How To Get Campfire Smell Out Of Hair (without washing it!)

A crackling campfire is a classic way to enjoy your experience in the great outdoors. The only problem is the unwanted odors that comes from them. So, do you know how to get campfire smell out of hair (and remove it from your clothing, camping gear and RV too?)

How To Get Campfire Smell Out Of Hair by CampingForFoodies features a family of four sitting around a campfire on a dark evening. Their faces are reflecting the glow of the orange and yellow flames.

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Dry Applications

The most effective way to get the smoke smell out of your hair is to wash it, but, that may not be a simple solution if you are dispersed camping without access to lots of running water for taking showers and washing hair. You’re going to love these helpful camping tips.

Direct Sunlight

The combination of a sunny open space and UV light is great for removing most of the unpleasant odors from camp fires. If you have long hair or a curly hair type, make sure you either brush it or run your fingers through it to expose as much hair as possible to receive maximum sunshine and to let the fresh air circulate around. You may need to wait for an hour or more, but, the smoky smell will be reduced or even eliminated.

Dry Shampoo

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To use dry shampoo, you’ll want to apply a tiny bit at your roots. Working in small sections, apply the shampoo to your dry hair and scalp. Let it work for a few minutes, then, massage it into your scalp with your fingers and out to the ends of the strands. It’s a great method for dry cleaning when you don’t have access to water for wet shampooing. The best way to remove excess residue from the shampoo is to brush or comb your hair from the roots to the ends.

Substitutions for dry shampoo: baking soda, cornstarch and baby powder all work as a substitute. Just remember, a little goes a long way. Start with a small amount of the dry ingredient and add more if needed. You don’t want to have to actually do a wet shampoo of your hair to get out the excess powders.

Dryer Sheets

The fresh scent of a laundry dryer sheet will help to reduce or possibly eliminate the smell of smoke or cigarette odor from your hair.

Working in small sections, wrap a folded dryer sheet around a clump of hair. Starting at the scalp, firmly hold the strands between the folded dryer sheet and pull to the end of the length of your hair. Repeat over your entire head until the bad smells are gone.

Hair Dryer

If you carry a blow-dryer on your trips, in addition to drying your hair, it is a useful tool to remove smoke odor too. Use the cool setting on the lowest speed, then, work your way through small sections of hair to blow cold air across your entire head. This method will remove a mild campfire smoke smell in seconds.

Essential Oils

You can use a spray bottle to apply essential oils to your hair to remove a campfire or cigarette smell. Fill a small spray bottle with water and add a few drops of an essential oil that has your favorite scent. Then, spritz the combination over your entire scalp and smelly hair. Next, brush, comb or run your fingers through your hair so the oil mixture is well distributed. The compounds will provide a fresh fragrance to reduce the smoky odor immediately. Some of my personal favorites include jasmine, peppermint and lavender oil.

Note: If you choose to use a carrier oil instead of water, you’ll massage it into your hair follicles and scalp, let it sit a few minutes (like a conditioner) then you’ll need to rinse it out with warm water. At that point, you are back to a wet application and need as much water as a regular shampoo.

Rosewater Spray

Who doesn’t love the smell of roses? You can make rose water by steeping rose petals in purified water or you can just purchase a pre-made bottle. Simply put some in a spray bottle, spritz it on your hair and comb it through.

DIY Citrus Spray

When I was a kid I used to put straight lemon juice on my hair to lighten it in the summertime. Those days are gone but a lemon, lime or orange has the ability to help me in different ways today. A simple diy solution can be created in about 20 minutes using lemons, limes or oranges. First zest the rind from the peel, then, squeeze the juice from the fruit. Combine that into a small spray bottle with some water and let it stand about 20-30 minutes. Divide your hair strands into small sections and spritz with the solution. Brush, comb or work it through your entire head.

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Hair Perfume

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Hair perfume works just like body perfume. In fact, it can be the best solution for freshening up you hair, body and campfire clothes. Strong smells are masked with the fragrance. It’s best to brush it through your hair. This is not a good option if you are camping in bear country. Heavy fragrances actually attract bears so you’ll want to use a different method. Get all of our safety tips while camping in bear country.


Vodka is a colorless, odorless alcohol that can be sprayed onto smelly surfaces to make the odors disappear. When the vodka evaporates it takes the smelly molecules away with it. Pour a mixture of half vodka and half water into a spray bottle and spritz it onto your hair, comb it through with your fingers, then, let it air-dry to remove the unpleasant odors. Repeat the process as necessary. You can see how Martha Stewart spritzed stinky boots during “dry January” in her Instagram post.

Another great way to use vodka is by drinking it in this refreshing Mint-Kissed Lemontini cocktail, make sure to add a wedge or a little lemon zest to garnish your beverage.

Wet Washing Applications

Here are some easy ways to remove the odors if you have enough water on your next camping trip.

Clarifying Shampoo

Paul Mitchell Shampoo Two, Clarifying, Removes Oil & Product Buildup, For All Hair TypesPaul Mitchell Shampoo Two, Clarifying, Removes Oil & Product Buildup, For All Hair TypesPaul Mitchell Shampoo Two, Clarifying, Removes Oil & Product Buildup, For All Hair Types


Traditional cleansers found in a regular shampoo are designed to clean your hair and scalp. Clarifying shampoos use active soap-like ingredients with much stronger chemicals. These hair products will remove residue, grease and impurities from your hair. But, use this sparingly (no more than a couple of times per week) because it can strip protective oils causing the drying out of your scalp as well as your hair feeling dry, dull and frizzy. You use it as you would a typical shampoo, lathering your hair all the way to the roots, rinsing well with clean water and finishing with a leave-in conditioner.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Wash your hair with shampoo and rinse, as usual. Then, use a mixture of equal parts water to apple cider vinegar, apply to wet hair and let it stand a few minutes. Finally, rinse hair with fresh water, towel dry.

Preventative Measures

If you avoid smoke particles your hair won’t stink from them.

One of the first things you should do is tie up your hair. The more hair that is exposed, the greater the surface area the particles can attach themselves to. A bun is the best option for long-haired campers.

Wear a “campfire hat” to cover your hair. It will take the majority of the bad odors so they don’t reach your hair.

These simple tips won’t eliminate the problem, but, avoiding campfires all together will. Consider using a propane fire pit instead of having a wood-burning bonfire. We use ours often because we live in Arizona where we have lots of burn-bans in the summer. See our choice for the best camping propane fire pit and the reasons we love it.

Smoky Clothes

The laundry room can remove odors from your clothes including campfire and cigarette smoke.

I try to avoid packing stinky clothes. I hang them outside to air out before I pack them to go home. Overnight cool air does wonders for removing some of those odors.

Using hot water in your washing machine with a good laundry detergent is usually sufficient to have your clothes smelling fresh again.

If the odor is especially overpowering you may need to add a cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle. A half cup of baking soda will do the same thing.

The last resort is to wash the load of laundry a second time.

Smoky Scent On Camping Gear

For best results, unpack all of your smelly gear as soon as you get home. Our shade awnings and folding outdoor chairs are usually not too bad, but, when they are we lay them out in our backyard and scrub them with a mild detergent, rinse well and let them fully air dry before repacking for storage.

Campfire Odors In RVs

It is really difficult to get the smell of campfire smoke out of an RV. The best option is to keep it out in the first place. Before you start your fire, close all of your windows, doors and vents.

If unwanted smells do make their way into your rig, you want to wipe down the hard surfaces with a mild detergent. Then, keep your windows, doors and vents open when you are not having a fire and get as much fresh air blowing through your camper as possible.

Spray your fabrics with a fabric-safe air freshener product like Febreze. After your camping trip, be sure to wash all of the bedding, blankets and rugs as well.

FREE Printable Trip Planner

Make your next trip stress-free with a little pre-planning. Get your copy of our FREE printable camping trip planner template!

Camping Trip Planner Template Free Printable by CampingForFoodies is a whimsical illustration of a cute old orange car towing a blue and white vintage camper trailer down a road in a landscape of green trees, light green grass and brown mountains with fluffy clouds in a blue sky; thumbnail images of multiple pages of a camping trip planner under the text that reads camping free trip planner.

If you’re looking for awesome ideas for yummy camping food, you’re in the right place! Here’s our entire camping recipes list.

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