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Tips for Removing Campfire Smell from Your Hair and Gear

Camp Skills



It’s Monday morning and you’re sitting at work, staring out the window and thinking about how great last weekend’s camping trip was. And just as you start to laugh at how funny it was when your friend’s chair tipped over backwards by the campfire (with him in it!), you catch a whiff of smoke. It’s like you’re still there! But after a furtive sniff here and a quick sniff there, you quickly realize it’s coming from your hair! You smell like a campfire! Oh no!

Don’t worry! This is a common side effect of spending a fun weekend camping in the great outdoors! As you sit around a roaring fire with your family and friends laughing, telling stories, and making s’mores, the smoke from the fire can creep into your long, flowing tresses, your worn-out college hoodie, and your favorite pair of jeans. Unfortunately there really isn’t a great way to avoid this (short of sitting inside your tent or RV and watching everyone have fun without you around the fire). But there are some easy ways to rid yourself of the musty campfire smell. Follow these tips for removing campfire smell from your hair and gear and you’ll be back to smelling as fresh as a spring morning in no time!

How to Remove Campfire Smell from Your Hair




If you’re able to wash your hair, give one of these tips a try for removing that musty campfire smell:

  1. Spray on some citrus: Not only will this refreshing spray give you a boost, but it will also work to deodorize your smoky-smelling hair. Zest the peel of a lemon, lime, or orange into a spray bottle filled with water. Let it sit for 25-30 minutes so the water can completely absorb the citrus elements. Then spray it on your hair, making sure you evenly coat your hair. The citric acid will deodorize your hair as it dries.

  2. Treat your hair to a cocktail: Mix equal parts of water and vodka in a spray bottle. Thoroughly coat your hair from all angles with the mixture. It should take about 20-30 minutes to evaporate and when it does, the smoky smell will evaporate along with it.

  3. Treat it to an apple cider vinegar spray: Mix together one part shampoo with one part apple cider vinegar. Wash your hair with it and rinse it thoroughly. It’ll have that strong vinegar smell going on, but it’ll rinse away and will actually leave your hair with a glossy shine.

  4. Use a baking soda paste: We all know that baking soda does wonders for absorbing smells in refrigerators, pantries, mud rooms, musty basements, and anywhere else odors and moisture tend to linger. Now we can add smoky campfire hair to the list of baking soda applications! Create a paste by mixing one part baking soda with 3 parts water. Massage it into your wet hair in a hot shower. Leave it on for about 3 minutes. When you rinse it away, your hair should be free of any campfire smell.


If you don’t have access to a shower (or even water, for that matter), one of these tips may help rid your hair of last night’s campfire:



  1. Dry shampoo: Even though dry shampoo has been around for centuries (people used clay powder in their hair in the 15th century), it’s seen a resurgence in the last few years for a few reasons. Using it saves time, water, and money! It can also save you from smelling like a campfire when you return home from a fun weekend camping trip. Simply apply dry shampoo to your hair according to the directions and you can enjoy clean, fragrant hair until you have access to running water again. Who knows, maybe you’ll become a fan of dry shampoo and add it to your beauty routine!?!

  2. Rub it with a dryer sheet: Dryer sheets are not just for your dryer anymore! Bring a few along on your camping trip in a plastic baggie and rub them on your campfire smoke-infused tresses to freshen them up. Not only will your hair smell more like clothesline-fresh clothes and less like a campground, but it’ll also be free of frizz and fly-ways, thanks to the dryer sheet’s ability to tame static!

  3. Expose it to full sunlight and fresh air: This is about as simple as it gets! Head outside into the sunshine and fresh air and let your hair breathe! If you have long or curly hair, try spreading it out with your fingers to create pockets of space where fresh air can circulate through it and the smoky smell can escape. You’ll notice a difference within just an hour or so!


There are a couple ways to avoid getting that campfire smoke smell in your tresses in the first place. Give one of these a try!

Pull your hair up into a tight bun: It makes perfect sense—the less hair that’s exposed around the fire, the less that can absorb the smoky smell. So get creative with your longer hair and twist or curl it up into a tight bun for protection. When you’re enjoying your cinnamon roll on a stick for breakfast the next morning with your tresses flowing freely over your shoulders, you won’t smell even a whiff of last night’s campfire.

Wear a hat or hoodie: You’ve probably packed a hat or hooded sweatshirt for protection from the sun, ticks, or for cooler weather at night. Well wearing it around the campfire can also help shield your hair from the clingy odors of a campfire. So toss on your hat or pull on your hoodie and take a seat around the fire … it’s got you covered!

How to Remove Campfire Smell from Your Gear




When you return from camping, your clothes, luggage, sleeping bags, and other gear often reek of campfire smoke. While sitting around a roaring campfire is probably the most loved camping pastime, that doesn’t mean you want to keep smelling it on your camping gear days after you’ve returned home. Here are a few ways you can rid your camping gear of that smoky, musty smell of a campfire:

  1. Spritz your camping gear with the same citrus spray you made for your hair (see above). Once it’s fully covered with the spray, set it out in the sun and let the sunlight do its job of evaporating the citrus spritz along with the smoky smell.

  2. Use the vodka spray from above on your gear too! Spritz your sleeping bags, clothes, and more with the spray and set it outside in the sun. The smoky smell should disappear quickly and you should be back in business.

  3. Wipe down your musty gear with dryer sheets. Instead of smelling smoky, they’ll quickly absorb the smell of your fresh dryer sheet. The dryer sheet will also remove static and repel skunks, raccoons, bears, and more!

  4. Sprinkle an open sleeping bag or the inside of a suitcase with enough baking soda to cover it in a thin layer and it will work to absorb the campfire smell. Let it sit for about an hour and then vacuum up the baking soda. Repeat if the smell still lingers.


Avoid Doing These Odor-Removing Tricks (Because They Won’t Work!)




We’ve all been desperate before! Whether we spilled cranberry juice on white carpet, ripped our sister’s favorite T-shirt, or put a small (but noticeable!) dent in our father’s car, we’ve felt the desperation to fix it … now! Smelling like a campfire isn’t quite as serious as staining your mom’s carpet, but it’s an annoyance that’s, well, annoying! But don’t give in to these unsuccessful tips that simply don’t work!

Don’t douse yourself in essential oils to mask the smoky smell. While essential oils have powerful healing and soothing capabilities, you could end up smelling worse and the oils could give you a headache if they’re too strong.

Don’t shampoo your hair over and over and over until you’ve washed the life right out of it! Shampooing most likely will not rid your hair of the campfire smell, and shampooing too much can do damage to it. Instead, try one of the hair deodorizing tips above.

Don’t spray your hair or your camping gear with Febreze! While it may sound like a good idea for a quick fix, Febreze contains chemicals and allergens that can irritate your skin, eyes, and lungs and can be harmful to your health. For an all-natural way to freshen up your gear, combine about 20 drops of your favorite essential oil with distilled water in a spray bottle and spray your gear. Lemon oil and eucalyptus are great deodorizing scents.

Do you have your own unique way of deodorizing yourself and your gear after spending the night by a campfire? Share your freshening-up secret with us in the comments!

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