These are the techniques used to remove cleaning product, air freshener, fragrance, and smoke residue from walls, floors, and furnishing.
Some chemical odors can be particularly difficult to remove, especially plug-in fragrance chemicals which contain oils. Cigarette smoke also contains greasy tar residue.
Any porous materials with a prolonged exposure are also particularly challenging to remediate.
This is a complete list of the strategies to use for each contaminant. I include my own experiment comparing sealants side-by-side to remediate Febreeze and cigarette smoke from drywall.
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1. Cleaning Residues Off Surfaces and Furnishings
i. Baking Soda or Vinegar
You can use baking soda or vinegar to wash down the walls. Baking soda provides some abrasion and helps remove odors. Vinegar is a degreaser and helps remove odors as well.
You can also sprinkle baking soda on horizontal surfaces, hard surfaces, carpet, and upholstery, and leave them until they seem saturated with the odor, then clean up.
Vinegar and lemon or vinegar alone can also help neutralize smoke and nicotine. Alkaline cleaning products will not remove nicotine residue. Acidic cleaning products work best for cigarette smoke, and vinegar helps with the greasy residue (source).
You can also set out bowls of vinegar and bowls of baking soda to absorb malodors.
ii. Baking Soda & Hydrogen Peroxide
Baking soda mixed with hydrogen peroxide is a powerful cleaner (and bleaching agent!) Some people add a little bit of Seventh Generation dish soap to this mixture to wash down the walls. Dry them, and repeat.
This can be used to remove odors on the wall. It also works on urine odors and is the best formula for skunk smell (source).
You can mix one part 3% hydrogen peroxide with one part white distilled vinegar in a spray bottle to remove smoke odor in upholstery.
Hydrogen peroxide does bleach many materials, so test for compatibility.
Vodka can work to remove odors on walls and furnishings.
You can mist upholstery and fabric lightly with vodka to help remove smoke odors, musty odors, and bacterial odors.
You can use it on hard surfaces like furniture and walls to help remove smoke odors. Test for compatibility.
If you have personal care product and cleaning product residue on shower walls, this can help cut through grime to help remove that odor. It can remove sticky residue as well.
Like vinegar, vodka is a degreaser and can neutralize odors.
iv. TSP (Trisodium Phosphate)
TSP is a powerful cleaner and degreaser. It can also be used to get rid of fragrance residues.
It’s often used to help remove mold from fabrics as well.
It will damage some surfaces, so it’s only for certain applications and you must research how to use it safely.
Folks with chemical sensitivities generally do tolerate it. But you should be cautious with how you handle and dispose of it.
v. Orange Oil Soap
Orange oil is a natural degreaser, so it can help to remove oil-based chemicals like plug-in residue and cigarette smoke. You can use it on the floors and walls as well as most furniture.
Other citrus oils like lemon oil are also degreasers.
Of course, many people with chemical sensitivities do not do well with essential oils. If that is the case, don’t try this strategy.
I like this Cove brand of castile soap with orange oil. You can also mix a formula yourself by adding orange essential oil to a cleaner of your choice.
If you are very sensitive to cleaning products you may prefer to mix this yourself to choose the base soap.
Dish soaps are particularly good soap degreasers, these three options are industrial strength and are great for washing down surfaces.
If you cannot get smoke out of a surface any other way, you could wash the walls and ceiling with a mixture of 1/2 cup ammonia, 1/4 cup vinegar, and 1/2 cup baking soda in a gallon of hot water. Or just use ammonia and water 1:4.
This is of course not a non-toxic option and those who are chemically sensitive may not wish to risk this or may only use this strategy as a last resort before giving up on a building.
Do a sample outside first and see if and when the ammonia dissipates to your satisfaction.
2. Neutralize Odors with Enzyme Cleaners
Enzymes can break down chemicals and odors. They work best on organic odors but they can work on other chemicals.
Biokleen is a good cleaner to remove toxic cleaners, chemically sensitive folks have reported.
Another enzyme cleaner, Earthworm Spray works well at breaking down organic smells.
Liquid-Ate is a brand I have used (better priced in Canada than the other brands). This brand has an unscented version. Most enzyme sprays have a light essential oil fragrance, and the more conventional brands have chemical fragrance.
I tried Nature’s Miracle old formula. The new formula has a lot of complaints in the reviews and I’m not a fan of those additives and fragrance that are added.
These cleaners are best known for breaking down and safely eliminating urine and other organic odors without the use of harsh chemicals or masking agents, but they can work on other chemical compounds too.
They do damage some materials since they interact with and break down sealants. I have seen this damage on sealed concrete floors and wood floors.
3. Neutralize Odors with Natural Mineral Products
There are two main products that use mineral technology to neutralize fragrance as well as smoke and other chemical odors.
EnviroKlenz makes a mineral-based product to neutralize odors. They have different variations of the same formula that are slightly modified to suit different areas of the house/different materials.
Enviroklenz odor eliminators are all made with the same basic formula: magnesium hydroxide/magnesium oxide, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide.
AFM Safecoat has a new product in 2020 called OdorOut. I tested this product in my experiment trying to remove Febreeze and smoke from drywall. More about that in the next section.
This performed surprisingly well. We don’t know the exact ingredients here though the vendor did say it’s a mineral-based product. Their website indicates it contains colloidal silica and “ions” (likely minerals). They describe a catalytic process that indicates it’s likely zeolite and possibly other minerals (possibly magnesium, zinc, and/or titanium dioxide).
The product is fairly transparent in color (unlike EnviroKlenze which is white) and it’s definitely not an enzyme-based product. It has a light odor that is difficult to describe. Most people would tolerate this product.
4. Sealing in Odors on Surfaces
Water-based products (sealers and paints) do not seal in perfume, other fragrance, urine, or smoke very well. The odor mixes right into that water-based coating.
My Experiment Comparing Sealants
I did an experiment on painted drywall. Four pieces of drywall contained Febreeze sprayed evenly on the front (while the back was sealed with foil).
And another four were doused with cigarette smoke. The boards were sealed on the back with foil and put into bags with equal amounts of cigarette smoke blown in.
I tested ECOS Purifying Primer, AFM Hardseal (which works well on offgassing chemicals), Zinnser Bullseye Shellac, and AFM OdorOut.
If you want to watch me go through the results on the board samples with Febreeze, here is a video.
Results of my Test
Water-based products did not help very much. I was not satisfied with ECOs Purifying Primer (which contains some zeolite) – on the Febreeze contaminated drywall – I would not even bother with this.
AFM HardSeal did help a little bit with the Febreeze odors. On Febreeze it was in second place (better than OdorOut). AFM did warn me that this would not work really well.
Shellac, a natural resin, is an alcohol-based sealant. It was by far the best seal on both chemicals from Febreeze and smoke odors. The downside of shellac is that this is a partial vapor barrier and should not be used on interior walls in all climates.
After using two coats of shellac, then you can go over with a water-based primer and paint, or even AFM HardSeal if you still need more sealing.
BullsEye is Zinnser’s waxed shellac – a great seal – but harder to paint over, Sealcoat Sanding Sealer is dewaxed and easier to paint over. BIN Shellac is their primer, which if you can tolerate that, is an easy one to paint over.
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and Rustoleum Chalked Paint can go over waxed shellac.
OdorOut came in second place on smoke (better than HardSeal). I was definitely impressed since this product did not look like it could tackle this. It did surprisingly well. It had to be reapplied multiple times as the odor partially returned after 24 hours or so. EnviroKlenz appears to be similar but is not the exact same formula.
On the Febreeze boards, it was not as good as HardSeal but it did help, and was better than just regular primer.
Wash the Walls first
In this experiment, I did not wash or scrub down the walls like I recommend in the first section. This would have helped. You may also want to apply some ozone or steam it first (and make sure it’s dry) before continuing on to seal it.
5. Steam Clean
Steam cleaning can be effective on smoky walls, floors, and upholstery.
The heat “melts the hardened tar and oils encapsulating the smoke molecules, making it easy to wipe them away with a microfiber cloth or sponge”, says Bob Vila.
Many home improvement centers rent these machines.
Bob Vila advises misting the surface lightly with the vapor from the steam cleaner. Don’t linger in one area and saturate it which can damage some fabrics such as silk and even destroy drywall.
6. Using Ozone to Break Down Fragrance & Smoke
There are a few things I would still use ozone for. Ozone can be used successfully on fragrance odors, not in shock treatment doses, but in lower doses. Lower doses are less risky.
The biggest risk with ozone (apart from the fact that people, pets, and plants can be harmed by exposure to ozone) is that it oxidizes materials and can leave behind a persistent odor that can be even worse than the original one.
If your house has new home offgassing from building materials – I would not use it in that setting. I would personally not use ozone to remove fragrance in a house with high offgassing. There are too many possible chemical reactions that could go wrong and make things worse.
For fragrance and smoke, start with low doses for short amounts of time and stop if you are just starting to produce byproducts. Read my full post on ozone for precautions and airing out.
This doesn’t always work, especially on porous engineered wood or drywall where the fragrance or smoke is deeply embedded.
But it certainly can work on light fragrance and smoke and is something I would try after washing the walls and before sealing them. Or even before washing the walls if you like. Just be sure to start with low doses so you can check for interactions with building materials.
You don’t need a super powerful ozone machine for low doses and short times, a simple one like this will do. But you do have to take the same precautions as you would with higher doses.
You can use ozone on objects and some furniture as long as you know what it negatively reacts with (and know what it can degrade), or, are willing to experiment.
Ozone is a DEADLY gas, be sure to fully read the precautions and use at your own risk. I recommend a much longer air out process than ozone machine vendors recommend.
Do not proceed without reading my ozone post for the risks to human life, pets, and even neighbors, and doing your own due diligence. My disclaimer is here.
7. Remove Materials if Neccesary
When you have major contamination of fragrance chemicals or smoke and or you are extremely sensitive you may have to remove some materials.
Porous materials can become very saturated with smoke, fragrance, plug-in residue, aerosol residue, and other air freshener chemicals.
Drywall is very porous, and areas where the walls have been directly sprayed with aerosols, or right above where the plug-in was, might not be saveable.
Buildings where someone smoked inside for long periods of time will have very saturated materials as well.
Pressed Wood Removal
Pressed wood products are also very porous. If fragrance chemicals were stored under kitchen or bathroom cabinets or sprayed on them, those materials might not be able to be saved.
Though those are also areas where shellac will work well.
Carpet is another porous material that might not be able to be cleaned. You can try extraction, and you can try sprinkling down baking soda or zeolite and vacuuming it up later, but you might not be able to save it.
Removing third-hand smoke from carpet may be impossible.
When removing carpet take the same level of precaution you would take in remediation, since many chemicals (flame retardant, pesticides, mold spores) will become volatile during the removal of carpet.
8. Should you use an Air Purifier?
An air purifier will not stop the offgassing of fragrance, cleaning product reside, or smoke from the substrate, but it can help deal with the VOCs that are being emitted and are now circulating,
This is usually the step to try after trying to remove the source of the problem by cleaning, sealing, etc. However, there is no harm in bringing this in to help right away. It just might not do as much as people hoped.
This usually isn’t enough to help someone that is severely reacting and unable to remove the chemical odor from the materials in the home.
But for some people, it does make all the difference. If you are less sensitive or the problem odor is not severe, this is a much easier solution than the others.
I have a list of top air purifiers to mitigate VOCs. These are the ones with lots of sorbent material in them. They are also units that are well tolerated by folks with MCS.
9. Using Other Sorbent Materials
Not as powerful as air purifiers that move air through sorbent materials, the same materials can be set out around the house to passively absorb odors.
Activated charcoal, zeolite, baking soda, coffee grounds, and bowls of vinegar all work to absorb odors.
A product that many chemically sensitive people have said works well is the Deoderoc mineral blocks. This might be zeolite, it’s not clear.
10. Don’t forget the Central HVAC
When you are moving into a house that had pervasive smoke, mold or other contaminants, you should replace the furnace filter and have the ducts cleaned.
- How to remediate VOCs in new homes (including how to seal in formaldehyde)
- The best air purifiers for high offgassing
Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist Practitioner with 8 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.
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I just got a sleep number bed given to me for free! Apparently my clients use a lot of air freshener. The bed reeks. Sleep number beds come apart piece by piece and have fancy air mattresses inside…Lots of foam pieces….which absorb the heck out of air freshener…..
I have some of the pieces outside now, airing out…..I just don’t think it will work, but I gotta try. All of my sheets and blankets now reek too…I hope washing them gets it out. I really want to keep the bed, but…I don’t know. My sensitivities are not as bad as they used to be, but I have to wonder about the health effects…..plus it just reeks so badly……GROSS!!!!!! IF I try baking soda on the foam, I don’t think I can get it all out….
To speed up release of VOC’s when airing things out: (1) If there’s not much air flow, run some fans to blow across the item(s). (2) Vacuum the item often while windows are open if doing this indoors. (3) Increase heat and/or humidity in the space where the item in question is.
Hi, I have MCS/EHS and I’m living with my elderly mother who needs home health aides. It seems impossible to find aides who are not extremely perfumed. I’ve explained, provided information on all products that can contain fragrances, and even when people agree to do their best, it seems hopeless. We’re both getting very sick. Does anyone know of a hazmat type suit that the aides could wear that might seal in perfumes and not have another kind of toxic odor? And do you have any ideas for how to protect upholstered furniture from absorbing the fragrances (too late, but at least I could try to clean what’s already there and prevent more from getting in). Or any other suggestions for dealing with this seemingly impossible situation! We do have air purifiers and open windows whenever outside air is ok. Thanks!
I’ve found that scent on people often comes from multiple sources. It could be that they wear perfume, but these days w/so many products scented, people’s clothes stink from washing and drying using scented detergents, scented dryer sheets, etc. People also often use scented personal care products (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. They may also have scent infused in their home and/or car. It’s a truly aggravating challenge if you’re sensitive to smell and perfume. It’s additionally frustrating because when in your home, the smells transfer to textiles, etc, as you describe.
One thing I do in my home is I have throw blankets on my furniture so when people sit down I can wash the throws after they leave. Usually the exposure has been a short enough time that washing will get rid of it. Another option if it doesn’t is that I roll up scented textiles in a towel (something w/a lot of nap) and have found this is highly effective. I presume the scented textile off gasses and the smell transfers to the towel. Every day I change the towel and wash the perfume-infused one. It works quite well, though it’s tedious.
It’s good you have air purifiers, but that doesn’t help with having to inhale all that antagonizing smell which is also getting on our furniture. But at least you can have some peace of mind that the air purifier is capturing a lot of the VOC’s their off-gassing like pigpen from Charlie Brown!
I solved my smelly vintage lamp problem, but thought I’d bring another issue here in case anyone has any suggestions. We purchased our current house in 2020, and it had just been remodeled/flipped. We purchased a brand new washer and dryer and prior to even setting them up my husband cleaned all the vents with a super long brush that he bought just for that purpose AND had pros come and clean out all the vents as well, plus we installed a new AC & HVAC in 2021. (My goodness is MCS an expensive illness!!) However, ever since we installed and used the dryer, every load comes out smelling like detergent/dryer sheets. I contacted the manufacturer and the store we purchased them from and neither of them used anything. I only use fragrance-free detergents and NEVER use dryer sheets, so how does every load stink of them? I saw a few suggestions and comments on cleaning smelly washing machines, but does anyone have any ideas for a dryer?
they usually put a free pack of dryer sheets or something in the new ones for people to try. maybe yours had one but it was removed somehow before you saw it.
Ban Plug Ins says
A comment to say this is what worked for us. TLDR: Sealant/primer on the walls. Take care that all the washing attempts don’t migrate the smell to the floorboards. For those, we’ve had to shellac + put tinfoil down and then furniture over the top to cover.
Longer story: I found this page at a point of desperation. My roommates and I moved into a rental where previous tenants used plug ins in several rooms, including bedrooms and kitchen. They were no longer there but the odor remained! Within a few hours of moving in I was having a bad physical reaction, headaches, nausea, raw nose and throat feeling, and the anxiety of feeling trapped in the new house. My roommates didn’t get physical symptoms but they found the smell distasteful and unpleasant. The landlords were not willing to take any real action to help.
I noticed that none of the comments on this page were from people coming back to say ‘this is what worked.’ It fueled my despair that we would ever get rid of the smell. But I thought if we ever did get rid of it, I should come back and add a comment. We tried almost everything on this list, except the ozone (pet cat + too many house plants made that seem like a bad idea).
What worked best in the end: sealing the walls and shellacking the floors. Maybe all the baking soda and vinegar, alcohol spray, orange oil, ammonia, TSP, hydrogen peroxide, enzyme cleaners, steam cleaning etc did make a difference. They certainly made a difference to my wallet! But if I ever move into a house with this problem again, I’d try sealing first.
We repainted the odorous walls with primer (B-I-N Shellac-Based White Interior Primer and Sealer). This effectively blocked the smell, we noticed the improvement almost immediately. BUT I’d tried so many things to wash the walls that the smell *had* lifted from the wall and then redeposited itself into the floor boards. So then I had to shellac the floor boards (Clear Shellac Traditional Interior Finish and Sealer). Even after several coats, I could still smell that horrible smell. So in the end, I found another resource that suggested that tinfoil could seal in odors. Luckily it was just in a spot where we can put furniture over the top.
The other day I was drilling holes in the wall to put up shelves. Even from just a tiny drill hole, through the shellac, I was hit with the odor. I quickly vacuumed the drill dust up and the problem went away again. So, clearly, the odorous molecules are still there. But now is hopefully effectively sealed in. I don’t notice it any more (a few months later). Hopefully I’m not still absorbing the chemical nastiness in other ways.
I’ve never had to deal with a problem like this before and hope I don’t again. These chemicals should be banned and rentals should prohibit their use. But at least I’ve found a solution now as a way to keep living in this home.
Shellac works really well to seal in odors and I have tested it on a bunch of samples of many different odors. But for some people the odor comes through, just a lot slower and once it’s sealed in then you can’t try anything else like washing.
Plus in the majority of US and much of Canada AC is used, and shellacking the walls would be a bad idea as it creates a point of condensation, and can easily lead to mold in many climates.
Corrine, Do you know if coffee grounds absorbs odor or only masks it?
Ignore my question and remove it if you want. I just re-read this section and noticed you listed coffee grounds as something that absorbs odors. Sorry for missing that….
I am in a bad situation. Have to live with family in on older smelly house. The previous owners were very perfume-y. I hardly know where to start. The bathroom cabinets and the laundry room are particularly bad. Yesterday we tried 2 coats of the Zinsser Bullseye shellac as a test inside bathroom cabinets with visible spills soaked into the shelves. Today they smell like shellac plus the perfume that was there before.
Also, one family member refuses to give up his scented products (shampoo, deodorant. etc.). I am at a loss. I have no way to move. The smells are making me ill. Really despairing here. If anyone has any not terribly expensive suggestions, I would love to hear them. I need hope.
Dianene Ibsen says
Hi juniper. I just want to see how you’re doing. I am moving into an apartment that has cents on the walls and in on the floors. Uugh.
Hi Nils. I wonder if you had any success with your odor removing and your place?
-much luck friend
I have no magic answers, but truly empathize as I’m dealing w/a similar situation to a lot of what you describe. It can get very discouraging trying things, to no avail.
Regarding your cabinets, have you considered removing the shelves to see if that would reduce the amount of VOC’s that are off-gassing? Also, do you have an air purifier you can run to help capture some of the VOC’s and give you a wee bit of relief?
Problem solving these situations usually requires a multi-pronged approach. Maybe you can remove some shelves and say “buh bye” to those VOC’s, run an air purifier that will capture some more VOC’s and dilute what’s in your environment, and maybe you could offer one or two personal care products to the person who refuses to change what they use. Maybe don’t expect them to stop using everything, but perhaps if you had a wonderful, quality, fragrance free option for one or two items, you could start to reduce that load, as well.
Also, if it’s any consolation, science has shown that anxiety heightens sensitivity to odors, which can become a cyclical problem as one smells distressing odors which causes anxiety which heightens sensitivity to odors, etc…. One theory is that it’s part of our primitive brain that served an evolutionary role, particularly as it pertained to women protecting their young and the significance of off odors as signs of potential threats.
Keep us posted as to how things are going. My heart goes out to you and I hope and pray you can start to find some relief… Limping along myself…
Lisa L says
The only thing I’ve found that removes scents from laundry machines is chlorine bleach. I usually run a hot load of white towels with a free and clear laundry detergent and a cup of bleach. The towels help to scrub the residual fragrances off of the drum. When that is done I keep the towels in there and run it through another complete hot water cycle, with a small amount of F&C detergent, using two rinse cycles if that is an option. I also have asthma and bleach is an irritant. You can use a high filtration facemask and leave the area while the machine is running. If you’re sensitive to any residual bleach odor on your towels you can run it a third time with no detergent or bleach. Use a cup of vinegar in the first rinse. Do not combine bleach and vinegar!
Hi there! Any tips on removing air freshener-type odors from a pair of vintage lamps? The lamps themselves don’t have shades – they’re more brass/metal and crystal. I have taken them apart and cleaned them as best I could (at least with the few cleaners out there that I can tolerate) but every time I plug them in they REEK. I would LOVE to be able to keep these lamps since they’re gorgeous, but I can’t seem to find a solution. Right now they’re in our garage “airing out” and have been in there for probably over a year already. They’re also humongous and very heavy table lamps, haha. Any advice or suggestions would be much appreciated!
I’d try essential oils (to clean them with)
-much luck friend
I came back here to mention what worked for my problem – once I changed out the original vintage incandescent light bulbs the smell mostly went away. I think doing that and airing them out for 2+ years helped. It makes sense that the light bulbs were the culprit since any time I plugged in the lamp the bulbs heated up, but I changed them to LEDs and haven’t had the same problem.
Mia Evans says
I totally agree when you said that it can be difficult to remove some chemical odors such as those that contain oils. With that in mind, I should look for odor eliminators for car dealers so that I can address the issue with my vehicle. It just got that kind of scent for the past three days now after my son accidentally spiled the substance on the floor back then.
Nice article! Just bought an old tv here and discovered that it reeks of air ‘freshener’ when it gets warm. Guess I’ll have to take the back off and clean the heatsinks with…?
Any tips gratefully received.
Tim, did you ever find a solution or anything that’s helping? I posted on here that I’m having a similar issue with a pair of vintage lamps…they seem to stink the most when they’re plugged in and turned on. Any advice is appreciated if you have found anything!
I wonder if it is the cord or a plastic part that has absorbed the odor. Those can be changed. I just deconstructed a vintage lamp.
Yvette, I just saw this comment! I came back here to say that once I changed out the original vintage incandescent light bulbs that the smell mostly went away. I think doing that and airing them out for 2+ years helped. It makes sense that the light bulbs were the culprit since any time I plugged in the lamp the bulbs heated up. I changed them to LEDs and haven’t had the same problem.
I moved in an apartment which is not new but renovated. When I moved in, the earlier owner cleaned up the apartment with the help of cleaning agency. It was smelling good when I moved in. After 10 days of move, I started smelling some chemical oder specially in clothes, any fabric that is lying around. Even the bedsheet and blanket. Even when I kept my towel hanging in bathroom, the next day it starts smelling some chemicals. I dont know if this is because of the cleaning done by the cleaning agency or because of some area pollution around apartment. Could someone please help me on what could i try to remove this oder?
Is it possible that the company that was hired to clean the place left “air freshener” or a scented filter in the vents? I would see if you can track down the cleaning company or call your realtor to see if he/she can get in touch with the previous owner either directly or through their realtor to find out who they used for the cleaning service.
It’s also possible that someone else (or many people) in the apartment building are using scented products that are traveling through the vents…unfortunately there’s no real solution to this.
Hi Haley could you tell me how I would know if they’re going through the vents or if the vents are connected to other apartments?
Do you have your own air conditioning unit? If so your vents should be your’s, if it’s a shared system on top of the building that provides heat and AC to more than one unit, then you might have shared vents. You should check w the building manager or landlord. They should know, I say “should” if they know the building but so many people are new in their jobs these days. If you share the vents then it’s kind of like being on an airplane where everyone breathes everyone else’s air. Sorry you’re dealing with that. A chemical smell would concern me – there was something a few years back about “chinese” drywall they called it – it was a drywall not made in the US due to hurricane Katrina taking ALL of the US building supplies for a very long time and that stuff crumbles on the inside and it’s got a ton of chemicals in it and is dangerous – is there a city engineering dept you can check with about any reconstruction that was done? Grasping…just hate that for you, would drive me crazy!
I wonder if anyone can help with this: I just bought a brand new washing machine, an LG model that is endorsed by Allergy UK and advertised as being especially good for allergy sufferers… There is some kind of fragrance in the machine, a sort of synthetic apple scent, that has not gone away despite running MANY ‘tub clean’ cycles with various things – my usual unscented detergent, washing soda, citric acid.
I have asthma and am very sensitive to fragrances. When the machine warms up during a hot cycle the smell is particularly strong, and it also transfers to anything washed in the machine. The manufacturer claims there is nothing in the machine, nor anything used in the manufacturing/testing process, that has any fragrance (but I know other manufacturers test their machines with scented detergent and claim that there would not be any residual fragrance…).
Any suggestions? I can return the machine to the retailer, losing some money on delivery and installation, but don’t know what machine I could safely order instead. Anyone know how I might remove the fragrance from this machine?
I would use lots of vinegar and baking soda and do a separate empty wash with BioKleen dish detergent and leave door open as much as possible before and after the wash cycles. If you can tolerate an empty wash with a cup of clear ammonia that might help to. Wipe out the rubber seals and make sure there is no mold or residue from any cleaning products.
I don’t know if you have resolved this issue…but were there any scented samples in your washer when it was delivered? That would have left a smell that would be hard to get rid of. I purchased Speed Queen for that reason…they’re practically the only brand that doesn’t come with those horrible scented samples.
Lisa L says
The only thing I’ve found that removes scents from laundry machines is chlorine bleach. If you have asthma. I usually run a hot load of white towels with a free and clear laundry detergent and a cup of bleach. When that is done I keep the towels in there and use a small amount of F&C detergent and run another hot load. I also have asthma and bleach is an irritant. You can use a high filtration facemask and leave the area while the machine is running. If you’re sensitive to sny residual bleach odor on your towels you can run it a third time with no detergent or bleach. Use a cup of vinegar in the first rinse. Do not combine bleach and vinegar!
Washing soda it is the ingredient in the fresheners they sell for washers minus the perfume part…
I use simple clean washing soda get a good sized bag for 5 bucks on line. I use a Tablespoon in the clean washer cycle and leave the house when I use it keep the windows open. I does not really smell but it irritates my lungs even with the mask and I have a good mask.. so best to be out of the house. I don’t need to do it very often thankfully. Generally I don’t resort to this and would use a cup of vinegar in clean machine cycle or even just a hot wash.. followed by a cup of baking soda.
After I use the washing soda I do a quick cycle of baking soda…. the are basically chemical opposites the baking soda will even out the washing soda then I do a vinegar rinse.
If you use enough washing soda I will guarantee that smell will be gone but the air quality will need some time and the washer …if it is the front load type will keep some of the water in the machine and you don’t really want washing soda on your underwear… it is a strong chemical. If you did use it on your underwear for whatever reason you would want to wash it again in baking soda and rinse in vinegar… … 🙂
that cleans it all up and leaves things neutral and ready to go again.
Washing soda is sodium carbonate same thing in afresh with out that sicken smell I can’t tolerate… yes I have MCS you likely guessed
Rebecca Webber says
My husband and I moved into an apartment about 6 weeks ago and I feel like I find a new smell every day. Fortunately it is a 5 year old space so the smells of the once new doors, molding, appliances, etc have off-gassed well. It’s also mold free which is dramatically improving my health, Yay! Unfortunately the last tenant used some pretty strong scented cleaning and personal care products so that’s my challenge. This article has helped me out a ton. Today’s challenge is getting the hairspray/perfume smell off the bathroom door. You are always a literal life saver Corinne. I hope you are doing really well!
Hi Rebecca. I just moved into an apartment and I’m wondering if you had any success with cleaning this fragrances out of it? Thank you, Diane
Hi, I just bought a used linen sofa, loveseat and chaise. They all have a strong smell of perfume. How can I get rid of the smell? I can’t use water based cleaners.
EnviroKlenz could work well
I am washing a couch best I can right now after it was in storage with a staging company and is full of perfume. I did the back cushions in enviroklenz ones so far and now they are done the second wash in it… still lingering some… the seat cushions are in there just now…
next I am going to try epsom salts it has worked on something else in the past I can’t recall what and I am thinking of take a solution of it to the rest of the couch with a brush… it is that or vodka and the salts is cheaper… just ideas to try at this point.
Hello! Thank you for your site, I’ve found it very helpful.
I moved into a townhome recently and am reacting to the plug-in air fresheners the prior owners used to use. I was told I should have the paint stripped and then repainted w/ a zero VOC paint, but I cannot do this myself and don’t want to hire someone. I was thinking of instead painting over with shellac, but i see you wrote ‘the downside of shellac is that this is a partial vapor barrier and should not be used on interior walls in all climates.’ Apologies, but I don’t understand what this means? What type of climate would it not be safe in?
Also, is there any type of mask you would recommend for something like washing the walls? I do not want to breath in all the stuff I’m stirring up if I wash the walls before painting them.
It depends if you are washing the walls with TSP or a true paint stripper. Shellac can cause problems if you use AC inside, it depends on your wall construction and the temp and humidity outside. You can use a dew point calculator as a rough guide.
Hi Rachel. I’m just wondering how you’re doing?..how you did with your town home and getting it cleaned up? I have in an apartment and having to clean the walls floors Etc
I bought some artificial trees from Kirklands. Now that I’m home, they smell strongly of scents – probably from candles in the store. I put Zorb-X enzyme on one and set both out on the porch to compare how they smell in a couple of days.
Any more ideas? Going to have to return if I can get these smells out.
Heat and air it if it’s plastic. Order online, less likely to be scented.
Rebecca J. says
Thanks for this helpful article. We are doing some major remediation for “febreeze” type smells in our new home in the concrete and wood. Would we be able to hire you as a consultant on how to best remove the toxic smell?
Please let us know!
Hello Rebecca. I’m just wondering how you did with getting your place cleaned up? I am moving into an apartment that has a lot of scent on the walls and floors and wondering if you have any great ideas for me getting it cleaned up. So frustrating!!
richard needham says
We bought our daughter a used beautiful coach built pram.
. We collected it from a super clean house. The lady was obviously a massive user of air freshener products as it’s all we could smell when she opened the door. It was not until we got home that we noticed it smelled very strongly of vanilla. Sickeningly so! We think she has used some vanilla fragranced deodorising product on it.
It seems to have actually absorbed into the pvc interior upholstery. We have tried unfragranced soap and water, vinegar. Bicarbonate of Soda, witch hazel and surgical spirit without success. It seems the fragrance is ingrained. I can’t believe that nothing seems to get rid of it. I mean it’s plastic, pvc. Have you any ideas please? Is isopropyl Alcohol worth a try?
Pat Crease says
I once read a tip that said to remove smells from a car (cloth, pvc, plastics etc) collect a washing-up bowl of fresh grass cuttings and put it on the back seat of the car. Repeat with a new bowl of grass cuttings after two weeks. I don’t know if this works but am desperate to remove the cloying flowery smell of a ‘new’ (to me) used car – the dealer really went overboard and two months later the smell is still overpowering despite a vinegar wash. Unfortunately when I cut the grass I forget to gather the grass cuttings! Anything is worth a try though. Good luck! – pc (ps. I had a Marmet coach-built pram for my son…the hood was cloth lined with PVC to repel rain…is it possible to remove the entire hood? Perhaps dunking (not soaking) the entire thing in a laundry tub with mild washing-up liquid (and a quick wipe over with a cloth, esp the ‘ribbon’ material around the front of the hood) then spray off only long enough to get soap off then leave in the shade on a hot day might help. Then you would only have the inside to deal with. New mattress I hope? Don’t forget to rinse that off. Here in the UK (home of coach-built prams) any sunny day (natural disinfectant) is seized and used for doing something!
My downstairs neighbor used arm and hammer pet fresh carpet cleaner and he really overdid it. The smell has been coming up into my apartment through the ceiling I guess for weeks. He has vacuumed a couple times but no help at all. It I think is so strong it has gotten into his furniture as he threw out a chair the other day and it smelled so strong like the carpet cleaner. What can I do??? Smell gives me sinus headaches.
The first thing I would try to do is have your neighbour create negative pressure and then consider positive pressure in your suite, depending on your building type and current weather. This post covers that https://www.mychemicalfreehouse.net/2019/05/mitigating-sealing-remediating.html
Ann-Marie Droukas says
does anyone know the best way to Ofgass new oven & need carpets cleaned of pet urine w chem dry they use PURT…. says it will have a chemical type odor until it dries 24 to 36 hours
I have an MCS carbon filter etc. aller air Air purifier
any other suggestions because I need to use my oven…
I deal with chronic migraine highly sensitive to perfumes chemical smells in general. thanks!
The only way to offgas an oven is turn it on and air out the place while it’s on. It just needs some time in use. If there was a chemical cleaner used in it you will want to clean that out first.
William Hodge says
Another way to off gas an electric oven is to do it outside. I made a 240 volt 40 amp extension cord out of 10 gauge wire and a plug and outlet. I rolled the stove out on to the porch with a two wheel hand truck. If you haven’t high amperage appliances before, an electrician can make an extension cord for you.
Please help us we don’t know what to do. We are in the place with the people who bought a house with pencil shavings only ours is candles/ plug in oil fragrances! We have ozoned it off and on for over a week! It is doing nothing to get rid of the fragrant odor! The post above had already used Bin/ and killz on the walls! This would be our next step but will it do any good. It didn’t for them. I really don’t want to take out the dry wall to get rid of the odor. I’m extremely MCS! I have been since 82 when coming down with Chronic Fatigue. My husband wants to know if there is a best temperature to set the thermostat at while ozoning the house!
If ozone is not making a difference I would not continue. Ozone will work in a wide range of temps. After washing the walls I would seal with shellac or remove the walls.
I’m having the exact same issue with plug-in air freshener scent! Can you tell me if you ever found a solution?
Hi lana. Did you ever have success getting scent out of the walls in the floors? I’m moving into an apartment this is so frustrating.
Hi Hudda. I’m moving into an apartment and wondering how you did with getting sent out of the walls and floors?
Do you know if the wood sealants you recommended for VOCs & smoke work for sealing in mycotoxins also? We had our house remediated for mold a couple years ago but our “mold professionals” were clueless about mycotoxins & so we are still finding and dealing with hotspots.
We recently found the bottoms of our kitchen cabinet & bathroom cabinet drawers are unfinished junkboard, as I call it, (particleboard, mdf etc.) and not something we can replace right now. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Thanks for putting up such a helpful & informative site.
Mycotoxins are particles so I would attempt a physical clean up of them. If you’re severely reactive to cross contamination generally we would not advice sealing any mold in. But shellac can help with sealing it some particles as well as mVOCs.
I have a rotting alcoholic musty smell in my house from spraying perfume for over a year in there and now I can’t get the smell out it’s making me sick and wanna gag it’s the sort of smell a narcissist would use as perfume it’s fucking off !!!!!!! How do I get the stink out please ??????
That sounds odd? Is the smell from the perfume alone? Regular perfume or essential oils? Strange that it smells musty. I would go through the options in this post.
Deborah Smart says
I bought a car that had fragrance added after I test drove it. I’ve been unable to get the smell out so far, and haven’t been in the car since the end of January 2020 when I drove it home. I’ve heard that freshly ground coffee works. Does it need to be freshly ground or can coffee bought already ground work? and do the grounds left after brewing work? Thanks in advance if you’re able to answer this question.
I’m not sure if they need to be fresh, you could try it. It’s not as good as the other methods for removing odor. I’m adding a new option deoderoc now after some chemically sensitive folks recommended them.
I had my car detailed for the first time months ago and whatever they used has such a strong chemical fragrance and like you I cannot get rid of it. I’ve tried putting bowls of baking soda in the car, already used coffee grounds, spraying down with alcohol. I’ll continue using vinegar to wipe down the plastic. And maybe buy a can of cheap coffee. Not sure what will work or if I have to live with it. It helps that I’m wearing masks in the car on short trips to do errands. So annoying! I wish I had never had my car detailed. A dirty car is so much better than this smell.
ME TOO!!! Okay, I washed all interior plastic and glass with Murphy’s Oil Soap. I have spread out newspapers to help absorb more of the smell. I will start spreading out coffee grounds next, plus keeping windows open a crack.
I will let you know how it goes…
Please let me know if you try anything that works!
Check if they inserted a fragrance square INTO the air conditioning vents. I had to remove the cover and then use a shop vac, sealing all weak points with towels etc to make a strong suction power and then and suck out the fragrance tab. It solved the issue. The fragrance tabs are being thrown in as freebies as if we ALL love fragrance. NOT
Car maintenance and repair is one of so many places where people doing the work may introduce scented products. When I bring my car in, I make sure they know about my family’s allergies and the need for whoever works on the car to not wear perfume/cologne/fragrance, not be a smoker, not clean or detail anything when they’re finished. I never realized that it was standard at a lot of shops and dealers that after they finish whatever work they have to do, they often wash the windows, etc, and of course they use scented products. Ugh.
Elna Cain says
Thank you for this post. Our house we bought smells like pencil shavings and some sweet smell that I suspect is air freshener. We have used shellac (BIN) and Killz on all the walls and ripped carpet out. We even did ozone generator and all of that is NOT working one bit. My husband was at the new house all day and he came home the entire car smelled of it and his clothes too.. Will this smell ever go away? It’s very very strong. We have subfloor and BIN all over the house and the smell still is there. We can open the windows but it’s going to snow and be cold so we can’t do that. Please help my husband is soo distraught, depressed and can’t enjoy our new house.
Hopefully you can pinpoint the source so you can narrow in on what should be done. That’s unusual that that didn’t help at all. On the other hand those very sensitive to fragrance usually do not successfully remediate a scented place, at least not perfectly.
Elna Cain says
Thanks for your comment! I have no one to talk to. Others say it’s mold or to use vinegar and coffee grounds, but all the harsh and shock treatment we are doing is not helping.
There is no source as it’s the entire house. I think the air freshener is embedded…people are saying to remove drywall but there is a shortage here and it’s winter…and we didn’t buy this house to renovate it.
I will put coffee grounds everywhere and do as much as I can but this smell is overpowering. You can smell this pencil shaving/fragrant smell right up at the front door before you knock. Pictures show plug in fragrances and some incense when it was being sold.. I just can’t imagine the previous had that for years and years and now it’s part of the house.
It’s not possible to know without being there but the way you are describing it does not sound like only air freshener fragrance.
Parfum/Fragrance is making life impossible. Every day I come home with 20 overlapping perfume headaches, burn my clothes and try to get that Satan’s arse-slime off my hair and skin by spending an hour in the shower. I am tormented by thoughts of torturing perfume manufacturers in ever more hideous ways to make up for what are some of the greatest crimes against nature, decency and beauty, probably the greatest crimes ever committed. Let us unite and tear the faces of these fucking rotting dog’s bumcunt parfum manufacturers, slice open their bellies and drown their families in their intestines. Fuck them, they are ruining my life.
I think Marcus has hypersensitivity, as do I. He’s overstated my exact feelings on perfumes. In USA an ad runs on TV stating wash clothes in Downy and enjoy fresh sent 12 weeks later.
Hi lana. Did you ever have success getting scent out of the walls in the floors? I’m moving into an apartment this is so frustrating.
Hi Marcus. I hear your frustration and anger. How are you doing? I am trying to move into an apartment that has sent and it’s so frustrating cleaning this place.
Boycott 7th Generation, and the dangerous chemicals Methylisothiazolinone and Benzisothiazolinone, which are colorless, odorless neurotoxic insecticides that they say are only ‘preservatives.’ Those chemicals poison people, just ask any of the thousands who’ve been harmed by them. 7th Gen paid out a class action lawsuit yet still includes the toxins: https://verdantlaw.com/seventh-generation-settles-natural-claims-class-action-4-5m/
Yes always read the labels. I was shocked when I saw all the bs inside 7th generation brand.
Loe Masson says
I’m an avid label reader; I learned about Methylisothiazolinone and Benzisothiazolinone years ago and was surprised to find it in so many products for children as well as adults. I try to warn anyone who will listen about them but some people are more interested in convenience. My MCS with fibromyalgia is no joke but the doctors claim it doesn’t exist so I stay out of their offices. I read everything I can find and always researching for relief. Pleased to come across this site via a FB post.
Hi Marcus. I hear your frustration and anger. How are you doing? I am trying to move into an apartment that has sent and it’s so frustrating cleaning this place.
Hi larry. Thank you for sharing this. Can you tell me what to use for dish soap besides 7th generation? Also I tried to copy paste your information to send it to a friend but I couldn’t figure out how to copy paste it not just the link but your whole comment.