How to Get the Smell Out of Chef Clothes (and Other Laundry)

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I will never forget when my chef/husband was promoted from the pantry station to the broiler station.  Of course any promotion is exciting, but the reason I remember it might not be what you think.

(Oh, before I forget, If you’re new to my site, start here and then come back and read the rest of the post.)

Besides the new types of stains on his chef coats which were more difficult to remove (see tips on how to get stains out of chef coats here), the smell of his chef clothes changed DRASTICALLY!!  Ugh!  We lived in a small apartment and he had to leave the dirty chef clothes in the other room each night, or the smell permeated our bedroom!

Stop laughing at me.  I know you’ve had the same problem.  Chef clothes just stink!

For a while, a good wash took care of the smell.  But after a while, the chef pants, chef coats and even the aprons started to keep part of the oily, grimy, kitchen smell.  When that happens, you have to either try another method of cleaning them or have a bonfire in the backyard with them.

So after my successful quest to find the best way to clean white chef coats, I decided to tackle the smelly chef aprons that I could never seem to get the smell out of!

How to get the smell out of chef clothes

There was a large stack of black aprons just hanging out in my chef/husband’s closet.  I wish the computer had smell-o-vision so you could smell them!  Yuck!!  But what a great opportunity for me to figure out what products work the best to remove that horrible smell (and to keep it away)!

Of all the suggestions I found online, none of them reported if the smell had come back after a few weeks.

In the past I thought I solved the stinky smell problem, only to have my husband grab an apron out of the closet from the bottom of the pile a few weeks later and have it smell!

So I set out to discover what really works to get the smell out of chef clothes (and other laundry).  I also decided to wait a few weeks before posting my results to make sure the smell stayed out and didn’t come back after just sitting there.  I’m glad I did.  The results were not what I expected.

I started out by asking some chefs and their spouses/significant others what they had used in the past to solve this problem.   Then I chose some of them to try out myself.

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Below are my test results.

For each black apron, I used the individual product along with Tide HE Laundry Detergent.  I used warm water on the heavy wash cycle and added a second rinse.  I let the washer choose the amount of water based on the quantity of clothes in the machine (1 apron). Then I dried the apron for 30 minutes in the dryer on medium heat.

How to get the smell out of chef clothes

“Honey, are you almost done with your research so I can wear one of those aprons?” Oops! 🙂

Here are the products I tested:

Tide Laundry DetergentTide Laundry Detergent

Before I started adding things to the wash with my regular detergent, I washed 2 aprons in just my regular Tide HE laundry detergent.

Results after washing and drying:  no smell

After 3 weeks:  One had a strong oily smell again, but one only had a hint of a smell to it.  Was one apron was smellier than the other?  They were all pretty horrible to start with!  Who knows?  But that fact that both of them still had at least a small smell says that I needed something more than just laundry detergent to solve this problem.

A Can of CokeCan of coke

Pour a can of coke in the wash with the clothes and launder as usual.

Results after washing and drying:  no smell

After 3 weeks:  The smell was completely back. (Yuck!)

Distilled White Vinegarvinegar

Add 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar to the second rinse and launder as usual.

Results after washing and drying:  slight smell

After 3 weeks:  The smell was back, but not as strong.

Distilled White Vinegar and Baking Sodabaking soda

Mix 1 cup distilled white vinegar and 1 cup baking soda with just enough water to cover the clothes.  Soak for 4 hours.  Then put the clothes and vinegar/baking soda mixture in the wash and launder as usual.

Results after washing and drying:  The old oily smell was still there, but not as strong.

After 3 weeks:  The old oily smell was still there!  This did not work AT ALL!

RLR Laundry StripperRLR Laundry Stripper

Add RLR Laundry Stripper to regular wash cycle and launder as usual.

Results after washing and drying: The oily smell was gone, but it left a bit of a detergent smell.

After 3 weeks: The old oily smell was gone, but the apron had a different smell.  It wasn’t a detergent smell and it wasn’t strong, but there was still an odor to it.  I really have no words to describe it as it’s different than anything I’ve ever smelled.


Add 1 cup ammonia to wash and launder as usual.  (Make sure your detergent does not contain any bleach.)

Results after washing and drying:  no smell

After 3 weeks:  The smell is back, but not as strong.


Wash as usual and spray with febreeze after clothes come out of the dryer.

Results: It smelled far less, but only for about 5 seconds.  I didn’t bother to test any further with this product.

Oxypur by H2O at Homeoxypur

Since my favorite cleaning product for chef coats is from H2O at Home, of course I had to try one of their products for this problem.  Use 1 scoop of Oxypur and just enough water to cover the clothes.  Soak for 4 hours.  Transfer water and clothes to washing machine and launder as usual.

Results after and washing and drying:  No smell.

After 3 weeks:  The smell is still gone!  🙂


Use 1 scoop of Oxiclean and just enough water to cover the clothes.  Soak for 4 hours.  Transfer water and clothes to washing machine and launder as usual.

Results after and washing and drying:  No smell.

After 3 weeks:  The smell is still gone!  🙂


So after all my testing, the two items that got the smell out of chef clothes and seem to have kept the smell out are Oxiclean and Oxypur by H2O at Home.

So what’s the difference between these two products?

Oxypur does not contain any dye or fragrance like Oxiclean does, so if you have sensitive skin or have trouble with certain scents, the Oxypur would be a better option for you.  (While I have not tried it, Oxiclean does sell a “free” version, which does not contain dye or apple scent, and I was told by their customer service over the phone that both the “free” and regular version work the same.  So that might be an option if you have sensitive skin.)

Oxypur (just like all the H2O at home products) is third party certified by Eco-cert to strict European standards and has to continually prove to meet those standards annually.  Oxiclean is not.

Oxypur can only be purchased by an H2O at Home Advisor.  Oxiclean can be purchased online or in many stores (and is less expensive).

Other suggestions from readers that I have not personally tried:

  • Soak with Borax
  • Gain Laundry Soap
  • Tide with Febreeze
  • Purex Crystals
  • Soak in Dawn soap (be careful of suds if you have an HE washing machine)
  • Pine Cleaner
  • Bleach (obviously only if you are washing white)
  • Tide Sport
  • Scent Killer Gold Laundry Detergent

So now I have 2 clean aprons and 8 aprons that still smell.  Time to find a very large bucket and get them soaking in Oxyclean or Oxypur since I know that will work!


After my research, I took the 8 aprons that still smelled and soaked them with 8 scoops of Oxiclean in the washing machine for 4 hours (with the tank full of water.)  It did not work.  Yet I took just one of them, soaked it in a small bowl with one scoop of Oxiclean with just enough water to cover (just like I described above) and it worked.  My only conclusion is that when you are soaking it, you need to use as little water possible so that the Oxiclean or Oxypur is not diluted too much.  Good to know!!

Do you have another product that has worked?  If so, please let me know in the comments below!

Happy cleaning!

From one chef’s wife to another,




PS:  While you’re here, you might want to check out a few of my most popular posts about combining restaurant and family life!

what chefs really eat at the end of the day sidebar

Letter to a Young Chef Wife sidebar

Couple cooking together

Man having his wife tasting pasta dish

Chef cutting the mushrooms on a wooden board

Follow Jennifer @ Emulsified Family’s board Chef Life on Pinterest.


  1. Alix

    I use a totally weird product for this, BumGenius cloth diaper detergent.
    No soaking necessary. Smell is gone.
    Works weirdly well. Found it after I was so tired one night while doing his wash that I forgot whose clothes I was washing (This was when I was 8 months pregnant and nesting. Had to wash EVERYTHING. His clothes smelled so strongly to me I thought I was going to set them on fire and pretend I didn’t know what happened to them….).

    • Jennifer

      That actually makes perfect sense because just like stripping the build up off of cloth diapers, we are stripping the nasty oil buildup off the chef clothes. If I had done this experiment a couple years ago, I would have tried my cloth diaper detergent on it too! Thanks for commenting and letting me know! 🙂

  2. karen

    I own a company called Earth’s Berries, we are a soap nut company and we have many clients that tell us about how the EArth’s Berries soap nuts are great at getting out the smell of the restaurant from their clothes and bar cloths. Infact our testimonial this week is going to be based on this information.

    • Jennifer

      That’s great to know. Thanks!

  3. Kevin ucan

    All the other methods are okay. But coke! I haven’t tried it yet. Let me try and I’ll comment you back if it worked or not. I know coke can be used to clean the toilet, but for dress it’s yet to try.

    Thank you for such wonderful ideas.

    • Jennifer

      Coke cleans a toilet? That makes me laugh. I will have to try it!! 🙂

  4. Mark

    Did you try adding chlorox II to the tide. We use it on towels that have sat damp too long as well as the ones we use in the dog kennels Used each load you don’t deal with the mildew or urine smell. I’ll take some to work and use it in the grill aprons for a week and get back to you. We buy in bulk. Cheapest retail we have found is Wmart

    • Jennifer

      I haven’t tried that. Would love to know how it works if you try it. Thanks Mark.

  5. Brittany

    Hey there! Thanks for all the suggestions:)
    I use Clorox stain remover for whites. (I’ve only found it at Publix)
    I spray the heck out of all my chef coats (whites), hats and aprons, let it sit for 15 minutes and wash on normal cycle with twoTide packs. Comes out looking brand new every time without any smell and it doesn’t discolor the pinstriping, name or logo of the company I work for. 🙂

    • Jennifer

      Thanks for the suggestion. I’m glad you’ve found something that’s easy and works well!

  6. Gchris11

    I use a cap full of XO odor eliminator and tide with Oxyclean. No smell.

    • Jennifer

      I have never heard of XO odor eliminator. Where do you buy it?

  7. Brenlyn Edelstein

    H2O at Home makes a Purifying laundry Powder, this WILL get the smell out of the toughest items!!

    • Jennifer

      I will have to get a sample and try that one. Thanks!

  8. Roxanne

    I would love to try the OxyClean – I tried adding Dawn with Oxy Clean to the liquid detergent AND pouring some Mr. Clean with Febreze in as well – not right yet. My problem is my son’s fiancee’ cooks and has all BLACK uniforms and they just downright stink!
    I’m afraid to soak in the OxyClean – will that bleach the black pants & shirts? (I have to wash in warm and then literally wipe my new stainless steel washer bucket out with about 5 or so Clorox wipes. Then I dry on super low and have to do it to they dryer again – I swear if there was a “coin op” laundry close by I would go there but I get the clothes late at night sometimes. Help! Rox

    • Jennifer

      The aprons I tested this on were black and they did not fade. OxiClean does not have any bleach in it, that’s why it is safe to use with colors. Good luck. Let me know how it works.

  9. Jeff Robinson

    For 24/7 on-going protection, treat your clothes with Residual Hydrogen Peroxide (RHP), InvisiArmor SPORT is a patented technology that uses a proprietary zinc oxide formulation to sequester 3% Hydrogen Peroxide onto garments. InvisiArmor SPORT + 3% Hydrogen Peroxide = Residual Hydrogen Peroxide. RHP kills dangerous germs and eliminates odor. Once a garment is treated, it lasts for 20 launderings. You can even recharge your garments just using 3% Hydrogen Peroxide. Superior Technology – Superior Results (24/7 Germ & Odor Protection).

    • Jennifer

      I haven’t heard of this before, but thanks for the tip Jeff!

  10. Anna DeGasser

    1 scoop being 1 scoop that comes with the tub of powder? One scoop being to a line on the scoop that comes with the powder? Or one of tablespoon scoop?

    • Jennifer

      I used one scoop that came with the tub of powder.

  11. john

    I like using a Can of coke for the cleaning purpose.After cleaning with it all smell is vanished for at least three weeks.Results are much better than expected.Thank you very much for sharing!

    • Jennifer

      Would it stain or discolor white?

  12. Matt

    Degreaser is what you need 😉

    • Jennifer

      Have you tried it before? Do you have one you can recommend?

  13. JBC

    Oh my gosh!!! So glad I found your blog! As a commercial baker, my aprons smell nasty even after washing. Well I decided to try the oxiclean soaking method on three of my “clean” aprons. They finally came out of the dryer without a funky smell. Thank you!

    • Jennifer

      Oh yay!! I’m so glad it worked well for you!

  14. mary davis

    just a small question i am gonna try oxyclean on my granddaughters clothes they smell awful makes me wanna puke lol but just want to know you say soaking and cover clothes with water but is it hot, warm, or cold water for black clothes

    • Jennifer

      I would start off with cold water first, since the clothes are dark. If that doesn’t work, I would either soak it longer in cold, or move to warm water. Good luck.

  15. Maria

    So glad I found this blog! I’ve been trying all kinds of diff detergents, I’m 9 months pregnant and ready to burn all my husbands chef clothes!!! I will be trying the oxy clean today, thank you!!!

    • Jennifer

      Oh no… pregnancy and Chef clothes smell is not a good combination. Good luck.

  16. Assunta

    Thank you!! I was honestly thinking of burning them all in a chef clothes firepit.
    I grew up with the smell (my father is a chef) but wore all white so bleach did the trick.
    My husband is always in Black so my choices are cleaning them or burning them.

    • Jennifer

      Haha! Good luck! 🙂


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