Thursday February 25, 2021

By Trevor Ross

Education

As a responsible cannabis user and considerate human being, you understand that not everyone enjoys the smell of cannabis as much as you. And even you may not enjoy the smell wafting up from your clothes hours or even days later. You’ve successfully gotten the scent out of your car and out of your house, now it’s time to freshen your clothes.

When trying to eliminate an odor, there’s a difference between rendering it invisible to the nose and actually eliminating the cause. Scent occurs in the mind, while the sensation is caused by matter – actual particles in the air around your nose. So when eliminating a scent, you can either hide it from your olfactory sensors or remove the odor-causing particles from the area.

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Methods of Removing Cannabis Odor

The industry is filled with a million odor-reducing products, and many of them work quite well. However, here we’ve gathered some options that use readily available household items so you can start smelling better without waiting on a purchase.

Laundry Detergent

This may seem obvious, but it’s important to know how detergent cleans cloth to know how other options might work as well. Laundry detergents clean clothes by the use of “surface-active agents,” or surfactants. Simply put, the surfactants thin the water so it can reach deeper into clothing, while also bonding with oils from skin, hair, food, etc., before it’s all rinsed away. In a perfect world, this would be enough, but when it’s not, what more can we do?

Baking Soda

Formally known as sodium bicarbonate, baking soda is commonly used to fight food odors from the back of the fridge. When you were young, you may have also poured vinegar into it to make a fizzy volcano. That’s because baking soda reacts strongly with acids to neutralize the PH difference between them. This can be used to neutralize odors caused by acids as well.

Baking soda volcano
Baking soda reacts strongly to acids, which is why it works so well to neutralize odors from cannabis. photo credit

For most effective use, soak your clothes in warm water with a cup of baking soda for an hour before washing. Once the baking soda is washed away, it will carry the odorous molecules down the drain with it. If the garment in question is “dry clean only,” you can also sprinkle the baking soda across the garment and leave it in a sealed bag, checking every hour or so for improvement.

Vinegar

If you exercise, you may already be familiar with adding vinegar to your wash. This common household acid can be used in an array of cleaning solutions, and your laundry is no different. Either soak your clothes in a mixture of vinegar and water before you wash, or add it during the washing machine’s rinse cycle and let it sit for an hour.

Febreze and Odor-Absorbing Sprays

The active ingredient in Febreze is a chemical compound called cyclodextrin. Avid chemistry nerds may want to learn more, but the rest of us only need to know that this compound binds with the molecules you’re smelling and prevents them from being detected by the olfactory receptors – from being smelled. While this is a great short-term solution, remember that cyclodextrins “trap” the scent, they do not remove it. The source of the odor will remain, however, masked, until you wash your clothes.

Activated carbon

Activated carbon has a staggering surface area due to its microporosity – that is, it’s full of microscopic holes. Gas flows through the carbon and nearly everything in it adheres to the surface of the carbon. The water filter in your fridge uses activated carbon to clean your water much the same way. 

activated carbon
Activated carbon removes unwanted odors by trapping the odor inside of itself. photo credit

This black powder is already used in some hunting gear to trap the wearer’s scent from escaping, and it can be used to clean laundry much the same way baking soda can. Toss some carbon in a plastic bag to absorb the scent without getting the clothes wet, or soak clothes in a mixture with water. Be advised, this stuff can look like black dye before it all washes away. Try to contain it in a sink or tub.

Fresh Air and Sunshine

High heat can actually bond certain chemicals to fabrics. Have you ever accidentally tossed a stained shirt into the dryer and now it’s permanent? Odor-producing molecules are no different. 

If odor-producing molecules are dried at a high heat, they may bond too strongly with the molecules of the fabric and never come completely clean.

The solution, then, is to dry the cloth at a lower temperature. Most dryers offer this option, but the best option is still to hang the clothes outside. The comparatively low heat will prevent any odorous molecules from bonding to the fabric, at least allowing you to wash it again for improved results, and the outdoor air will blow other naturally occurring scents through the fabric to help mask the smoke.

The Best Solution is Prevention

There’s an old stoner tradition to simply shed one’s shirt and set it aside while smoking. While this might work to some degree, it’s usually not a practical option, nor a comfortable one. To at least mitigate the odor absorbed by your clothes, try to smoke outdoors whenever possible to maximize dispersion of the odor-causing molecules. Failing that, at least blow it out a window or through a fan to get the smoke away from you. But if your clothes (or any nosy neighbors) continue to pick up the scent, you’ll be prepared.


How do you manage cannabis smoke odor on your clothes? Share your tips in the comments!

Photo Credit: Samuel Borges Photography (license)


Trevor Ross Trevor Ross

Trevor Ross is a writer, medical marijuana patient and cannabis advocate. He holds an MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has previously worked as a copywriter, a teacher, a bartender, and followed Seattle sports for SidelineBuzz. Originally from Washington state, you can find him now working in his garden or restoring his house in Scranton, PA, and he can be reached through LinkedIn.



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