Whether you are getting old furniture passed down from a family member or from a thrift shop, or you simply have wood furniture that is in storage and hasn’t been used for a while, you can sometimes be in for an unpleasant supply when you get it home—the drawers are filled with a musty, moldy odor. This smell is not permanent, however, and can be fixed with several remedies. Find out why this odor, and what you can do to eliminate this characteristic smell of old wood furniture.
What Causes that Musty Smell?
Wood is an organic substance. After a while, any humidity it has been exposed to can end up turning into mold or mildew as it sits. Humidity combined with resting in a damp, dark storage room are particularly ideal conditions for layers of mildew to form and permeate into the wood. When we use furniture regularly, it is more exposed to the air as we open and close its drawers or clean it consistently. It’s the lack of use that allows the mildew, and therefore musty smell, to make its way deeper and deeper into the grains of the wood. Also, over time the humidity-resistant finish will wear down, leaving the more spongy and absorbent bare wood more exposed and vulnerable.
Hints & Tips for Removing Old Wood Odors
Whatever the cause, you’re going to want to find a solution for the old wood smell. Luckily, the musty odor is rarely irreversible, and soon you can get back to enjoying your vintage furniture without turning up your nose. There are plenty of products out there that claim to be able to remove musty odors. Many of them are laden with chemicals that may do little more than temporarily mask the scent, and which could potentially be toxic themselves.
One thing that is important for any mold, mildew or chemical smell is to introduce the object to warm, dry air. Because these odors can multiply if left in an enclosed space (especially a wet one), it is important to get it to a location where it can ventilate. This is best done outdoors on a sunny day, but can alternatively be done in a warm, dry place inside. Being exposed to dry air is important for two reasons: it cuts off the supply of moisture needed for the mildew smell to continue to increase, and it allows any existing moisture in the wood to evaporate and dry out. Leaving your wood furniture outside on a hot summer day may take care of the smell completely, or you may need to try that as a first step before trying other fixes.
Much of the odor will likely come from places hidden from sight, like dresser drawers. Before setting the furniture in the heat, it is also a good idea to wipe down the inside of drawers with a wet towel, dry immediately, and then allow to dry in the sun as well. If this still does not work, you can try again using a mild soapy solution when wiping down the drawers. Placing wadded up newspaper along with small cups of used coffee grounds in each drawer can also help, as both materials are known to absorb smells. Charcoal, which also absorbs odors and chemicals, can be left inside each space in the furniture for a few days.
If furniture is in dark, humid storage areas such as a basement, or is just coming out of one, running a dehumidifier is essential. Moisture problems are among the top reasons items in storage perish. Not only wood furniture is affected—everything from clothes to toys to upholstered furniture items can be ruined from being allowed to sit in dark wet areas where mold growth can take place.
In rare cases, if the finish is worn, smells may have gotten into the grains of the wood itself. In these circumstances, sanding and refinishing can be an option for getting rid of the smell, but is quite a lot of work. Staining and finishing wood come with its own odor problems, however. Polyurethane varnishes can off gas and leave an unpleasant nail polish remover smell for weeks after the work is done.
The Best Non-Toxic Solution for Wood Odor Removal
When finding an old piece of furniture at the thrift store or a yard sale, or even if you are bringing one of your own out of storage, all of these solutions mentioned so far can work—but many take time. Air drying is definitely important—allowing the furniture to sit out is necessary to get some of the smell out. Once that is done, however, the smell still lingers in many cases, and you might not have the time or patience for at-home remedies. You also may not want to introduce more harmful smells or chemicals that come with other commercial odor removal products.
The OdorKlenz Source Odor Treatment is a non-toxic liquid odor remover that can get smells out of a variety of surfaces quickly. Safe for use on wood, this cleaner effectively traps, removes, and neutralizes offensive odors without the use of any masking agents or noxious chemicals. This means that you aren’t temporarily covering up the smell, just for it to come back again—you are getting rid of it once and for all. This odor treatment is fast acting, so you won’t have to wait to use that furniture exactly where you had imagined it.
The best way to use the OdorKlenz odor treatment on wood furniture is to dilute it according to package directions in a spray bottle, and thoroughly spray the inside of drawers. After a few minutes, the solution can be wiped dry. After one use, furniture should be ready to go and odor-free. This odor treatment can be used in conjunction with the other solutions above, or by itself. After a little patience, your wood furniture should be odor free in no time.
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