How to Remove a Smoke Smell from a Leather Jacket

Young woman in leather jacket

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Follow simple cleaning tactics and leather-safe remedies to get a smoky leather jacket smelling new again. Even thrift-store finds can go from cigarette-scented to fresh-smelling. The multi-pronged process requires a little patience, but your efforts and care will pay off.

The Basics

The first step to deodorizing a leather jacket is to give the garment a quick wipe-down. Dampen -- but don't drench -- a soft cloth with clean water and give the entire jacket a thorough once-over to remove surface odors. Allow the garment to air out for at least 24 hours in an outdoor area or a clean, dry indoor area that gets plenty of air flow.

Neutralize Odors

If a damp cloth and some fresh air don't do the trick, turn to a spray bottle with a solution of equal parts vinegar and water. Don't fear vinegar's strong scent -- it neutralizes odors when it's dry. Mist the leather with the concoction, then let it air out for another day in a well-ventilated area. Keep it away from direct sunlight, as harsh rays may react with the vinegar to discolor the garment. You may also use vodka instead of vinegar.

Condition for Freshness

Conditioning leather helps soften the material and extend its life, and is especially important for vintage pieces. Use a scented saddle soap or an aromatic leather conditioner to both preserve and freshen. After cleaning and air-drying the garment, gently rub the conditioner into the leather with a soft cloth, making sure to get into all crevices and wrinkles. Continue to rub the leather until no residue remains. For a shiny look, buff the conditioner with a clean, soft cloth, or just leave the garment to rest overnight before wearing it.

Fresh-Scented D.I.Y.

Whether you have an exceptionally smelly jacket or you just want to go the extra mile, use natural deodorizers to freshen the leather after cleaning and conditioning it. Place a handful of activated charcoal, available at pet stores, and a handful of fresh citrus peels in the bottom of a garment bag. On a padded hanger, hang the jacket in the bag, zip it, and leave it sealed in a cool, dry place for 24 to 48 hours.

For Suede and Nubuck

Napped leathers such as suede and nubuck are less water-resistant than smooth varieties of leather and require extra care. Do not use the damp cloth and conditioning methods, but do go with airing out and deodorizing the leather with activated charcoal. For these materials, use a commercial leather deodorizer available at online and brick-and-mortar leather specialty shops and follow the manufacturer's directions. Typically, you mist the solution onto the garment and allow it to air-dry. These sprays often work on all types of leather and aim to restore the garment's natural fragrance.