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How To Get Smell Out Of Jeans? (Complete Guide)

How To Get Smell Out Of Jeans

Jeans are a wardrobe staple for many people. They can be dressed up or down and are comfortable for daily wear. However, after repeated wears, the durable denim fabric can absorb odors from your lifestyle and environment. Food spills, sweat, smoke, pet smells, and other unwanted scents can take residence in the fibers of your favorite jeans.

If you’ve noticed a bad aroma coming from your go-to jeans, don’t panic. With the right techniques, you can effectively remove even intense jean smells and restore the fabric to its fresh glory.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover the most common sources of jean odors, prevention tips, and proven methods to eliminate all types of smells from jeans. Armed with the knowledge of how to tackle food odors, smoke, sweat, mold, gym smells, and more, you’ll be able to freshen up your jeans and keep them smelling clean.

What Makes Jeans Smell? Common Causes Of Odors

What Makes Jeans Smell

Jeans can hold onto a wide variety of smells from daily wear. Understanding where these odors come from is key to removing them for good. Here are the main culprits when it comes to stinky jeans:


Our bodies naturally produce oils and sweat throughout the day, especially in warm weather or during physical activity. Jeans easily absorb sweat from areas like the inner thighs, back, knees, and rear. This leads to an overall musky body odor in the fabric. The bacteria on our skin eats the sweat and oils, producing compounds that cause unpleasant smells.

Food Residue and Spills

Foods contain oils and aromatic compounds that can transfer onto your jeans and get trapped in the weave of the fabric. Spicy foods, greasy foods, and anything with a potent aroma has a high chance of leaving a lingering smell if spilled on jeans. Food residue on the fabric breaks down over time, making the smell worse.

Smoke Odors

Sit beside a campfire or around cigarette smoke while wearing jeans, and the smells can really stick. Smoke odors from sources like cigarettes, grills, wood fires, and more contain microscopic particles that embed into materials like clothing. These particles hold onto the signature smoke scent and make it tricky to remove.

Mold and Mildew

If jeans are wet or damp for too long before fully drying, mold can start to grow in the fabric. This leads to a telltale musty, mildew type of smell. This typically happens if jeans aren’t spun in the laundry to remove all moisture or aren’t hung to fully dry. Storing damp jeans allows odor-producing mold and bacteria to thrive.

Pet Odors

Our furry friends can inadvertently make our clothes stinky. From fur smell to saliva to accidents involving urine or feces, these pet odors have a way of transferring onto jeans. Pet smells can be tricky to remove given the variety of compounds in things like urine and glands in the fur.

Gym Odors

After an intense gym session, smells from the environment like sweat and exercise equipment can cling to jeans. These smells compound over time with repeated wears. Bacteria grows on the fabric from sweat, leading to increased body and locker room odors.

General Wear and Buildup

Even without any specific stench sources, jeans can develop general odors from being worn regularly. Skin oils, environmental smells outside, and going hours without washing allows smells to slowly build up on jeans over time.

Now that you know where jean smells commonly come from, let’s talk about how to prevent those odors in the first place.

Tips For Keeping Jeans Smelling Fresh

While removing jean smells is crucial, stopping odor in its tracks is the best way to keep your jeans fresher for longer. Put these odor prevention tips into practice:

  • Wash regularly. Jeans should be washed at minimum every 5-6 wears. Wash them whenever you notice a smell developing. Use a laundry detergent with enzymes or oxidizing agents to tackle odors and body oils. Turn jeans inside out before washing to expose smells trapped inside.
  • Don’t overload wash cycles. Crowded washing machines lead to inefficient cleaning. Make sure to leave room for jeans to move freely through the water and detergent.
  • Use odor fighting detergent. Look for a detergent specially formulated to remove odors from athletic wear and fabrics prone to smells. These contain ingredients like enzymes, oxygen bleach and odor blockers.
  • Dry fully. Before storing jeans, ensure they are 100% dry. Any lingering moisture allows odor-causing bacteria to multiply rapidly. Machine dry on high heat or hang dry fully in sunlight.
  • Freeze overnight. Freezing jeans overnight helps kill odor-producing bacteria. Place jeans in a plastic bag and freeze for 24 hours before wear.
  • Clean spills immediately. Don’t give food or drink spills time to set on jeans – rinse and spot treat the area immediately after spilling.
  • Air out after wears. Hang jeans outside or on a balcony to air out after wearing. This allows smells to dissipate instead of settling into the fabric.
  • Keep jeans away from smoke. Avoid exposing jeans to strong smoke smells like campfires, grills, or cigarettes. The odor particles are hard to eradicate fully.
  • Use odor blocking fabrics. Choose jeans made of fabrics like denim that are more resistant to absorbing smells, rather than materials like linen that hold odors more easily.
  • Inspect jeans regularly. Check jeans over thoroughly for any mildew spots or visible stains that could lead to odor. Treat spots as soon as they develop.
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By making odor prevention a habit, you can keep your jeans fresher for longer between washes. But inevitably, smells will happen. When they do, it’s time to take action to remove jean odors using specific treatments.

How To Remove Strong Food Smells From Jeans

Spilling something like curry, fish, or other pungent foods on your jeans can lead to annoying lingering smells after the spot has long dried. Here are some tips for eliminating set-in food odors from jeans:

  • Pre-treat the spot. Use a laundry pre-wash spray or make a DIY spot treatment paste from equal parts dish soap and baking soda. Concentrate on the stain, rubbing the mixture in. Let it sit for 15 minutes before washing.
  • Wash using hot water. For set-in food smells, you’ll need to use the hottest water setting safe for the jeans fabric. Heat helps release trapped food particles.
  • Use an enzymatic detergent. Look for laundry powder or pods that contain enzymes that work to break down food oils and compounds that cause aromas. These are more effective for food smells than regular detergent.
  • Soak in vinegar. For extra cleaning power, fill a tub or basin with 1 cup white vinegar mixed with cool water. Soak jeans for 30 minutes before washing. Vinegar kills bacteria and helps dissolve oils.
  • Air dry in the sun. The heat and UV rays from the sun have natural deodorizing effects. Hang jeans outside to dry in direct sunlight.
  • Spot clean again. If any food smell lingers after washing, scrub the spot again with diluted dish soap using a toothbrush. Rinse and air dry.
  • Repeat washes as needed. Wash cycle jeans again focusing on the food smell trouble spots if any aroma remains. Use the hottest water recommended for the jeans.

With some elbow grease and targeted spot treatment, even the most stubborn pizza or barbecue sauce smells can be removed from jeans.

Step-By-Step Guide To Removing Smoke Smell From Jeans

Lingering smell of smoke is one of the toughest jean odors to tackle. Smoke particles easily embed in fabrics like denim. To fully erase a smoke smell from jeans, here is a step-by-step game plan:

Step 1: Air Out Jeans

  • First, hang the smokey jeans outside or open windows to air them out as much as possible. This will allow some of the lighter smoke particles to dissipate.

Step 2: Use Vinegar and Water Solution

  • In a spray bottle, mix equal parts white vinegar and water. Liberally spray jeans, targeting the heaviest smoke smells.
  • Vinegar is a deodorizer that kills bacteria and helps dissolve compounds that cause odors.
  • Allow jeans to sit 1 hour after spraying before rinsing.

Step 3: Wash With Specialty Detergent

  • Wash jeans in the washing machine using the hottest water temperature approved for the fabric.
  • Use a detergent specially formulated for removing odors like Persil ProClean Athletic or Tide Odor Rescue.
  • These contain enzymes and oxidizers able to penetrate smoke smells.

Step 4: Dry With High Heat

  • Machine dry jeans on the highest heat setting appropriate for the jeans fabric.
  • The heat helps release any smoke particles still clinging to the denim.

Step 5: Steam Clean

  • Use a handheld garment steamer to force hot steam through the jeans’ weave after drying.
  • This steam cleaning sanitizes and loosens any remaining smoke residue.
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Step 6: Air Dry Outdoors

  • As a final step, hang jeans outside to air out again. Sunlight has natural deodorizing effects.

With this thorough 6-step process, even the toughest campfire or cigarette smoke odors can be kicked to the curb.

How To Remove Embarrassing Sweat Smells From Jeans

Sweat smells manifesting around the inner thighs, rear, and knees of jeans can be mortifying. Luckily, you can clean even heavy sweat odors from jeans using the right combination of techniques:

  • Attack odor hotspots. Focus on sweat-prone areas like the seat and thighs. Use a cloth to rub undiluted white vinegar onto these spots. Vinegar kills bacteria behind odors.
  • Disinfect with vodka. Lightly spritz vodka onto smelly zones of the jeans. As it evaporates, the alcohol eliminates bacteria.
  • Wash with antibacterial soap. Hand wash jeans using a soap with antibacterial agents, concentrating on sweaty areas. This lifts bacteria and body oils.
  • Use an enzymatic detergent. Enzyme formulas break down the organic compounds in sweat that cause odor. These detergents boost cleaning power.
  • Air dry in sunlight. The UV rays from the sun have deodorizing properties. Always hang jeans outside rather than the dryer after washing smelly jeans.
  • Sprinkle baking soda. Cover sweaty spots with baking soda and let sit 1 hour before washing. The baking soda absorbs lingering odors.
  • Repeat washes as needed. Persistent sweat smells may require washing jeans a second time using hot water and odor fighting detergent.

With the disinfecting power of products like vinegar and vodka combined with odor-lifting detergent, sweat smells don’t stand a chance.

How To Remove Mold Or Mildew Smells From Jeans

The musty smell of mold and mildew can take over your jeans when they get wet or damp and aren’t fully dried. Mildew removal calls for disinfecting and drying out the fabric.

  • First, allow jeans to dry fully in direct sunlight. The UV rays help kill mold spores.
  • Hand wash jeans using hot water and a tablespoon of tea tree oil mixed with gentle soap. Tea tree oil has anti-fungal properties to kill mold and mildew. Concentrate on scrubbing moldy spots.
  • Soak jeans for 30 minutes in a solution of 1 cup vinegar per 1 gallon of water. Vinegar eliminates mold and odor causing bacteria.
  • After washing, spray jeans thoroughly with full strength white vinegar and let sit 5 minutes before rinsing. The acetic acid in vinegar destroys stubborn mold.
  • Allow jeans to dry completely in sunlight. Check that the fabric feels dry throughout.
  • Look for visible mold growths and brush them off outside before washing to avoid spreading spores. Discard the brush after use.
  • Going forward, never store damp jeans. Always fully dry before wearing or putting back in a drawer or closet.

With this thorough mold removal process, that mildew stench will be history.

Step-By-Step Instructions For Removing Pet Odors From Jeans

Our furry friends can lead to frustrating lingering odors in fabrics like jeans. To fully erase pet smells from jeans, follow this detailed game plan:

Step 1: Remove Pet Hair and Dander

  • First, use masking tape to remove any visible pet fur stuck to jeans. Tape easily lifts away pet hair and dander that leads to smells.
  • Use a fabric shaver to gently remove any pilled fibers containing pet odors. Discard shaved pills immediately.

Step 2: Spot Clean With Enzyme Cleaner

  • Check jeans closely for urine spots and treat immediately with an enzymatic pet odor remover like Angry Orange. This breaks down compounds in urine.
  • For feces smells, use an old toothbrush dipped in soap and baking soda to carefully scrub any stained area on jeans. Rinse thoroughly.

Step 3: Disinfect With Vinegar

  • Fill a spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and water. Liberally mist jeans, focusing on areas your pet rests against like the lap.
  • Vinegar kills bacteria and acts as a deodorizer for organic pet smells.

Step 4: Freshen With Baking Soda

  • Sprinkle jeans thoroughly with baking soda. The sodium bicarbonate absorbs a variety of pet odors. Let sit 1 hour before washing.

Step 5: Launder With Odor Fighting Detergent

  • Wash jeans on the hot water setting safe for the fabric using an enzymatic laundry detergent. This lifts residue from urine, feces, saliva and fur oils.

Step 6: Air Dry in Sunlight

  • Always hang jeans outside in direct sun rather than machine drying. The UV rays help deodorize as jeans dry fully.

With a thorough cleaning routine specialized for targeting pet odors, you can successfully remove these stubborn smells from jeans.

How To Get Workout Smells Out of Jeans

It’s not uncommon for the smell from your gym and exercise equipment to transfer onto jeans during workouts. To combat workout stenches:

  • Pack an extra gym bag containing odor fighting tools like antibacterial soap, tea tree oil spray and baking soda.
  • Immediately after your workout, use pre-moistened antibacterial wipes to spot clean sweaty areas on jeans. Look for wipes with active ingredients like benzalkonium chloride or alcohol to disinfect.
  • Once home, hand wash jeans using hot water mixed with 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil concentrate. The natural anti-fungal and antibacterial properties of tea tree oil destroy gym bacteria.
  • For extra cleaning power, soak jeans in a solution of 1/2 cup baking soda per 1 liter of water for 30 minutes prior to washing.
  • Wash jeans using the hot water setting and a detergent containing active enzymes that break down sweat residue and body oils that cause odor. Detergents like Tide Odor Rescue and Persil ProClean Disinfectant are formulated for workout clothes.
  • Skip the dryer, which can set odors. Hang jeans in sunlight, which naturally deodorizes fabric.
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With the right antibacterial cleaners and laundry practices, gym smells don’t stand a chance in your jeans.

How To Generally Freshen Jeans and Remove Built Up Odor

Even if you can’t pinpoint a specific smell, general odor can build up in jeans over time from wear, sweat, and other sources. Here are some all-purpose ways to freshen jeans and combat overall stench:

  • Wash jeans inside out. This exposes accumulated odors trapped on the interior fabric.
  • Soak jeans in a solution of 2 cups white vinegar per gallon of cold water for 30 minutes before washing. Vinegar acts as a deodorizer.
  • Add 1 cup of baking soda along with your regular detergent to the washing machine. Baking soda lifts a wide range of smells.
  • Wash jeans using hottest water setting approved for that fabric. Heat helps release odors.
  • Hang jeans in direct sunlight after washing. The sun’s UV rays naturally sanitize and deodorize fabric.
  • For a quick refresh, spray jeans thoroughly with a 50/50 mix of vodka and water. The alcohol eliminates some odor causing bacteria.
  • Use an odor fighting detergent like Tide Odor Defense that contains enzymes and odor blockers specifically formulated to tackle built up smells in fabrics prone to odors, like jeans.
  • Going forward, aim to wash jeans at least every 5-6 wears to prevent future odor accumulation.

With a combination odor fighting ingredients, targeted laundry practices and better washing habits, overall jean smells can be stopped in their tracks.

Common Questions About Jean Odors

Still have some burning questions about jean smells and how to remove those unpleasant odors? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How do you remove old jean smell?

  • Wash with a detergent containing enzymes to break down odors
  • Soak in a baking soda bath before washing
  • Spray white vinegar onto smelly spots
  • Air dry jeans in direct sunlight to naturally deodorize
  • Use an oxygen bleach like Oxiclean in the wash cycle

Why do my jeans smell after washing?

Jeans can smell after washing if they are not fully dried. Any lingering moisture allows odor-causing bacteria to grow. Be sure to fully dry jeans by either machine drying on high heat or hang drying completely before storing. Also wash jeans inside out to lift odors from deep in fabric.

How do you get period smells out of jeans?

  • Rinse spot immediately with cold water
  • Pre-treat with hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or lemon juice
  • Wash with laundry detergent containing enzymes
  • Air dry jeans in sunlight
  • Disinfect by spraying jeans with vodka

How do you clean jeans without washing them?

  • Hang outside in fresh air and sunlight
  • Spot clean stains with a damp cloth
  • Steaming jeans helps sanitize without washing
  • Use a fabric roller to remove lint and hair
  • Spot treat odors with vodka or vinegar
  • Remove fur and lint with masking tape

What is the best way to wash jeans?

  • Wash jeans inside-out to protect fabric and lift odors
  • Wash in cold water to preserve color
  • Use a front-loading washing machine which is gentler
  • Wash jeans every 5-6 wears or whenever smelly
  • Hang dry or tumble dry on low to avoid shrinkage
  • Wash jeans separately to prevent transfers from other laundry


Removing unwanted odors from jeans can feel like a challenge, but with the right techniques, you can successfully erase even the toughest smells. By understanding the most common sources of jean odors, taking preventative steps, and using the smell-fighting methods outlined, you’ll have fresh, odor-free jeans in no time.

With regular laundry practices and immediate treatment when smells occur, you can keep your favorite jeans smelling clean for many wears to come. Don’t discard jeans just because of an unpleasant aroma – give these jean deodorizing tricks a try to refresh the fabric and eliminate the odor.

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