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How do Clothes Absorb Smells like Food and Smoke

Food and smoke

How many times has this happened to you? You go to your favorite restaurant and have dinner. On your way home you realize that your clothes now smell like what your main course was. Or even worse, you visit a friend who is a smoker and you are only there for a handful of minutes. When you walk outside and get into your car you are disgusted to find that your clothes now smell as nasty as an ashtray. Why is this? Why do clothes absorb odors?

Clothes can absorb so many smells and odors, some that are more desirable than others. The reason for this is that clothing is made of material that has somewhat of an absorption property. Just like a sponge will absorb water, so too will clothing absorb smells. Here’s what it depends upon:

•    Material: Have you ever noticed that some articles of your clothing absorb odors more than others? This is because of the different materials that the clothing is made up of. It also has to do with the way in which those materials are put together. When you sit down to eat a piping hot plate of pasta with red sauce and garlic all over it, the steam will be all over the place. This steam is also going to contain the odor of the dish you are eating and this is what gets absorbed into your clothing. Your cloths actually act like a net as the fabrics are very finely woven together and this allows some of the odor to pass through, but it will also catch a significant amount of the odor as well. This will literally have the odors, ‘stick’ to you clothing and make them just a bit damp, even though you may not realize it. Once the clothing is dry the odors are left behind for all to smell. This is how you can get that nasty B.O. smell stuck in the arm pits of your shirts if you aren’t wearing anti-perspirant.

•    Your chemistry:
If you an individual that perspires quite a bit you will allow your clothing to be damp at many different points throughout the day. The damper your clothing is the tighter that net of woven fabric will be and thus the more odors that will be absorbed. Remember, once the clothing is dry the odors are left behind.

•    Environment: Some things stink more than others. That said, the type of environment that you are in is another reason your clothes will absorb odors. With food, if something is spicy or has a lot of garlic, there will be more odors produced. In your home, there will be more odors if you are a smoker or you have animals like dogs or cats. As your clothing gets whisked through the air by you moving around it will naturally absorb those odors in the environment. This explains why cloths seem to smell so much better when they are hung outside to dry. The environment is fresh air, flower, grass, and sun. That is what gets absorbed and thus it smells good.

Whether you like it or not, clothes will always absorb odors and all the cologne and perfume in the world can’t cover up certain smells. Remember, a cleaner environment equals cleaner smelling clothes.

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  1. Natalie · January 30, 2010

    I have this problem a lot. My clothes absorb food smells and it makes it seem as if I have B.O. I shower and wash my hair everyday, but it hardly matters. Everyday, I come from the caafeteria smelling like food. Are there any possible solutions for me? I tried baking soda and vinegar. Any others?

  2. Karen · August 19, 2010

    Can sugar cookies take on a smoke smell or flavor after being baked and iced?

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