Your gear stinks. You know it. Your buddies know it. And the animals know it, too. That’s why it’s time to get your hunting clothes clean!
Naturally, hunting requires getting dirty. But that doesn’t mean your gear should always look that way. Sweat, dirt, and any other grime can degrade your fabric’s strength and quality over time.
Before you go ahead and dump a bottle of laundry detergent in the wash with your gear, you need to know a few key things.
As a hunter, I can appreciate the importance of cleaning hunting clothing right. That’s why I’ve compiled this comprehensive guide on washing hunting clothes – plus a few tips for keeping them odorless.
How To Get Stains Out Of Your Hunting Clothes
As a hunter out in the field, you’re bound to encounter a couple of stains on your gear. Whether it’s blood from harvesting and processing your game or mud from the ground, treating these as soon as possible is essential. Stains can quickly become stubborn and prematurely age your clothing.
Here are some ways to pre-treat certain stains you may encounter on your hunting clothes:
- Blood: Soak the stained items in cold water from one to six hours. Avoid bleach at all costs.
- Grass: Mix three tablespoons of baking soda and three tablespoons of water to form a paste. Rub the paste using a small brush (like a toothbrush) into the stains with soft strokes.
- Rust: Soak the stain with some white vinegar and then blot out the liquid. Wash as normal.
- Oil/grease: Blot the stain with a paper towel to remove as much of it as possible. Sprinkle the stain with cornstarch and flush the backside of the fabric with cold water. This removes the cornstarch and pushes the stain out of the fibers. Spot treat with some liquid dish soap and wash as normal.
Choosing The Best Laundry Detergent for Hunting Clothes
Detergents used for hunting clothes should be free of fragrances and UV brighteners. Your clothes may not look or feel as good if you use a regular, nice-smelling laundry detergent, but game animals don’t care about that.
Many detergents labeled “natural” or “eco-friendly” are free from UV brightness and perfumes. But the best way to wash your hunting clothing is with a scent-free detergent. Better safe than sorry when that deer ultimately smells you!
Alternatively, you can purchase laundry detergents specifically designed for hunters. Here are a few excellent detergents that will keep your hunting clothes scent-free.
1. Wildlife Research Scent Killer Laundry Detergent
Wildlife Research Scent Killer Gold Laundry Detergent is a concentrated liquid that offers deep cleaning odor-fighting power in a 32-fluid-ounce bottle (~950 ml).
The special H-E formula is a proprietary blend of natural multi-surfactants to remove stains. This detergent has no UV brighteners or artificial residual scents.
This is a go-to product in the hunting community for cleaning your hunting gear.
2. Dead Down Wind Laundry Detergent
Dead Down Wind Laundry Detergent is available in two 40-ounce (~1.2 l) variants: unscented or natural woods. Both are reliable at eliminating all odors and stains from hunting gear, clothes, and accessories.
It is also a safe detergent for those with sensitive skin. This detergent is effective without the use of biocides thanks to the Enzyme ScentPrevent technology. You can clean natural and synthetic fibers, including carbon or technical gear and accessories.
I recommend going for the scent-free version as opposed to natural woods.
3. Hunters Specialties Scent-A-Way Laundry Detergent
Hunters Specialties Scent-A-Way Laundry Detergent is another great scent-free laundry detergent. Its reasonable price is a bonus! The 18-ounce (~530ml) bottle ensures no residual scent on your clothes yet still effectively cleans and eliminates odors from your hunting clothes.
Plus, this detergent doesn’t contain UV optical brighteners that could otherwise enable deer to spot you from a long distance.
Step-by-Step Guide on How To Wash Hunting Clothes
Keeping your scent signature to a minimum provides an edge in the wild.
Follow this guide on how to effectively wash your hunting clothing without risking odor control or fabric quality.
1. Separate the clothes according to color & fabric type
Start by separating your hunting clothes by color and fabric. While washing all hunting gear together is generally fine, it’s best to avoid this in case darker clothing colors bleed into lighter clothing.
Softer and harder fabrics should be washed separately. This will help prevent delicate fabrics from snagging or tearing during the wash cycle. Separate whites, lights, and darks, as well as wool and synthetic fabric.
2. Pre-treat the stains
Before washing your hunting clothes, pre-treat any spots with a stain remover. This will ensure that the stain is completely removed and doesn’t transfer the scent to your clothes once you’ve finished washing them.
Follow the methods mentioned above to spot-treat the particular stain you have on your hunting clothing.
3. Clean your washing machine
If you don’t have a dedicated washer for your hunting clothes and use your regular house washer, be sure to clean it before washing your clothes. Residual fragrances and brighteners can be left behind from washing your regular clothes.
I recommend setting it to the hottest temperature and adding your scent-free detergent. Let it run for a quick cycle to ensure it kills any lingering hints of odor.
4. Wash your hunting clothes
As a general rule of thumb, use the temperature just above the coldest setting. This protects delicate fabrics but helps the soap do its job.
Toss in your hunting clothing with your chosen scent-free detergent and let it run for a full cycle. Avoid using fabric softeners or dryer sheets – they do more harm than good to your gear. However, if you want to use dryer sheets, make sure you get scent-free dryer sheets!
5. Dry your hunting clothes
It’s always best to air-dry your hunting clothes on an outdoor drying rack. Since you’re air-drying your clothes outside, they’ll only be exposed to natural odors that aren’t as noticeable to wild animals.
If you’re short on time or the weather’s not looking too bright for a thorough air fry, you can place them in the dryer. But be sure to read the label on your hunting gear before putting them in the dryer. Synthetics are the most forgiving, but wool can shrink in a dryer that’s too warm.
Opt for the lowest drying setting and check every 30 minutes to feel how dry your hunting clothes are. Set them out to dry overnight and cool off. If you place them in a bag too soon, you could open them to find mildew or mold.
6. Ironing your hunting clothes
If you want to iron your hunting clothes, check the label to make sure it’s safe. Use a low heat setting and move the iron around gently but quickly to avoid burning the fabric.
This step will keep your hunting clothing in top-notch condition and ready for your next hunt.
How To Store Your Hunting Clothes Correctly To Maintain Good Condition
Storing your hunting clothes is a critical step. All your work goes to waste if your gear absorbs house odors, is tossed into a closet, or encounters some other textile tragedy.
It’s always best to store your hunting clothes in a cool, dry space inside a sealed plastic bag or container.
Here are some ways to store your hunting attire to ensure it remains in the best condition this hunting season.
Hang your hunting clothes
The easiest and most convenient way to store your hunting clothes is to hang them in your closet. This is the best way to store your gear if you’re using it on a regular basis.
Ensure they’re tucked away from any odors and direct sunlight or other heat sources, as this can lead to damage or fading.
Store in air-tight bag or plastic container
For long-term storage of your hunting clothing, it’s recommended to use an airtight bag, sealed bag, or container. This will keep your hunting clothing free from dust, moisture, and odors.
Protect from pests
This is key! No one wants to spend upwards of $1,000 for gear only to find holes and damage in them from pesky moths and rodents. You can use cedar blocks, moth balls, or insect repellent to keep them away and ensure your clothes stay fresh and aren’t damaged.
How Often Should You Wash Hunting Clothes?
Wash your baselayers after each hunt
As a general guideline, it’s best to wash all your baselayers after each hunt. Wild animals can be sensitive to body odor, even if you don’t notice the smell. Make sure you keep the clean clothes separate from the hunting clothes you’ve already worn to prevent odor transfer.
Wash your outerlayers once a month
Jackets, vests, and the outer layer of pants are less likely to pick up scents and body odor as they don’t come in direct contact with skin. If they’re not dirty after a couple of hunts, once a month will suffice.
It’s recommended you wash your gear after every use, but this can be tedious and time-consuming for many. So, it’s best to get into a habit of washing your hunting clothes whenever they’re visibly dirty or if you’ve been sweating a lot during a hunt.
Pro tip: Always wash your gear right after a hunt if you get blood on them. Animals can smell this from a mile away.
Can I Wash Hunting Clothes With Regular Laundry Detergents?
As a hunter, you should steer clear of regular laundry detergents, as these often have perfumes and UV brighteners. While regular detergents can make your hunting clothing feel soft and smell like a fresh bed of roses, they do nothing for you when it comes to hunting.
If you wash your hunting clothing with regular laundry detergent, rewash them with one of the above detergents. Alternatively, you can use scent-eliminating sprays available at many hunting shops and online.
How you wash and maintain the condition of your hunting clothing comes down to your preferences and specific situation.
Tips On Keeping Your Hunting Clothing Odorless
Here are some key tips to keep in mind while washing and wearing your hunting clothing:
- Steer clear of regular detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets when washing or machine-drying your hunting clothing.
- Never use any kind of bleaching product on your hunting clothing.
- Wash your clothes regularly to prevent odor build-up. Every two to four weeks is best, depending on your circumstances.
- Consider hand washing your hunting clothes rather than using the family washer.
- Use the same detergents and washing techniques for other gear, including game bags, leather or rubber boots, and any camping gear.
- When carrying hunting gear, always store it in a sealed bag or container until you arrive at the hunting grounds.
- This goes without saying, but don’t wear your hunting clothing while driving to your hunting spot, grabbing a bite to eat, or pumping gas before heading to the field.
Frequently Asked Questions
What temperature should you use when washing hunting clothes?
When it comes to washing hunting clothes, always use cold water or lukewarm water. Hot water can damage certain types of fabric and cause colors to fade.
Can you wash hunting clothes with baking soda?
Baking soda is another option to wash hunting clothing besides unscented laundry detergents. A baking soda paste is great for removing stubborn stains too. Place ½ cup (115 g) of baking soda in your laundry load and set your machine on a cold water cycle.
Can you use fabric softener on hunting clothing?
You should avoid using fabric softeners when washing your hunting clothing. These have perfumes and can potentially weaken the fibers of your hunting gear over time. The ultimate goal is to remain odorless, so stick to scent-free detergents.
Can you dry clean hunting clothes?
Unless manufacturer’s instructions state you can dry clean the clothes, don’t do it. Hunting clothes are made of specialized fabrics requiring careful cleaning to eliminate odors. Not all dry cleaners will know this. Instead, stick with spot cleaning and machine washing at home.
Conclusion: How To Wash Hunting Clothes
It can be easy to overlook critical steps in the excitement of getting ready for the hunting season. I know I have! But if you want to remain naked to the animal’s eye and nose, you should regularly clean your hunting clothing and gear.
Remember, the end goal is scent control and to be odor free!
Game animals have an incredible sense range that humans can’t match. Careful preparation to prevent sound, sight, and smell from reaching game is essential to a successful hunt.
Hunters should wash their gear with scent-free detergents, air dry (always if possible), and store it away in a cool, dry place.
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