Using Vodka to Deodorize Dry Clean Only Clothing Review – Does it Work?

4 out of 5 leaves

4 out of 5 leaves

It seems that the best looking, nicest pieces of clothing are also the same pieces marked “Dry Clean Only“.  Dry cleaning is performed by professionals, using a (carcinogenic) solvent bath to remove soil and odors in the fabric.  There are known health hazards from exposure to perchloroethylene, the main chemical used in dry cleaning, which remains in the fabric after you take it home.  “Green” dry cleaners are available in some areas, but how environmental friendly they are is debatable.  Home dry cleaning kits are available, but seem to only mask odor through use of a very heavy fragrance.  Often, the biggest drawback to wearing these delicate items multiple times is development of armpit odor.  For many years, costumers have sworn by vodka to kill odor in the armpit area of clothing so actors can wear a costume for many performances in a row without washing.  Can vodka kill residual armpit odor in clothing so dry cleaning is no longer necessary?

The Good

  • Better for You – no carcinogenic chemicals in your clothing, or in your home
  • Better for the Environment – less dry cleaning means less hazardous waste (the by-product of traditional dry cleaning)
  • Saves Money – dry cleaning can be expensive, “green” dry cleaning doubly so.  Vodka is cheap!
  • Saves Time – no time spent running to the dry cleaners to drop off, and pick up
  • Easy – a quick spritz when you’re hanging up your garment is all you need
  • Vodka is odorless – does not leave any unwanted fragrances

The Bad

  • Vodka is a deodorizer, not a cleaner – any stains must be managed separately

My Experience

My Little Laundry Secret!

While researching ideas for at home green dry cleaning options, I ran across the idea that vodka can be used to deodorize dry clean only garments.  I was really excited to try this out, as I have several items in my closet that shouldn’t be washed often, but seem to get a little stinky in the armpits.  (Fuzzy sweaters, silk garments, fancy dresses, etc).

I picked up some vodka and a little spray bottle to use with it.  (Any type of unflavored vodka is fine — I recommend getting a cheap one if clothing deodorizing will be your only use for it).  I tried this out on some of my everyday work clothes.  Even though my crystal deodorant works great, a small amount of armpit bacteria can get into  clothing throughout the day and smell a little ripe upon close inspection by nose.  At the end of the day, I sprayed the armpits of my clothing, and hung on a hanger to dry until morning.

The first time I tried this, I did a light spritz of vodka, and there was no change to the clothing odor in the morning.  The second time I tried, I did a moderate spray until the fabric was damp to the touch, and there was no change to the clothing odor in the morning.  The third time I tried this, I sprayed the fabric on both sides until it was completely saturated.  I let it hang until evening of the next day and found the odor was almost completely gone!  It works!  (Not all the way gone, but almost).  I also found that it worked on some old odors I had stashed in my closet!  I’m very pleased with this trick, and plan to incorporate this into my laundry routine ASAP.

A couple post scripts: Although I did not pre-test the vodka on an inconspicuous area of my garments to make sure they were colorfast, you totally should!  Also, many “dry clean only” garments can be safely hand washed at home.  Check out this nifty guide to learn more.

Do you have any secret laundry help tips and tricks?

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37 Responses to Using Vodka to Deodorize Dry Clean Only Clothing Review – Does it Work?

  1. Carol says:

    My husband often gets a mixture of perspiration and deodorant staining the armpits of his shirts. If I just throw them in the wash without treating the stains, the material eventually becomes hard and stiff under the armpits from the build up of deodorant and perspiration as normal washing never removes it properly. I’ve found a mix of vinegar and bi-carb soda rubbed into it every few washes and left for an hour or so before washing is a good way to prevent it and get rid of any small build up. I’ve tried it on long-term build up, and, although it gets rid of some of it, it’s still stiff and horrible afterwards.

    • Victoria says:

      THanks for the great tip, Carol! I always had that build-up when I used to use “regular” antiperspirants. I neve knew what to do about it though. Does it also take care of staining?

  2. Totally cool trick! I’m going to the liquor store on the way home. Thanks!

  3. Beth says:

    I heard it had to be 100 proof vodka..does it?

  4. Buttons says:

    Very interesting. B

  5. Dave says:

    Why would you invest money in a nice outfit to spray vodka on it?
    There is no more incidents of cancer with workers in the dry clean industry than the general public. It is all a scare tactic. For about 25 years, technology has advanced in cleaning where there is virtually no orders or solvent left in the garments

    • Victoria says:

      Hi Dave, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Vodka is a clear and odorless solvent and in general should not hurt the clothing anymore than the perc solvent used at the dry cleaners would. Do you have a link to the study you reference? I would be interested in reading it. Regardless, there are some who feel that anything they can do to reduce their family’s exposure to known carcinogens is worth it, even if the risk of harm is remote. If you feel comfortable with dry cleaning your clothing, and are not worried about the solvent used to do so, then this green idea is probably not for you.

    • melanie boeman says:

      Sorry Dave, but speaking as a costumer who has to dry clean regularly, I have not found a dry cleaner where there is not some residual odor. Even after sitting in stock for a length of time.

  6. Tammy says:

    Probably one of the worst ideas ever! My family spent 80 years in the dry cleaning business and I can assure you that spraying alcohol on your garments is one of the fastest ways to permanently ruin your clothes.

    Any distilled or fermented beverage has a high alcohol content and is equally high in sugars. The alcohol will over time destroy the fibers in both the fabric and the seams. And the moment the sugar heats up, either in the wash, at the dry cleaner or on your body, those sugars caramelize and turn brown. This can even happen over time whilst the garment hangs in your closet.

    When customers would bring garments into our plant I would always ask if there were any spots we should know about. We went over each garment with a fine toothed comb, but I would ask if any clear beverages were spilled or if a beverage was coffee, did it have cream and sugar, as these spots were treated differently than black coffee. Sorry, I am going off on a tangent.

    If you would like more information on how to properly remove odors from a garment leave a reply.

    So there you have it… Vodka = Sugar Sugar + Clothing + Time = Not even fit for Goodwill.

    • Oh You Know says:

      Tammy, I need your help! I’ve been scouring the internet. I have some dresses I wear to work and although of course I’m bathed and wear deodorant, they are stinky after one wear. The dry cleaner never seems to have any affect on them at all, even when I tell them specifically that the underarms need special attention. I’ve tried Febreze, natural enzymatic fabric refreshers, rubbing alcohol dabbed into the armpits, vinegar/water/lemon solutions, etc. Nothing seems to work.
      Maybe these dresses are actually ok to soak in tepid water to remove the smells. Can you please let us know which garments or fabrics are actually ok to wash by hand and which are truly Dry Clean Only?

    • Sarah says:

      I have also been scouring the internet in hope of finding a way to remove underarm odor from “Dry Clean Only” clothing. The three shirts that I have are 100% Polyester. Are these safe to hand wash in cold water (with Woolite) and let air dry? Perhaps you have a better solution?
      The garments are brand new and have not been warn yet. I would like to begin taking good care of them so that the odors do not begin to build up.

      Thank you!


      • S says:

        Here’s how I look at it. If you can’t get the odor out, it’s ruined anyway. You might as well try to clean it gently yourself. Dry cleaners will NOT get the odor out. They’ll just waste your time, money, and clothing. As soon as I take off the garment I spritz it with a mix of vodka, water, and Bio Kleen, Bac-Out, Stain & Odor Remover. When it needs to be washed, I soak it for a long time in water, a gentle cleanser like Woolite or diluted Borax, and again add some of the above mixture. It works. If my clothes shrink, that’s the worst of it and it becomes a hand-me-down.

        • Sarah says:

          Is your mixture a 1:1 ratio of each? I do agree that dry cleaners DO NOT get rid of body ordor. I smelled my garments that were jist picked up from the cleaners–the BO still vaguely remains.

      • Oh naturaaaale.... says:

        I hope what i shared helps you

    • N Gardner says:

      There is no sugar in unflavored vodka.

    • Tom D. says:

      Unflavored vodka has no detectable sugars. I have a suit, that I just got back from the cleaners and it still smells. I don’t know what they didn’t do.

    • melanie boeman says:

      Tammy, I’ve been in costuming my entire adult life. Over thirty years. Vodka works. Dry cleaning is not any better at removing body odor or dirt. Stains maybe but not dirt. And vodka does not leave the chemical smell of the dry cleaning solution.

    • Holly says:

      I’d like to know how to remove odors from garments, please! I’m about to open a women’s consignment store…Thanks!

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  9. Tk says:

    How about using Natures Miracle? I bet high heat (after the garnet is dry) would help as well. I’ll have to test it out. I have a collection of $300 hoodies that I wash in cold water with scrnt free laundry products, so I need to figure out something. I sweat a lot.

  10. Tk says:

    How about using Natures Miracle? I bet high heat (after the garnet is dry) would help as well. I’ll have to test it out. I have a collection of $300 hoodies that I wash in cold water with scrnt free laundry products, so I need to figure out something. I sweat a lot.

  11. Oh naturaaaale.... says:

    Tammy…no response? ?’s ok people are entitled to choose natural ways…vinegar ..baking soda…sea salts…all natural cleaning agents and deodorizing too:)

  12. Oh naturaaaale.... says:

    Actually. .vinegar removes cat urine smell..if it can remove that. .human smell can’t be to hard…soak things inside out. .maybe put spot wash before.. also find that a sunlight bar is really good for mom used it and she is almost 80…I hope something here helps..take care

  13. Oh naturaaaale.... says:

    one other tip once you use heat on a stain.. you will never get it out… the dryer sets Stains in…straight vinegar should be ok for most stains…for blood H2O2 aka hydrogen peroxide. .I’ve used it for years a lifesaver. .always cold water too. …

  14. Shaken not stirred says:

    This doesn’t really work.

    I had three made-to-measure suits that had bad b.o. smell in the armpits after wearing them in extremely hot weather. It was so bad I thought I’d have to chuck out the suits.

    Here’s what I tried:

    * Dry cleaning: The obvious first choice but typically does nothing to get rid of these kinds of smells in the fabric. The suits will *look* clean and may even smell nice at first, but once they heat up from body temperature and the dry cleaning chemicals dissipate, the odor returns. Fail.

    * Steaming: I have a really good garment steamer that I use to get the wrinkles and creases out of wool suits. When I hit the armpits of the suit jacket with the steamer, it was like getting a punch in the face with a b.o. fist. I thought that meant the steam was getting the bacteria out of the wool. It didn’t. The smell was still locked in.

    * Airing out: Left the jackets to hang outside in the breeze on three dry summer days. No real improvement.

    * Vodka spray: As suggest above. May be effective as a preventive measure or for light odors, but did next to nothing for me other than waste something I’d have rather drank. Fail.

    * Febreeze: Great, if you want a scented body odor smell. I tried the kind that was supposed to be anti-bacterial. I soaked the armpits and turned the jacket inside out to get at the pads underneath. Not effective and made the suits smell flowery. Worse than doing nothing.

    * Nature’s Miracle: I read a lot of comments on online clothing boards saying that the enzymes in this pet odor spray would eliminate bacteria that cause body odor smells in human clothing. Nope. Another $10 wasted.

    * Vinegar: The only home remedy I did not attempt, for fear the acidity would wreck the wool.

    * Burning the suits on bonfire in frustration: I was about to try this but then…

    * Baking soda: I made a paste with a bit of warm water and smeared it on the armpits both inside and out of the inside-out jackets. I let them sit for a few days, then scraped off the chalky dried paste. This made a noticeable difference, though there was still a trace of smell. I turned the jackets inside-in and sprinkled a lot of baking soda loosely on the inside of the armpits, and let them sit for another few days. When I did a smell check, I thought this had failed too, but I realized I was smelling the odor that had been absorbed by the bicarbonate. After shaking off the all powder and in some places wiping with a damp cloth, the smell was truly gone, even when the jackets warmed up while wearing.

    Victory, had fought, was mine.

    * Vinegar: The one home remedy I didn’t try.

    • Philip says:

      How did you get the stain/marks off the suitcoat from the baking soda paste after scraping it off?

  15. 007 says:

    I have been using vodka as deodorant for about a year and a half because of an allergic reaction I started to have with deodorants.

    It works very well, I however have realized that my under shirts 95% of them at least have started to get holes under the armpits. I would bet to say it is because of the vodka, so Tammy is right in my eyes. Now I need to replace all of my under shirts and feom now on I need to let the vodka dry completely before putting on a shirt and check with time that my new shirts don’t get a bunch of holes on them.

  16. Howard says:

    How about a home remedy? I used to have a noticeable body odor, though not very strong <I could definitely smell BO on my underarms and stomach areas on my shirts after a long day of work. By coincidence I started taking zinc supplements (15 mg/day [chelated zinc it absorbs better in your body]) for better overall health. I noticed after awhile that my body odor had become almost imperceptible. I wondered how that could happen. Then I saw on http://www.the in their home remedies section that zinc was good to get rid of body odor, it works for many people. Mystery Solved! They said in their website there is an old saying, "Zinc for Stink!" and it did work for me. I recommend looking up the benefits of zinc on line, it is good for a lot of stuff, so good health to you with no stink!

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  18. Linda m says:

    Did wardrobe for theater and ice shows for years. Totally swear by vodka to remove body odor!!! Steamed costumes to get wrinkles out so perhaps that was part of the equation.

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