How to get rid of 'old' wood smell?

edie_thielJune 26, 2011

Or, maybe, that's something that adds to the value of antique or old furniture?

This sheet music cabinet had been in my childhood room for years; my mom has refinished it from its original state (so that probably hurt its "worth" anyway), and it is in the guest room at her house right now.

Sorry my images are so big; I'll try to fix that.

I'd like to use this cabinet in my house, but the OLD yucky smell makes it less desirable for storing any fabrics or papers, etc.

Advice on getting rid of that smell?


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Have you tried sitting an open container of baking soda in there? Hopefully someone else has some more ideas but that's what I would try first.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 10:54PM
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My somewhat mildewy smelling antique desk was fixed with an open can of coffee! Easy fix.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 11:23PM
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You might try spraying some cheap vodka inside the cabinet then wiping down thoroughly. Let dry, and repeat. You can follow up by enclosing an open can of coffee or a small amount of Mrs Meyers household cleaner for several days.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 1:01AM
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The baking soda and coffee grounds mentioned are good to try. They didn't work, though, on an old dresser I bought off Craigslist a few years ago. I even eventually tried leaving the drawers open, then setting the drawers outside for a few hours a day. Someone here had also mentioned some heavy-duty gel type air fresheners from Home Depot or Lowe's. I tried those too. My dresser never did get stink free! Hopefully some of these ideas will work with your piece, though. I have a sheet music cabinet and love it. My aunt has one almost exactly like yours that belonged to my grandmother and I remember playing with it (I guess putting stuff it in -- can't remember -- LOL) when she would babysit me occasionally.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 6:00AM
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Put a finish on all exposed wood. Get some spray varnish or shellac....or buy some shellac and thin it down and get all the raw wood on the inside finished. That will remove...or rather seal in....all old wood smells.
Linda C

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 9:51AM
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Thanks so much for all of the input. We have tried the baking soda - yellow container in the picture - without much success. Hadn't heard about the other methods or thought about sealing it to block the odor. Plan to try these things. Will let you know how that turns out. :-)

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 10:41AM
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We bought an antique dresser that had been stored in a barn for a while. I didn't like the smell. I searched on line and cleaned the whole insides with mineral spirits. Pulled drawers out and let everything sit outside on a sunny day. That helped somewhat - but some smell still lingered. Hubby re-stained or sealed (can't remember) the whole interior and the smell was gone. Clothes stored in the dresser have no odor whatsoever.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 10:48AM
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There's something to be said for putting the piece outside on a sunny day to air. Remove all removable drawers, etc. and put it outside. Also, you may want to try charcoal that you can buy at a pet store. I have heard of using coffee beans as well. HTH

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 10:54AM
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A stick of Wriggle spearmint gum left open on the wrapper set inside the closed cabinet for a day or two will take away the smell according to an antique dealer I know.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 11:05AM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Wadded up newspaper works sometimes. Stuff it in and leave it for a couple of days. Also, putting the piece outside on a low-humidity day might help, too. I heard or read that Murphy's oil soap can help as well, but I would try the fresh air and the newspaper first. I have wiped down the interior of an old dough trough with white vinegar (barely damp cloth) and that helped as well.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 11:46AM
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The only long-term solution is Linda's - seal the unfinished interior wood parts with something.

The pothers are like using Febreze when you really need to take a shower and change your clothes.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 1:01PM
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I leave dryer sheets under tissue paper in the drawers and on shelves of my 3 inherited, stinky, but lovely antique pieces. Nothing but a clean, outdoor scent - works great.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 1:03PM
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maozamom NE Ohio

Activated charcoal absorbs musty odors.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 1:52PM
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I agree with Linda for a long term fix. I think you could also use polyurethane. When there's an odor in wood flooring due to pet accidents that won't come out, you end up having to refinish the floors to eliminate the odor.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2011 at 3:37PM
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I would like to suggest you for ground dry coffee. It may be really effective in order to get rid of old wood smell.

Side tables for living room

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 3:33AM
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I would try 'Murphy Oil Soap" multi cleaner wood soap.. it now comes with orange oil in it?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 11:40AM
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shellac will seal the wood without any lingering odor, polyurethane will leave a strong odor for quite awhile.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2011 at 12:57PM
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I stumbled across this blog post yesterday - seems to have a lot of tips (and there are more in the comments). I have used the crumbled-up newspaper method and it seemed to work, but it took a few weeks.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cleaning smelly furniture

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 8:27AM
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I tried everything on the antique dresser that I bought on CL for my daughter's room. Charcoal, exposure on sunny days, newspaper, candles, dryer sheets, OdorRid products, bowls of baking soda, TSP, even scrubbing with a bleach/water mixture (it also had some water damage and mildew). It helped somewhat but didn't really get rid of the old wood smell.

Painting the back and outside of the dresser and lining the drawers with contact paper helped somewhat. Using scented drawer liners also work well but now my DD's clothes smell like perfume and I'm sensitive to that so not the best solution.

I'm definitely going to try sealing the inside with spray poly. If that works then I'll get rid of the scented drawer liners.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 8:02PM
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Linda C,
What type of spray shellac do I use, or more accurately, what type of place would have spray shellac - big box stores or paint specialists? I've stained and used polyurethane on new wood, but I've never dealt with old wood. I might be attempting this in the garage this weekend. Weather forecast says it will be over 90 degrees Fahrenheit or... it will rain. Do I need to worry about either high heat or humidity with spray shellac?

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 8:09PM
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Spray shellac can be purchased at either the big box or paint stores, you can also buy it in a can and brush it on. I would apply in the garage, out of direct sunlight, shellac does dry rather quickly.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 8:18PM
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