A close-up photo of a vintage stuffed animal being gently steamed, capturing the rising vapor that helps eliminate cigarette odor, symbolizing the restoration process.

If you have a stuffed animal that has absorbed the smell of cigarette smoke, getting that unpleasant odor out can seem daunting. However, with some simple homemade solutions and ingredients likely already in your home, you can freshen up your stuffed friend and have them smelling clean again.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: stuff the toy with baking soda or dryer sheets and seal it in a plastic bag for a few days, or spray it with vodka or vinegar and let it air dry outside.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover why it’s important to clean smokey smells from stuffed animals, go over some homemade solutions and ingredients to use, detail exact steps to follow, and provide tips to help prevent the smell from returning.

Understanding Cigarette Odor in Stuffed Toys

How the Smell Gets Trapped

Cigarette smoke can be challenging to remove from stuffed animals and plush toys because of how the smell gets trapped in the stuffing materials. The smoke particles easily permeate into small gaps and fibers within fuzzy fabrics, embedding themselves deeply over time through continued exposure to cigarette smoke in the air.

Specifically, remnants from burned tobacco and paper create an odoriferous residue. Once these tiny residues affix to the toy’s fluffy microfibers or hidden crevices, they stubbornly cling on, even with cleaning attempts.

The residues don’t easily wash away in the laundry or release from light surface sprays or wipes.

Moreover, the accumulated smoke debris in the stuffing interacts with the toy material to produce unique chemical odors very distinct from the original cigarette smell. This reaction exacerbates over months or years of prolonged contact, worsening as new smoke continues aerial assaults against poor fuzzy victims left within firing range.

Health Risks of Secondhand Smoke

Beyond just creating unpleasant odors on fuzzy playthings, cigarette smoke residue poses several health risks if accidentally ingested or touched frequently, especially for small children more apt to put toys in their mouths.

According to the CDC, secondhand smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which can cause cancer. Even very small or infrequent exposures contribute to increased risks for illness.

Children under 3 years old with persistent exposure to toxins absorbed into their stuffed animals’ fibers are vulnerable to developing asthma, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Secondhand smoke also causes nearly 1 million early deaths per year globally from lung cancer, heart disease, lower respiratory infections, and more diseases, disproportionately affecting young children.

Age Group Annual Deaths from Secondhand Smoke
Infants over 200,000
Children at least 28,000

Clearly, effective cleaning is crucial for safeguarding a child’s wellbeing when their fuzzy friends carried secondhand smoke exposures even briefly. So proper removal methods using suitable cleaning agents can help restore stuffed animals into safer cuddle buddies again.

Cleaning Solutions for Removing the Smell

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a versatile household staple known for its odor-eliminating superpowers. To use it on stuffed animals, mix a box of Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda with some warm water to form a thick paste. Gently work the paste into the toy’s fur or fabric, rubbing it over all stained or smelly areas.

Let it sit for several hours so the baking soda can absorb odors trapped deep in the fibers. Then shake off the excess and let the toy air dry. The baking soda neutralizes stubborn cigarette smells by altering the chemical compound that causes the odor.

This frugal method is safe for all fabrics and stuffing materials.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is another odor eliminator likely sitting in your pantry. Make a solution of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water. Submerge the stuffed animal in this mixture or spot treat affected areas by dabbing it on with a clean cloth. Allow it to soak in for at least 30 minutes.

Then rinse thoroughly with clean water and allow to air dry. The acetic acid in vinegar breaks down the compounds responsible for stubborn cigarette smells. It’s safe for most fabrics but test an inconspicuous area first since vinegar could lighten or damage delicate materials.

For severe odors, use full-strength vinegar.


Believe it or not, a little vodka can get lingering smells out of stuffed toys. Pour some vodka onto a washcloth and gently blot problem areas, allowing time for the alcohol to penetrate. Then let the toy dry naturally. The ethanol alcohol compounds in vodka dissolve residues left by cigarette smoke.

This method works well for surface smells but may need to be combined with baking soda for odors deep in the stuffing. Be cautious using vodka on old or fragile toys since the alcohol could damage fragile dyes or fabrics.

Dryer Sheets

Stuff a few dryer sheets like Bounce or Downy Infusions into the toy and seal it inside a plastic bag or bin for a few days. The built-in odor eliminators on dryer sheets work to absorb foul smells trapped in fabrics over time.

For a more intense treatment, lightly spritz stuffed animals with vinegar water before adding the dryer sheets. This boosts odor-removal by utilizing both vinegar and dryer sheet fragrance. When ready, remove sheets and let the fresh scent of clean laundry waft from your restored friend!

Essential Oils

Essential oils like lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree make stuffed animals smell lovely without harsh chemicals. Mix 5-10 drops of oil into a spray bottle filled with 2 cups water. Mist the toy all over and allow to dry naturally.

The natural anti-microbial and anti-bacterial compounds in these oils kill smoke residues and leave a light pleasant aroma behind. Since oils can stain fabrics, test on small hidden sections first and blot excess moisture with a cloth as needed.

The soothing scents of essential oil purification bring back stuffed animal snuggles!


When all else fails, good old sunlight serves as a powerful disinfectant and deodorizer. Place soiled stuffed animals in a mesh bag and leave outside in direct sunlight for 6-8 hours, flipping halfway through.

The sun’s UV radiation helps breakdown odor molecules as heat dries out lingering contamination. Perform this treatment 2-3 times for severe smoke smells. Note that sunlight can damage and fade fabrics over time so this works best as a last resort when other methods fail.

According to a LoveToKnow survey, 63% of readers had success with sun power against stubborn smells.

Step-by-Step Process for Each Method

Baking Soda Process

Baking soda is an effective odor eliminator that can be used safely on most stuffed animals (as long as there are no plastic parts or electronics that could melt). Simply sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda over the stuffed animal, using your hands to distribute it into every crevice and fold.

Allow it to sit for at least an hour, preferably overnight. The baking soda will absorb cigarette smoke odors from the fabric. Afterwards, shake off the excess powder that didn’t adhere, and gently brush it out.

You can use a soft bristle toothbrush to loosen any that got lodged in small gaps or hard to reach areas. The entire process can be repeated as necessary until the unpleasant scent has dissipated.

Vinegar Process

White vinegar is another common household staple for odor elimination. Create a cleaning solution of one part white vinegar to one part water, or simply use full strength vinegar if the smoke smell is potent.

Lightly spritz the solution over all external surfaces of the stuffed animal and let it soak in for at least 20 minutes. Then, if the toy is machine washable, launder it by itself with regular detergent and an extra rinse cycle to remove any lingering acidic residue from the vinegar.

Check that the unpleasant cigarette odor has been successfully banished before drying the stuffed friend. If not, additional vinegar applications or more thorough rinsing may be required.

Vodka and Essential Oil Process

For a more natural remedy, you can create a custom cleansing solution for the stuffed animal using vodka and purified essential oils. Choose lighter, uplifting scents like lemon, orange, grapefruit, lavender, rose, or tea tree oil.

Add approximately 15 drops of chosen oil(s) per cup of vodka in a spray bottle. Shake vigorously before each use. Lightly mist the vodka/oil blend onto all areas that need odor removal and allow it to fully dry on its own.

The vodka will help cut through and dissolve stubborn smoke smells lodged in the fibers while the essential oils leave a fresh, pleasant fragrance in their place. Reapply and air dry as often as needed for full cigarette smell removal.

Dryer Sheet Technique

Using dryer sheets is a simpler approach to make stuffed animals smelling clean and static-free. Start by placing 1-2 lightly used/previously worn dryer sheets in the areas where smoke odors seem concentratedÔÇötypically the mouth, head, arm/leg joints or torso.

Fill up the inside cavity loosely with crumpled sheets as well. Also tuck sheets between any folds and interior spaces you can access. Stuff extra sheets into a tied cloth bag or permeable pillowcase with the toy and throw in the dryer for a 20-30 minute tumble cycle on low heat.

The heat and movement will help activate and transfer the dryer sheet fragrance all over, overpowering stale cigarette smells. Repeat the process if needed until satisfied.

Sunlight Method

For stuffed animals that aren’t machine washable, letting sunlight do the work may be your best bet. Find a warm, breezy spot outdoors that gets lots of direct sunlight during the peak intensity hours of 10am-4pm.

Lay down an old blanket or towel and place the stuffed animal upside down on top, spreading appendages out flat. Allow it to soak up the UV rays and fresh air for 2 to 6+ hours at a stretch, flipping halfway through.

The heat and light will help break down odor causing particles and compounds lodged deep in the fibers as the breeze whisks them away. Bring the freshly aired out toy back inside before night falls and check if the cigarette smell persists.

Additional 8+ hour sessions in the sun may be required for thorough results.

Method Time Needed Effectiveness
Baking Soda 1-12 hours Highly effective
Vinegar 20 mins + Moderately effective
Vodka & Oils 20 mins + Highly effective
Dryer Sheets 20-30 mins Mildly effective
Sunlight 2-8 hours Highly effective

Tips for Keeping the Smell Away

Store in Air-Tight Container

One of the best ways to keep odors out of stuffed animals is to store them in an airtight plastic bin or bag when they are not in use. This creates a barrier between the stuffed animal and airborne odor molecules from cigarette smoke.

Be sure to use a sealable container to keep the fresh smell in and unwanted smells out. Stores like The Container Store have lots of airtight storage options to choose from.

Use Fabric Freshener

Giving stuffed animals a light spritz with a fabric freshener before storing them away can help them keep that just-cleaned scent. Some good options are Febreze Fabric Refresher or Method Fabric Refresher.

Just be sure to test a small inconspicuous area first and allow to fully dry before cuddling up!

Hand Wash Regularly

Every few months, give stuffed animals a bath to revive colors and make them fluffy and sweet-smelling again. Use a very gentle fragrance-free liquid hand soap, cool water, and a soft brush or washcloth to gently scrub the fur.

Rinse thoroughly to remove all soap then air dry completely before storing or playing with the freshly-cleaned friend.

Keep Away From Smoke Exposure

Avoid exposing stuffed animals to cigarette smoke whenever possible. Secondhand smoke contains many volatile organic compounds that can cling to fabric and be difficult to remove. If possible, have smokers step outside while stuffed pals are in use.

And be sure to wash hands after smoking before touching stuffed animals.

With some periodic washing and strategic storage tactics, the special stuffed friends in your life can keep that “right out of the package” smell for years to come. By taking steps to block smells before they set in, you won’t have to worry about masking unwanted odors down the road.

­čĹâ Just be diligent, and your snuggly stuffed animals will stay fresh, clean and fun to cuddle!


While cigarette odor can really latch onto stuffed animals and seem impossible to remove, with some simple homemade cleaners and techniques you likely already have on hand, you can get them fresh and clean smelling again.

By understanding how the smells get trapped, using absorbent ingredients like baking soda and vinegar, manually cleaning, and taking preventative steps moving forward, you can keep your stuffed pals smelling as good as new.

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