chemical smell on jeans - stacked pairs of jeans blue black grey

7 Easy Ways to Get the Chemical Smell Out of Jeans

In Cleaning Products, Home Tips by Jamie

There’s nothing worse than wanting to wear a pair of new jeans, but discovering they smell too bad, even after washing them! Why does this happen, and what can be done about it? How do you get the chemical smell out of jeans?

To get the chemical smell out of jeans you can use white vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, lemon juice, and more to assist with this smell. You can also let your jeans air dry instead of machine drying, hanging your jeans outside to dry in the fresh air will be more effective.

But why do your new jeans have a smell in the first place? And what can you do if you try everything and your jeans still smell? Well I have narrowed it down to the 7 best methods that work and will help you remove that smell! Let’s take a look at how you can get your jeans smelling normal now!

What is the Chemical Smell on New Jeans?

If you have noticed an unpleasant smell coming from your new jeans, you may be wondering what it is. In order to avoid clothes molding during transit, manufacturers have taken to using formaldehyde on many articles of clothing.

Jeans get sprayed down with formaldehyde more often than other clothes. This could be because denim is more likely to retain moisture than cotton, for example, and therefore more likely to mold. No matter the reason, formaldehyde is a commonly used chemical on many articles of clothing.

If you haven’t noticed a particularly odd smell on your jeans before, you may notice it now. It has an almost chlorine-like scent, but there are clearly more chemicals involved. This is why some people can experience allergic reactions to new jeans if they don’t wash them first.

If you have sensitive skin and have always noticed a reaction to trying on a new pair of jeans, it could be the formaldehyde. Consider washing your jeans first before trying them on, and you should definitely wash them if you notice they have an unpleasant smell, or follow one of our 7 tips below.

While formaldehyde isn’t healthy for us to breathe in our touch, the amount used on new jeans is usually small enough to not trouble us. However, that doesn’t stop them from smelling bad, and sometimes formaldehyde lingers after a few washes!

Are Black Jeans More Likely to Smell?

black jeans why do they smell like chemicals

A pair of my black jeans.

You may have noticed the most unpleasant chemical scent coming from your black jeans in particular. Why might this be, and why is it worse than the usual formaldehyde scent emanating from the rest of your new jeans?

Black jeans usually smell worse because of how many times they have been dyed- their signature dark wash is usually achieved through multiple black dye processes. Between the dyes and the preserving chemicals involved to keep the color true, your black jeans may smell more like sulfur than chlorine!

While formaldehyde is used on any wash of jean, black jeans are indeed more likely to smell. You should also take care to only use cold water when washing brand new black jeans. The dyes are more likely to seep and stain other articles of clothing should you wash them in warm or hot water.

While some manufacturers use more natural dye processes and try to avoid various preservation chemicals, the average pair of black jeans can smell quite odd. If you notice your black jeans still smell, even after washing them, you may need to try some of our cleaning steps below.

How to Get the Chemical Smell Out of Jeans

In need of some ways how to get the chemical smell out of jeans? Here are 7 of the best ways we know, with instructions on how to get your jeans smelling better soon!

1. Soak in White Vinegar

white vinegar to remove smell from black jeans

White vinegar is a DIY homeowner’s dream. You can use this inexpensive product to clean just about anything, including your new pair of jeans. White vinegar can also be a great home remedy for cleaning your carpet, pet urine stains, and even your outdoor patio.

It may be necessary to soak your jeans entirely in a white vinegar and water combination. I recommend filling your bathtub with cold water, then be sure to add one cup of white vinegar. Let your jeans soak for at least one hour.

Once your time is up, wash your jeans in your washing machine as you would normally. You can also add in another half cup of white vinegar to the wash if you don’t think your bathtub soak did the job. Once your jeans dry, they should smell neutral- no longer like chemicals or vinegar!

It is important to note that vinegar should not be used in conjunction with baking soda for this process. These two household products have the tendency to react to one another, often leading to a foaming mess should they meet.

Baking soda is another method of removing chemical smells on this list. While many of these options can be used in conjunction with one another to maximize your cleaning power, keep vinegar and baking soda separate!

2. Add Borax to the Next Wash

20 Mule Team All Natural Borax Laundry Detergent Booster & Multi-Purpose Household Cleaner, 65 Ounce, 4 Count

Borax is a very useful household cleaner and may be a surprising fix to your chemical smell problem. It is safe to use on denim, and it is often used on much tougher stains or odors than formaldehyde.

Borax is also very easy to use in your next load of laundry. Add your jeans to your washing machine as you normally would, and add a half cup of Borax to the load. Wash in cold water, and air dry your jeans.

You should notice a difference in the overall chemical smell of your jeans. Borax is potent, so it is unlikely that you will need to use more than a half cup at a time. However, if you still notice a lingering odor, repeat this wash process and consider a white vinegar soak too.

3. Soak in Water and Baking Soda

Arm & Hammer Baking Soda-4LB (01170)

Just like Borax, baking soda is a perfect household cleaner that packs a powerful punch. Baking soda is also like white vinegar in that it is a common solution to DIY cleaning tasks. You can use baking soda to soak up pet messes, fresh stains, and even odors from your fridge or garbage can!

Add your jeans to your sink or bathtub and fill it with cold water. Pour in one cup of baking soda, and consider using an entire box if you have a lot of smelly jeans. Allow all of these to soak for at least an hour.

Just like the white vinegar process, remove your jeans from the tub and wash as you normally would. The baking soda should have absorbed all of the unpleasant smells present in the jeans, but you may want to use this method alongside another should you still notice a lingering scent.

4. Spray/Squeeze Lemon Juice then Wash

Chef'n (Lemon) FreshForce Citrus Juicer, 10.25 long

Everyone has lemon juice in their kitchens, right!? Well, did you know that lemon juice is another wonderful home remedy for cleaning your carpet, countertops, and clothes?

Using bottled lemon juice and your kitchen sink, soak your jeans with a diluted lemon juice mixture. This can be a one cup lemon juice to one cup water ratio. You can also add this mixture to a spray bottle so that you evenly coat all of your jeans.

You are welcome to soak your jeans in this mixture too, though it may not be necessary. Allow the citrus to penetrate the denim, then wash in your washing machine as you normally would. While it may leave your jeans smelling faintly of lemon, this is surely a more pleasant scent than formaldehyde!

5. Spray with Vodka

spray jeans with vodka to remove smell

Did you know that vodka has been used to remove odors from clothes for decades? While not everyone may have vodka to spare in their homes, purchasing an inexpensive bottle and using it on your clothes may be worth trying.

This is especially true if you are in a rush to leave but can’t stand the chemical smell coming from your jeans. Putting some vodka in a spray bottle and dousing your jeans won’t leave you smelling like vodka- it should neutralize any unpleasant odors present on your jeans.

You don’t need to dilute your vodka- the high percentage of alcohol should also allow your jeans to dry quickly. If you don’t have time to wash your new jeans, definitely give this quick fix a try!

6. Hand Wash Using Castile Soap

Dr. Bronners - Pure-Castile Liquid Soap (Baby Unscented, 8 Ounce) - Made with Organic Oils, 18-in-1 Uses: Face, Hair, Laundry, Dishes, For Sensitive Skin, Babies, No Added Fragrance, Vegan, Non-GMO

Castile soap is a wonder when it comes to cleaning and removing unpleasant scents from things. It is an all-natural soap that many people swear by. You may consider purchasing some to help with the chemical smell that is lingering on your jeans.

Castile soap is also useful as a soak or as a laundry detergent. You can find castile soap that is scented with all natural essential oils, or fragrance free options are usually commonplace. This soap should also be dye-free, meaning you won’t risk any stains to your new jeans.

Place your jeans in a sink or bathtub and add cold water. Evenly distribute half a cup of castile soap throughout, agitating the water to ensure this occurs. Allow your jeans to soak for at least an hour, but you can do this as long as you wish.

You can also add castile soap to your washing machine and wash as you normally would. Castile soap is highly concentrated, so be sure to only add in 2-4 tablespoons to a single load.

7. Use a Sports Laundry DetergentWin Sports Laundry Detergent - Remove Sweaty Odor from Running Gym Microfiber Workout Clothes and Activewear Apparel and Football Hockey Uniforms - Active Fresh (Blue), 32 Fl Oz

Sports laundry detergents are a special brand of laundry soap that combat tough stains and odors better than your standard laundry soap. The primary perk to sports laundry detergents, besides their powerful cleaning power, is their ability to rinse clean and leave zero traces of residue.

You can try rinsing your jeans in a sports or active laundry detergent instead of your traditional laundry soap. Perhaps the extra powerful formula will be enough to rid your denim of formaldehyde once and for all!

I recommend purchasing either Win Sports Laundry Detergent or Sport-Wash Laundry Detergent. Both of these brands have proven to be effective and reliable. Be sure to follow your usual washing machine soap amounts, as well as the amounts listed on the product itself.

If you do a white vinegar soak and then wash your jeans using this detergent, you should experience excellent results- but some jeans are indeed more stubborn than others!


Tip: Let Your Jeans Air Dry (Avoid the Dryer)

Did you know that using the dryer can make your jeans smell more like chemicals? Heat drying your jeans not only has the possibility of shrinking them- it can exacerbate any existing chemical smells already found in your clothing.

Take the time to dry your denim on a line in fresh air, getting some sun. Hopefully you have a nice sunny area outside that you can utilize for your jeans. Allow them to hang for most of the day, as the more fresh air they can get, the better.

Always make sure your jeans are fully dry before storing them or putting them away in your closet. Denim often takes longer to dry than other materials, such as cotton, so always inspect them for dryness before putting them in a dresser drawer.

Drying your jeans without the use of a machine is also better for the overall longevity of your clothing. You can put your jeans through an extra spin cycle in your washer if you are worried about them drying in a timely fashion.

There’s nothing better than smelling clothes that have been recently dried outside- hopefully this pleasant scent will override any remaining chemical smells that you find in your jeans!

Still Can’t Get the Smell Out?

If you still can’t get the chemical smell out of your new jeans, it may be time to return the jeans, if your clothing return policy allows it. Having jeans that remain smelly isn’t fair to you as a consumer, and the jeans’ manufacturer should be alerted to this issue!

Do you have any other tips for eliminating chemical smells from your clothes or jeans? If you have dealt with this issue in the past, tell us about it in the comments!

About the Author

Jamie

Jamie is the Founder of My Home Dwelling. He is a homeowner and enjoys sharing his homeowner tips with others. He has real estate experience working as a new home construction Realtor. Jamie has worked on numerous residential construction sites helping with interior and exterior renovations. He loves refinishing furniture, DIY home projects, and sharing his knowledge online.