How to Remove Chlorine Smell from Clothing

Chlorine is a chemical used in various industries and in household cleaning products. It is among the ten highest volume chemicals made in the United States. It has a yellow-green color, and a pungent irritating odor similar to bleach. It does not catch fire easily but when combined with other common substances, it can become highly flammable and explosive even. Chlorine, being a pungent chemical, can stay on the skin or clothes if not washed properly. This could even be life-threatening for people who are specifically allergic to it. 

High concentrations of chlorine do not only spell trouble for your body—chlorine will act as a bleaching agent and will cause your clothes to fade over time. It also reduces the integrity of fabrics in your clothing. Chlorine eats away at individual fibers until they are thin, weak, and prone to breaking down. To maintain the quality of your wardrobe, keeping chlorine away is vital.

The Effects of Chlorine on Fabric

While chlorine is effective in removing stains from white clothing in particular, it also has a bleaching effect on nearly all types of color fabric. When the concentration of chlorine is more than 80 ppm, the effect is nearly immediate. However, in lower concentrations, the fading or whitening is gradual and does not become apparent until after multiple exposures over time. You may have noticed that after several years of washing clothes, the colors will fade, even if bleach is not used. Chlorine is highly oxidizing, which means that it damages everything it comes in contact with. While there are other contributing factors, the most common factor is the presence of a small amount of chlorine in the water.  

Removing Chlorine Smell

Chlorine smells can come from different sources and can get on furniture, clothes, or skin. Sources of chlorine smells include swimming pools, unbalanced or hard water, cleaning solutions, and bleach. Where the chlorine smell is, determines how to get rid of it. 

Chlorine from Pools to Swimsuits

Bathing suits are the most common type of clothing that directly gets into contact with chlorine from the pool. However, the “pool smell” is not due to chlorine, but to chloramines, or chemical compounds that build up in pool water when it is improperly treated. Chloramines, also known as combined chlorine, are formed when free chlorine reacts with ammonia like compounds called amines. The pool smell is a result of a combination of two ingredients: chlorine disinfectants and perspiration, oils, and urine that enter pools on the bodies of swimmers. Chlorine disinfectants are added to pool water to eliminate germs that can potentially give swimmers diarrhea, ear aches, allergies, and athlete’s foot. 

To remove the chlorine smell out of a bathing suit, wash and rinse it with cold fresh water immediately after every swim. This will reduce chlorine by preventing it to seep deep within the fiber. It is also recommended to rinse the swimsuit before swimming. This helps reduce the amount of chlorine it absorbs, as it has already absorbed clean water.

Regular tap water

People often associate the smell of chlorine with that of bleach. In tap water’s case, chlorine is manually added to public water systems and functions as disinfectant to eliminate waterborne diseases. There are a few ways to improve this, especially if you’re using the water not just for drinking, but also for washing clothes. But it is important to note that chlorine will almost always be a part of your tap water. If your tap water smells like bleach, it is likely caused by high levels of chlorine. Small traces of chlorine is actually required by the Environmental Protection Agency for disinfection purposes, but only below 4mg/L (chlorine can be smelled at levels of 1mg/L). Boiling your tap water or chilling it in the refrigerator will remove the bleach smell from the water. 

Vinegar and Baking Soda

White vinegar can be used to neutralize the smell, as long as it is used properly so as not to create harmful fumes. Vinegar is a solution of water and acetic acid. It is not a pure substance so it does not have its own chemical formula. It is a great green cleaning agent because its acidic pH allows it to break down alkaline or basic substances that soil our homes and laundry. It also has a long shelf life at room temperature.

To remove chlorine smell, launder clothing in a mix of water and 1/4 cup vinegar. If clothing still smells of bleach, launder a second time with soap and vinegar to finish removing the odor. For small items such as shirts and towels, in a sink or tub filled with a mixture of half water and half vinegar, soak the shirt for at least an hour then rinse the item in cold water to remove the vinegar odor. Never mix bleach and vinegar or vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, as these combinations emit toxic vapors.

Another effective household item that can neutralize chlorine smell is baking soda. Pour a 1/4 cup of baking soda in a clean kitchen sink filled with cold water, then place the bathing suit within the mixture for 15-30 minutes for the baking powder to fully absorb the chemical smell. 

Chlorine is essential in eliminating water bacteria that can potentially harm our skin, and put our overall health at risk. However, this may be a problem for people who are extremely sensitive or allergic to chlorine. That’s why it is best for them to remove chlorine before it even touches the skin. There are filtration systems available that can effectively remove the smell. Investing in this may be good especially for those individuals. Neutralization systems such as reverse osmosis, ultraviolet light, and activated and catalytic carbon, may be a good investment, as these are essential to your survival and well-being.