How To Remove Odors From A Bag, Purse or Tote

Welcome to the 320th Metamorphosis Monday!

Earlier this past winter when I was working on my winter bedding and was deep into all things plaid…

Tartan Bedding For Winter


…I came across this picture of the Pendleton Weekender bag. It was love at first sight! There was just one problem. The bag hasn’t been available for over two years. It was last sold in stores back in 2012. Drat! Don’t you hate it when you trip across something awesome online, only to learn it hasn’t been available in stores for years.

Pendleton Red Plaid Weekender Bag

Photo from Urban Outfitters


Apparently, when it was available, it sold for $198 which I think is actually a pretty good price for a Pendleton wool and leather bag of that size.

Pendleton Weekender Bag in Red Plaid


I would imagine it sold out quickly when star, Ginnifer Goodwin was spotted carrying one. Whenever a celebrity is seen wearing (or in this case, carrying) something, it often sells out within minutes or hours.

Over the last few months I’ve been occasionally checking eBay to see if by some miracle one might pop up. I wasn’t having any luck finding it but eventually I found something perhaps even better.

Ginnifer Goodwin with Pendleton Weekender Bag

 Photo Source

An auction came up for the wool and leather Pendleton Weekender bag in a Black Watch tartan. I love Black Watch, heck I love any plaid so I was thrilled to find it.

Pendleton Blackwatch Plaid Weekender Bag


What made the auction especially awesome was it included a matching Pendleton wool/leather tote! The auction stated they were in great condition and looked brand new with only a small scuff on the leather of the weekender bag. I placed my bid and kept my fingers crossed. In the end I lucked out and won both for $103.50 plus $12 shipping, a great price considering the weekender bag alone sold for $198 when it was available in 2012.

Pendleton Blackwatch Plaid Weekender Tote Bag


When the bags arrived, they were in perfect condition except for one thing: they both smelled heavily of cigarette smoke. Usually eBay sellers mention things like that but this particular seller had not. I could have returned them but I really liked them. Plus, I knew how hard they would be to find again. So, I kept them and began reading everything I could find online about removing odors from purses, bags, clothing, etc…

I found a lot of information and ideas online from mixing a solution of vinegar and water to putting the item in a freezer to placing it in the dryer (with dryer sheets) on the little shelf most dryers have these days. I didn’t want to risk damaging the wool fabric or leather with liquid concoctions or cold freezer conditions so I nixed any liquid and freezer suggestions.

I did try the dryer thing on a no-heat, air-dry only cycle, minus the dryer sheets since I’ve never liked the smell of dryer sheets. After about 40 minutes in the dryer, it didn’t appear to be having any effect at all. I also tried placing baking soda (in its carton) inside the bags. After a few days there was still no real improvement.

Pendleton Blackwatch Plaid Weekender Bag and Tote


One idea I saw mentioned several times online was to simply allow the item to air out, out-of-doors. I liked that idea but during the time I was working on this little dilemma we were getting rain almost every single day. Plus, the temps were still quite cold out most days. Remember our freak snow storm? Even our sunny days had pop-up showers throughout the day and some days it was nothing but rain.

On a few of the mild days, I hung the bags from chairs out on the screened porch and I did see some slight improvement. I think with time the airing-out method would have eventually worked, although I think it would have taken a while since I didn’t want to put them in direct sunlight for fear it would fade the leather or fabric.

Pendleton Weekender Bag and Tote in Blackwatch Tartan


In an effort to speed up the process, I visited a couple of stores in search of something for getting smells/odors out of things. I came across this: the airBoss Charcoal Closet Deodorizer. I noticed it said it would neutralize mold, mildew,  TOBACCO—ding, ding, ding, ding, that got my attention! I purchased two, one for each bag. Once home I looked them up online and the reviews were awesome. Folks said it really worked! Per the packaging, the air Boss Deodorizer contains odor absorbing charcoal.

Closet Deodorizer


To open it, you tear off the top part of the wrapping along the perforated line, lift off the blue, plastic thingy, remove the silver foil seal that’s covering the charcoal inside, then place the blue, plastic thingy back.

Air Boss Deodorizer


I placed one airBoss in each bag, zipping up the weekender bag.  I’ve had them inside the bags for about a week now and they definitely appear to be working. The smell has decreased drastically. Now when I stick my nose down inside one of the bags, I just smell wool and leather.

I wanted to share this in case you ever run into this issue with a purse, bag or tote. A combination of airing out the item on a porch where the breezes flow through and tucking an airBoss inside appears to do the job of removing cigarette smoke and tobacco smells.

Pendleton Blackwatch Plaid Weekender Bag and Tote


By the way, this isn’t a sponsored post or anything, just sharing the good stuff when I find it!

Looking forward to all the wonderful Before and Afters for this Met Monday!

Met Monday


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  1. Thanks so much for the party!!


  2. What a great score, Susan! I love the bags. Thank you for hosting!

  3. I wonder if that would work on old furniture?
    You’re right – it does go away – but it takes far too long !
    Thanks for the tip Susan – AND the party
    Have a wonderful week

  4. super cute bags. glad you were able to get rid of the odor and now be able to enjoy the bags.

  5. Gorgeous bag and good advice, now I want one too, especially Black Watch, next stop Ebay!

  6. What a great find, Susan! I had a similar issue with a Vera Bradley bag I purchased at a yard sale. I didn’t smell any odor when I bought because it was outside I guess. When I got home and opened it, it smelled awful. Luckily I was able to put it in the washer, but it took several washes before the odor was completely gone. Your bags are beautiful!

    • I love Vera Bradley bags! Glad the smell came out in the wash! It’s amazing how strong cigarette smoke can be and how hard it can be to get out.

  7. Susan, I so love your gorgeous bag and tote and actually love that plaid too…and knowing you, you always find the right solution to a problem…so great to know about these deodorizers and so happy that they are working for you…

  8. Really great bags, Susan, but it’s a bummer that they smelled like smoke. I am glad that you were able to find something to remove the odor. Enjoy the bags and thanks for the party! πŸ™‚

  9. Susan, what a great deal on both bags! I’m glad you found a way to get rid of the odor. I’m sure you’re relieved to have found something fairly simple to do, and that won’t hurt the bags.

    Thanks for hosting!

  10. Thanks for the tip. I run across that from time to time and now it’s nice to have something that will work. If you don’t smoke you pick up on tiniest odor. Thank you for hosting!

  11. Great info Susan, love your new bags! Thanks for the party today! Yay, spring!

  12. Those are so cute. I would think you might be able to get a small percentage of your purchase price back because the seller didn’t disclose the smell. That is an eBay “no-no”. Thanks so much for this tip. I bought a bag off of eBay and it has an odd smell. Not perfume but something else. I tried many of your tips listed above and it didn’t work. Next I’ll try the charcoal. Have a wonderful week.

    • Yeah, you’re probably right. I didn’t ask for it since I was just so excited to find the bags but I did email the seller and tell her that she should have disclosed it in the ad. I hope the airBoss works for your bag. It may take a while. I think the airing out on a porch also helps a lot, so if you can do both, that would be good. Thanks, Katie…you too! Spring has sprung here so it’s a gorgeous day out. πŸ™‚

  13. What a great buy, Susan! I love your new bags, and I’m glad to know about a product that will remove odors. Now, you’ll have to take a trip to show off your new plaids. Thank you for the linky.

  14. So glad that you found a solution, Susan! I’m going to remember your tip! Have a great week!…hugs…Debbie

  15. Yep, Charcoal work well, also my mom swears by newspaper, crumpling up wads and replacing it every day for several days. And my dad said they used to use a can of folger’s coffee in the beds of the semi trailers that came in smelling bad. He said they’d sprinkle the whole can of ground coffee across the floor of the trailer, and later (maybe the next day??) sweep it up and the smell with it. Thanks for hosting today too! Liz

    • I wish I had some newspaper, I would have done that, too! πŸ™‚ I’ve heard that helps with books, putting a piece of newspaper between each page. I didn’t think about coffee….great idea!

  16. I hope you left seller feedback on Ebay that there was a cigarette odor so that other potential buyers are forewarned. That is why feedback is a useful tool.

    • I think she was a new seller and just didn’t realize. I think I did mention it in the feedback but still gave her positive feedback since the bags were great otherwise. Plus, she ended up reducing the shipping to just what it cost her to ship the bags, which was really nice.

  17. Glenice lightly says

    LOVE the tartan bags! what a find! So exciting to find what you want.

  18. Thank you for your awesome blog. Look so forward to it.

  19. Wonderful bags Susan, I wouldn’t have wanted to send them back either but can’t tolerate the smell of cigarette smoke. Thanks for the handy solution, I pinned to my ‘Tips’ board πŸ™‚

  20. Do you know you can save searches on ebay so anytime what you are looking for is listed you get an email? That way, you don’t miss something that’s unusual or hard to find.

    I’ve not used this particular brand of odor absorber, but I love odor absorbers! Gel odor absorbers are sometimes by the air fresheners and sometimes in pet supplies. They don’t mask odor but just absorb it. They work well for clearing out smoke smells, burnt toast or popcorn and lots of other things.

    • Yep, that may be how I found the Black Watch…I think I had a search saved for it. It really does help that they offer that.
      Thanks for the tip about being near pet supplies, Rae. I didn’t think to check Pet Smart, bet they definitely have some odor fighter stuff.

  21. Lovely bag (s) I am a fan of Black Watch tartan, my husband has the complete outfit with the kilt being in Black watch, he wore it to our two daughters weddings, he even brought it to the states when we attended weddings there a number of years back. He was asked at one wedding “Do you play the bagpipes” lol answer….. No. And at another wedding in Ohio a little boy whispered to the bride “is that guy a Leprechaun”. That was funny.

  22. I’m glad to know about this solution Susan. Gorgeous bags too. Thanks for hosting!

  23. crumpety cottage says

    It was love at first sight for me too when I saw the home page picture. Awesome looking bag! I’m so glad you were able to find it. I have no idea who that Ginnifer person is though, lol. And that’s a great tip about the air boss. Does it smell like charcoal? – (or anything?) This is a great tip. Thanks.

    Hope you’re feeling better, Susan. πŸ˜€

    • I didn’t recognize her in the picture at first but once I googled her, I knew exactly who she was. She was in the movies, He’s Just Not That Into You, Mona Lisa Smile, and a bunch more. She’s apparently also in the TV show Once Upon a Time. I never saw that…not sure if it’s still playing.
      No, it doesn’t have any smell at all, at least so I could tell.
      Thanks…I’m getting there. πŸ™‚

  24. Hi Susan! Great purchase and great solution! It wasn’t quite up and up for the seller not to reveal the odor though. We have a small fireproof safe that holds stuff like our passports and discovered things mildews inside. A quick Google search revealed that is a very common problem the manufacturers don’t warn you about. I bought one of those charcoal absorbers that actually pulls out the water into a container. It is called DampRid and I found it at Wally World in the section where they sell hangers and laundry accessories. It really works well. I have Quelle horreur that a French guard will turn up his nose at my smelly passport!!

    I hope you are feeling much better this week and the antibiotic kicked in. Got to get you better before the pollen hits!!!

    • Roxanne, you made me laugh with that image of the French guard. πŸ™‚ lol
      I’ll have to remember DampRid…thanks for sharing that!

  25. Lovely Pendelton items. Thanks for tips.

    I foster cats for local humane society so I have non-clumping litter on hand. Next time, If I have a fabric smell issue, I will use fresh air (out of sunlight as you suggested) and a mixture of litter and fish tank charcoal,

  26. Wow, what a great tip, Susan! Thanks for sharing this! I had no idea these would work. Thank you for hosting another great link party! It’s alwasy fun to see so many inspiring ideas!

  27. Susan, I’m thrilled you found these and at such a great price. I would love to have either of these wonderful bags. Glad the smell is decreasing. I’ve received things before that I had to leave outside for days before I could bring them into our home. Enjoy your bags. Where’s the first get away? ‘-)

    • lol I keep dreaming but then keeping thinking of all the stuff I could use those $ for around the house instead…like a bathroom renovation. A trip would be way more fun, though! πŸ™‚

  28. Regality (aka The Quing) says

    As attractive as the bags are, I wonder how much they weigh? The duffle looks quite “substantial”. I make it a rule not to purchase travel bags that are heavy to carry on/check in. Weight isn’t so much an issue when traveling by car, but it is when traveling by air.

  29. LUV your “deal”..the bags are fantastic!! (I just purchased Pendleton socks πŸ™‚ I’ve used “charcoal” in trunks before…your find is much less messy!! franki

  30. Susan, I’m glad you managed to salvage the bags. I know that you do love plaid. I live in an old house with small closets so the only place to keep shoes is on two low shelf units. The shoes are open to the closet so I put an Air Boss on one of the shelf units to make sure the closet stays fresh smelling. It works really well. This method of storage means no hanging on to shoes that are beyond their prime – sandals especially.

    • Iris, I love that idea! I was thinking about placing one in each of my closets. The reviews online were raving about how well they work in closets. I’ve just started doing that this year, forcing myself to donate or toss some of the shoes I never wear. I get attached to my favorite sandals because they are so comfortable that it’s hard giving them up even when they don’t look so great anymore. I know you know what I mean! πŸ™‚

  31. That was a wonderful find- too bad you had such a hassle with the odor. I hope you wrote the seller privately and gave them a little slap on the hands about it. Smokers don’t get it though- because their senses are so dulled and they don’t realize how bad it actually smells. Sounds like you found a great solution. I wonder if that would help in a car when trying to remove the smell from a smoker?

    • Liz, I did. I gave her good feedback since I think was her second sale. She was obviously new at selling. But I did write her and tell her she should have disclosed it in the description. I’m kind of glad now she didn’t because I probably wouldn’t have bought them but now that I’ve gotten the smell out, I’m a happy camper. πŸ™‚ I bet they would help…but not if the person was still actively smoking in the car. But if it was say a used car that was purchased, it might help. Several folks have continued to leave comments with great products they have used with success so be sure and check those because they might work better for wiping down the interior.

  32. If worse comes to worse, try getting some ZorbX spray at Walgreens. Spritz some on the fabric parts and inside…it works WONDERS.

  33. One thing I love about your blog is that you are a person who goes after a solution until you find it! They are always helpful! Great job! The bags are beautiful…..and now they will smell good too. Lucky duck!

  34. Don’t you hate it when that happens on eBay? It’s happened to me before also – with vintage purses. For vintage luggage, I’ve also heard that cat litter can sometimes absorb the smell of smoke too, and I use a lot of lavender for drawers, purses, etc., but I like what you’ve found. Thanks for sharing (pinning), and thanks for hosting us. Happy St. Pat’s Day and Happy SPRING!!!

  35. Love those bags, what a find!!! You need to let ebay know about the smell not being mentioned…… Thanks for the tip on the charcoal. I swear by using cat litter, the clay kind, not the clumping kind. Sometimes I mix chunk charcoal with it. It works great on old furniture with drawers that are smelly or damp, and cupboards. The cat litter works great on the garage floor if you have oil drips or spills, it soaks it right up and then you can sweep it away…..

  36. Love the bags! Thanks for the useful tip and for hosting. Have a super week! πŸ™‚

  37. Great bags Susan and great tip. Thanks so much for hosting.

  38. You are a wealth of information – and with the books you review – you are fantastic!

    I bought a Harris Tweed coat on ebay – and when I opened the box – I about fell over from the moth ball smell, my eyes stung! I emailed the guy and he told me he thought ALL wool coats smelled like this:) I should have just mailed it back, but kept it. I left that coat out on the porch, then the carport, hanging up for two months before the smell left. After all of that – the fit was awful – so off to the Goodwill!

    Thanks for another wonderful post . .

  39. Love those bags! I’m glad you were able to find something to get the yukky cigarette smells out. They’re too pretty not to use!

  40. I love these bags, great deal. I enjoyed reading this so much I can relate back when everyone thought they had to have a pair of Stuart Weitzman’s with matching handbags, I received mine “new” supposedly, but just couldn’t figure out the smell, I gave them away, instead of the hassle of returning…..wish I would have known this then, thanks for sharing Susan.

  41. Katherine G says

    I’m glad it’s working but if not – ask around for the best dry cleaner in town. We think of drycleaning for spots, but if they are really good, they can get smells out too.

  42. Wonderful bags and I love them. Now they are odor free! Cigarette smell is about one of the grossest smells.

  43. Linda S. in NE says

    I am tickled that you won that auction and were able to get the bag you wanted, plus the bonus tote. I’m not only tickled, I’m just a tad bit jealous. Wouldn’t that first bag look fabulous and stylish when I go dog-sitting just for a weekend? I wouldn’t even care if the plaid was blue or red! You are a real “bulldog” when it comes to finding a solution to a problem you have, and we thank you for that. So many good ideas from your comment section as well.

  44. Great post Susan. I will keep this in mind if I bump into cigarette smoke again. I had an opportunity to buy a cookbook while out thrifting, but passed on it because of cigarette smell.

    I just wanted to tell you my Safe & Simple arrived. Thank you for that information. Now I am just trying to work up my nerve to pull down that old wallpaper. Oh, I still need the scraper.

  45. Have you ever tried coffee grounds to get rid of odors? As a former military spouse I used to put coffee grounds in an old, cut-off nylon stocking and put it in the fridge whenever we moved. The coffee grounds obsorbed odors and the fridge was left smelling like coffee for a short time.

  46. If you have a stuffy car, closet, or other small space, you can put charcoal briquets in an old cake pan and let it sit in the closed space. My son did this with his car…and smelled fine after a couple of days. Kind of a homemade version of what you are talking about.

  47. Love the bag, and I’ll have to remember that trick!

  48. I’m glad to hear so many solutions I didn’t know about. The first thing I try is almost always vinegar – no chemicals and super cheap. A lot of people hate the smell, but it disappears quickly. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to pour it on the fabric. But you could wipe the fabric inside and out with a vinegar-soaked (not dripping) cloth. I can leave a shallow bowl on my kitchen counter after I broil salmon or (ahem) burn something, and the next morning, the smell is almost always gone.

  49. Thanks so much for that tip.
    Smells can ruin things & they are hard to get rid of.
    I’ll have to get one & keep it ready for action.

  50. Susan, thanks for the great tip and for hosting! Love the bags!
    love and blessings~

  51. Glad it worked for you but here is another tip. Coffee. Yup. Take a tin of cheap, ground coffee and put it in the offending area. You can put some in the ashtrays in your car and just vacuum it out when it needs changing. You can put it in drawers, bags even just open in a room.
    Works well enough to remove the stench of dead rodent… believe me on this one.

  52. SharonFromMichigan says

    Susan – There’s a product called Zero Odor that has nothing but rave reviews that gets rid of odors all the way. I saw it on the Bed Bath & Beyond website. We have a new puppy (9 months old) and my house now smells like dog. Love the puppy – hate the smell. I’m going to give the Zero Order product a try. It says it gets rid of the odor on the molecular level and leaves no smell of its own.

    • Thanks, Sharon! Good to know about Zero Odor…will have to check that out. The bags seem to be smoke free now from all the airing out and the airBoss. πŸ™‚

  53. karen amatangelo says

    Thanks Susan for the information on those charcoal deodorizers. What a great find! I love your tartan bags. How beautiful! I hope you are feeling better and are on the mend from your sinus infection. It seems sometimes it is hard to get rid of something once it infects our body. I also wanted to tell you I bought the Safe and Simple wallpaper remover and it did a great job of removing my kitchen wallpaper. I have just started a complete kitchen renovation. Oh my, what a mess. But I can’t wait for the end result. Thanks so much for your wonderful blog. I really look forward each day as to what will be your topic for the day.

  54. Love anything plaid. I love your bed and travel bags. I am so glad you were able to eliminate the smoke odor from the travel bags. I have a Pendleton plaid wool blanket. Love it for its color and warmth. I would love to have a plaid travel bag too. I am very fond of the plaid/tartan salad plates. We have a log home, so I was thinking of using plaid drapery in the living room. It gives such a cozy feeling. Now….what else can I find in plaid? Enjoy your new bags.

  55. Great tips! Gorge bags! Love plaid, especially black watch and McQueen tartan! Enjoy, and thank you for hosting!

  56. I like that idea to get rid of the tobacco smoke smell..especially since the bags are wool and leather and can’t get wet!

    I found a winner for me….called Zep Smoke Odor Eliminator. It has many uses! I use it to get rid of tobacco smoke smell and slight musty smells, mostly in Vera Bradley bags that I buy and resell. It’s main use is to get fire smoke smell out of anything that has been in a fire and has not been physically damaged. I used it to get rid of tobacco smoke smell in a DRESSER that I got at the Habitat for Humanity Restore. IT WORKED fabulously! AND FAST! Smoke smell gives me a migraine so when I tell ya it worked….IT WORKED!!!

    I have sprayed it on musty wool yarn and the yarn remained perfect. I sprayed it on a leather handbag and it was ok…I did wipe it down a bit with a rag, though.

    Just wanted to share. I will be buying the air boss to keep in my garment bags in the basement tho! Thanks!

  57. Juanita in OH says

    I am so happy for you. There is nothing like getting a deal on something you really want. Use them in good health. Thank you for sharing the tip about the charcoal, it is priceless! I always come to your blog and get lost for HOURS looking at your participent’s posts, lol.

  58. This is good to know. I have bought purses from the thrift store and odor is less than pleasant. Thanks for saving me tons of frustration!

  59. Thank you for the hint to freshen up leather bags. As far as cloth articles go, vinegar works great. Wash in vinegar to remove the smoke smell, then do a normal wash for that freshly washed smell. I’ll also keep the coffee grind and kitty litter in mind, if any situation should arise. Great post today!

  60. Ebay sellers that send out items with a disgusting cigarette smell should be ashamed. Its so low class. I send them all back when I was buying from Ebay. One lady had the nerve to send me a set of books that reeked of cigarettes. I sent them all back and demanded a refund. I hope it works as my experience is nothing gets the smell out especially from wool. Pretty bags.

  61. Can’t tell you how much I appreciate you sharing this. I purchased a handbag today that I simply adored but it has the very same issues. I will definitely give this a try.

    • Diane, this does help but putting the bag where it can be exposed to fresh air seemed to help a lot as well. Just don’t put your bag where the sun can shine directly on it because that could cause fading. It took a while but finally my bag no longer smells.

  62. I just purchased a leather purse from goodwill and the cigarette smell is strong you think this will work?

  63. Thank you for this info, it was really helpful!

  64. Thank you sooooo much for posting this, I have a purse that was bought for me as a gift and one of my coworkers loved it so much she borrowed it a few times, I finally found one just like it on the internet so I purchased it for her and as soon as I opened the box it was in I could smell cigarette smoke, I have scent sachets from Bed Bath & Beyond however I noticed now it smells like the scent sachets and cigarette smoke, I am going to give your idea a try, I appreciate you sharing your experience so people like me don’t have to waste their money trying to figure out a solution

    • Hope it works for you, Lisa! It’s not a quick fix, it took a little time for the charcoal and the airing out on the porch to work their magic, but the combination did work. Neither of my bags smells at all like cigarette smoke now. πŸ™‚

  65. Beverly Schlein says

    2/26/21 I just read this post. I have tried everything except the charcoal. At my wits end. Bought 2nd hand a brand nee Dooney bag and matching wallet. Seller didn’t mention smoking home in fact I wrote and asked β€œdo you smoke?!” She replied β€œno”…so I wrote back well this bag reeks of cigarettes I had to take the bag out of my house to the garage…the. She replied well it was her grandmothers and she smoked…well a little deceptive I wish me luck!

    • Beverly, I do wish you luck with it. I can tell you it’s not a fast process. It took a while for it to leave my bag but it did eventually work. It is sooo annoying when sellers don’t disclose something like that!

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