scrub

Baking soda is another fantastic ingredient for neutralizing odors. To create a baking soda scrub, mix equal parts of baking soda and water to create a paste. Gently rub the paste onto the polyester item, focusing on the areas that are most affected by the odor.

Let the paste sit for about 30 minutes, then rinse it off with cold water. Baking soda will absorb the unpleasant smells, leaving your polyester item smelling clean and fresh.

Vodka Spritz

Yes, you read that right! Vodka can be used to deodorize polyester items. This is because alcohol can kill odor-causing bacteria. Fill a spray bottle with vodka and spritz it onto the polyester item, making sure to cover the entire surface.

Allow the vodka to air dry, and you’ll notice that the odor will disappear. Plus, your polyester item will be left smelling as clean as a freshly made cocktail!

Lemon Juice Solution

Lemon juice is not only a great natural deodorizer, but it also has antibacterial properties. To create a lemon juice solution, mix equal parts of lemon juice and water. Apply the solution onto the polyester item using a spray bottle or a cloth.

Let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse it off with cold water. The lemon juice will help eliminate any unwanted odors, leaving your polyester item smelling citrusy fresh.

Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse

Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful cleaning agent that can effectively remove odors from polyester. Create a solution by mixing one part hydrogen peroxide with three parts water. Submerge the polyester item in the solution for about 30 minutes. After soaking, rinse the item thoroughly with cold water.

The hydrogen peroxide will break down any lingering odors, leaving your polyester item smelling fresh and clean.

Remember to always check the care instructions of your polyester item before using any of these homemade recipes. Some polyester fabrics may have specific guidelines or restrictions on the use of certain ingredients.

If in doubt, it’s best to consult a professional cleaner or follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Now that you know these homemade recipes for deodorizing polyester, you can say goodbye to unwanted odors and enjoy your fresh-smelling garments and household items once again!


Polyester’s tendency to hold odors can be frustrating, but don’t give up hope. With the right techniques and odor-fighting ingredients on hand, you can successfully remove smells from polyester fabric, leaving clothes fresh and wearable again.

Next time you notice an unpleasant aroma coming from a favorite polyester outfit, refer to the methods in this guide. With some persistence and elbow grease, you’ll be able to rescue garments from being retired early due to stubborn odors.

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