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How Do You Get the Fish Smell Out of Waders? Simple Tips

How Do You Get the Fish Smell Out of Waders

Show me a mechanic whose overalls doesn’t smell of car oil and I will believe that it isn’t only an angler’s problem.

Anglers enjoy their sport and even with the fish smell stuck with them everywhere they go, they still live their lives like it is very normal.

But, it gets to days when your nose can’t bear it anymore and something has to be done.

So, how do you get the fish smell out of waders?

You can get the smell of fish out of waders by cleaning them with an acidic product like lemon juice or vinegar.

The acid in such agents works by neutralizing alkaline particles causing most fish smells, thus eliminating the odor from your gear.

It is ideal to use the acidic products with slightly warm water to expand and so release all trapped particles from the wader fibers.

How Do You Get the Fish Smell Out of Waders?

A basic wash doesn’t clear all the fish smell from fly fishing waders which is why a little more effort will be required.

Even with all the tips and tricks, here are some precautionary measures to take to avoid damaging your gear:

  • Never use hot water on your waders because the high temperatures will deform your gear.
  • Test any cleaning detergent or agent on an unnoticeable section of the waders to see how it reacts before exposing the whole thing to anything damaging.
  • Remember to thoroughly rinse your gear to remove all cleaning agents.
  • Never use bleach on your waders.

Let’s learn some quick ways to get your waders free from the uncomfortable fish smell.

Wader Laundry Detergent and Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is one of the most recommended natural deodorizers and when combined with wader laundry detergent, it removes even the toughest fish smells from your gear.

Since it is very acidic, it is best to mix it with the detergent and avoid direct application on your waders.

Its acidic nature quickly neutralizes odor from alkaline molecules.

To make an effective formulation:

  • Add ¼ cup of fresh lemon juice to 1 cup of wader detergent to a bucket full of warm water.
  • Soak your gear for 24 hours or more and remember to stir the soaked gear from time to time for the mixture to equally reach all sections of the fabric.
  • After the soaking period, wash your waders normally with more laundry detergent.

The same approach applies when using vinegar.

Dish Washing Detergent

If you can’t find fresh lemon juice or vinegar, regular dishwashing soap works.

The same way it works on silverware to remove fish smell even after being used three or four days earlier is the exact way it works on waders.

The most effective dishwashing soaps are made to cut through the toughest food grease.

Replace your laundry detergent with dishwashing soap but know that it creates millions of soap bubbles.

To use dishwashing soap to remove the fish smell from waders, add 1/2 cup of your favorite to a bucket full of warm water and allow to soak for 5 to 6 hours.

Drain the water and wash with more dish soap and rinse properly.

This should remove all the fish smells, oils, and residue but for an added boost, you can add a cup of vinegar to the soap.

Baking Soda

Baking soda, just like vinegar and lemon juice is a powerful neutralizer and works on the fish smells to bring them to a more neutral situation before getting rid of them.

Smell elimination becomes easier if your bicarbonate of soda hasn’t been exposed to open air.

Add ½ cup of baking soda to a sink full of warm water.

Soak your waders for 24 hours or more and ensure your gear is fully submerged at all times.

Wash your waders normally with dish or wader detergent.

TIP: After washing your waders, harness the sun’s power to remove any fish smells that could have been left lingering on your gear.

The sun kills stubborn bacteria and germs that contribute to persistent fish odors.

Allow your gear to remain outside until completely dry.

Avoid using a dryer in this case until you are sure that the fish smell is totally gone.

Otherwise dryers or fans can intensify or trap the lingering smell.

How Do You Get the Fish Smell Out of Waders? – FAQs

Check out some common questions and answers on how to get fish smell out of waders.

Q) How Does Fish Smell Get on Waders?

A) Your waders will smell of fish because they were in contact with fish, products with fish oil, and if you didn’t know your own genes could be the reason – trimethylaminuria is a thing!

Q) Can Borax Remove Fish Smell from Waders?

A) Yes, borax is a common detergent booster and its strong alkaline formulation helps to remove any lingering smells clinging to waders.

You use it the same way you use baking soda on your waders or you can mix it with wader laundry detergent.

Q) Can I Use Fabric Softener on Waders to Cover Up the Fish Smell?

A) Masking the fish smell with scents isn’t ideal because the combination can lead to an unpleasant smell or the fish smell might be more potent once the conditioner scent fades.

Besides long-time wader manufacturers like Simms, Orvis, and Redington advise against using fabric softener on waders as it damages the gear’s outer layer.


How do you get the fish smell out of waders?

Getting the fish smell out of waders needs more than a regular wash.

Smell deodorizing agents like baking soda, borax, bicarbonate of soda, lemon juice, and vinegar are some of the most recommended but a patch test has to be done to see how your wader fabric reacts to the different formulations.

Using these products is stress-free since you’ll mostly have them in soak baths for several hours for them to be fully effective.

We advise against washing your waders in the washer to prevent them from getting ruined.

It is ideal to hand wash your gear after the soaking time and have sun dry for a final smell-counteracting session from the UV rays.

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