Cleaning Your Cosplay Costume

Cosplay essentials costume cleaning

Article originally published 12/14/17

We’ve all encountered that person at the convention that smells like they haven’t showered in a month. Odds are pretty good that they’ve had at least one shower this week; it’s not really them that smells, it’s their costume.

Cosplay 101

Don’t be that person. Also, don’t be the person that thinks Febreeze solves all your problems, it doesn’t, we just smell it over top of you.

If you have a nice easy wash-and-wear costume, that is fantastic! You are ahead of the game and everyone’s noses thank you (if you actually wash it). Unfortunately, not everyone has a costume that is that simple. So here are a few tips and tricks to clean your cosplay.

If your costume has too many bits glued to it, or is too fragile to face the water, you still need to clean it. At the very least, please clean the parts that were in contact with your sweaty body parts (ie: pits, groin, back, cleavage etc.) so look at the methods below to see if you can use one of them.

NOTE: ALWAYS test your material before trying any cleaning method. A good hidden (or at least un-noticed) spot is the inside hem of your pant leg.

Hand Wash

If your costume will withstand water, you can easily hand wash it. If you have multiple colors also add a little bit of vinegar to prevent running. If you need extra whitening or stain boosting power try a little bit of Borax. Fill a sink or basin with cold water. Add a small amount of gentle detergent (or shampoo). Turn the costume inside out, gently kneed the costume by hand for a minute or two. Rinse well with cold water to remove all of the detergent. Turn the costume right side out and hang it up or lay it flat to air dry. Do not use a clothes dryer as this can damage your costume.

Spot Wash

Dilute detergent in water and gently dab areas that need cleaning with a wash cloth. When you are done go over the spots again with just a damp cloth to remove the soap residue.


Whether you are using a machine, hand washing or just spot washing, it is probably best to dry most cosplays laying flat. If you have a drying rack, then you are a step ahead. If not, then lay it carefully on a bed of towels. Be sure to change the towels out and flip your costume over so that all sides get aired and a chance to dry.

Stain Removal

When it comes to stain removal, a lot of people pick up stain pens or the wipes. Those work great, most of the time. If you have delicate fabric, then avoid them as they are too harsh. For something more delicate you can mix up shampoo, use a small amount of Oxi-Clean, or check out your local dance store to see what they use on their costumes.

Disinfect and clean

If your costume can’t stand water, you can at least disinfect it and remove the odors. Mix vodka (go cheap) and purified water (avoid tap water to avoid the minerals and chemicals) in a spray bottle and spray down the nasty areas. Then lightly dab with a clean cloth. This method works great on armor pieces. Even a light spray inside your boots will help cut the odor down.


If you live in the Midwest, or other areas that get a pretty good winter, and you have a costume that stinks (but you can’t clean it) then you might want to consider putting it outside for a few hours. A few hours in freezing temperatures will at least kill off the odor causing bacteria. However, remember that whatever you freeze will be fragile. Also freezing is detrimental to many glues, so your accessories are probably going to fall off.

Shake it off

Believe it or not, oatmeal can work on your leather or armor pieces to remove grime, oils, and odor. You are probably going to need a lot of oatmeal so buy the cheap, store brand. Put your pieces in a bag with plain oatmeal and shake it up a little, so that the parts are covered. Let them sit for 24 hours and then pull them out.  Now you need to spend the time brushing them off and removing the oatmeal and dust. It can take a while to clean off, because it works itself in everything, but you’ll find that you have probably gotten rid of that funky smell. This works fantastic on light-colored armors, but the darker stuff will really need some heavy-duty brush and wipe off so you don’t look like you have dandruff.

These are a just a few of the solutions I have found over the years. What do you use?

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