How To Tuesday ~ How To Remove Smoke Odor from Paper

How To Remove Smoke Odors from Paper ~ A fast and easy trick to solve this dilemma! With an item you already have in your home!

I’ve told you about my new obsession with vintage sewing patterns, right? Okay, well I may have mentioned it in passing…but seriously! They are so much fun!
Look at this!

Or even this:

How stinking cute!!
So anyway, even though I couldn’t sew a stitch to save my life…sewing patterns fit in the Recycleista’s philosophy of matching up quality vintage items that have lots of life left in them to the right buyers. Be Green! Buy Vintage!
Not long ago, I bought a box full of sewing patterns on Ebay. SO much fun to browse through. But as soon as I got the package in the mail, I knew there was a problem. I was opening the box and this overwhelming cigarette smoke odor hit my face.
Uh oh.
(my dealings with the seller and the whole resolution of that issue is another story…not to worry…it worked out fine.)
BUT, I ended up with a box of patterns. Honestly, the condition of the patterns was worse than described as well (damage, mold)…so many of them just ended up being fire starters in our wood stove.
However, there was a handful of nice, uncut vintage patterns that were fine….except for the smoke smell. I needed a solution for removing smoke odor from paper.
So I turned to the internet. And amidst the suggestions of the freezer, a bin full of charcoal or kitty litter or baking soda…one idea surfaced repeatedly.

Okay. Small problem.
I live in the Pacific Northwest. At least 75% of the year looks like this.

Maybe an exaggeration. But in the fall and winter…I’m not going to be able to count on nice strong sunshine to remove smoke odor from paper.
Hmm…so it was time to turn to some artificial sunshine.

Yes! A hair dryer.
I’ve tested this method to remove smoke odor on sewing patterns, but the principles should apply to most paper goods.

First thing I do is shoot the hair dryer full on into the pattern, contents and all. Some patterns are more brittle and fragile than others, so handle carefully.

Then I take the pattern and instructions out and aim the heat at them one at a time. I didn’t totally unfold the pattern tissue, just did the best I could. I also aimed the dryer into the empty envelope.
It takes a bit of time so be patient…maybe close to a minute or so on each section.

And be careful not to burn your fingers!.

The first time I tried this I was shocked! It really, really helped! At least 90% of the smell was gone. I could use the dryer longer and probably completely remove it…or in this case, I just added a disclaimer to those listings on Etsy. If a buyer is allergic or super sensitive…I still want to make sure they won’t be bothered.

Have you tried the sunshine method before to remove smoke odor from books or paper? What’s your go-to method for removing those odors? Leave a comment below!

12 thoughts on “How To Tuesday ~ How To Remove Smoke Odor from Paper”

  1. I too love vintage patterns and highlight them frequently on my blog. I am hoarding them though for say another 10 or 20 years or more. I am going to attempt one of the outfits from one of my 1960s patterns for an AtoZ Blogging Challenge post in April.

  2. I live in the midwest and we get a good share of sunny days. They may be below zero! I have used the sunshine method and it does work. I don't know if it is specifically the sunshine or the fresh air in general. I have used it for odors in clothing, books, stuffed animals..Very effective.

    I didn't know about the blow dryer method. Good to know for rainy days.

  3. That sun must be nice! 🙂 I do remember, I grew up in NY…we had nice sunny COLD winters. Here, I might have sun and then the next minutes its raining! If i left any paper outside, it'd probably grow mold! lol
    I like having a back up!! Thanks for commenting!

  4. Thanks for the tip! I have tried sunshine and fresh air, it works wonders on fabrics and leather, never tried on paper. I have tried the freezer method on paper and it works OK but I tend to forget my project is in there!

  5. I am a few years late replying to your post, but just in case someone knows–how long do you leave them in the sun? Any concern about sun bleaching the paper? (I have some vintage sewing patterns I just thrifted that stink to high heaven!)

    1. Good question! I recently put some patterns in the sun (now being in’s more of an option..dealing with the wind is another thing). I could smell a difference honestly in like an hour…but I was dealing with perfume, not mildew or smoke. So when the patterns get closed back up…I could smell it a bit again. Since I wrote this post I also have discovered a product called Ozium..can be found on Amazon. I’ve used it on an old smelling book with success.

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