I receive a fair share of e-mails and I have to say, you guys are asking the BEST questions!
I LOVE answering your questions personally so don’t hesitate to write in!
With the growing number of e-mails, I’m starting to notice some questions popping-up again and again. To me, this indicates all of us Creative Furniture Re-Stylists have some common concerns. So, with your consent (the e-mailer’s), I think I’ll start posting and answering some of your questions here on the SI blog to benefit us all.
Thank you Sue in the Sunshine State for your excellent question.
[box] “Hi Denise, I was wondering if you could give me a tip on how to get the odor of mothballs out of fabulous furniture that I’m finding at thrift stores.
I live in Florida which enables me to put the furniture outside in the sun but it is also quite humid, so they don’t really like keeping the furniture outside for that reason.
Any suggestions or tips would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much and I love the work that you do.”[/box]
To answer your question Sue, I’ll share the nastiest experiences I’ve ever had with a musty, moldy, mothballed dresser.
It was a vintage high-boy dresser I curb-shopped. This dresser was absolutely stunning and in perfect condition. (I wish I had taken a picture to show you)
Perfect in every way except for the stench of mold and mothballs that permeated and assaulted my nostrils the minute it was placed in the back of my van. If I was smart, I would have put it back where I found it.
Instead, I brought it home and it ended up sitting in the back of my garage for months while I tried to figure out how to get that awful old musty smell out of the wood.
I never did. All those awful musty odors were permeated right into the wood.
Now don’t let my story deter you. Depending on the wood and age of your furniture, removing musty smells (and this includes the old stench of mothballs) can be a challenge… but it can be done!
I’ve had other pieces which weren’t quite so bad and have had great success.
The key to getting rid of musty odors: It usually requires more than one solution and a lot of time and patience.
Here’s 5 Ways To Remove Musty Smells From Your Wood Furniture
1. Wipe and Clean
Bacteria and germs can permeate porous wood causing awful “old-smell” odors. To eliminate the smell, kill the bacteria and germs by cleaning the inside of the drawers and all surfaces with a sponge dampened with vinegar, Murphy’s Oil Wood Soap or any Anti-Fungal Detergents. Then let dry in a well ventilated area.
2. Vinegar & Other Odor Absorbing Substances
Fill a plastic or glass container/ bowl with vinegar and place in each drawer. Close the drawers and wait a few days to see if the vinegar absorbs the odor. Other odor absorbing substances like charcoal, coffee grounds, kitty liter or baking soda may also help.
3. Natural Sun Light / Dehumidify
Porous wood absorbs moisture and smells from it’s surrounding environment. If your piece smells like a thrift store or old attic, try leaving the piece to dry out in the natural sun light. If you live in a humid environment, try placing your piece with a dehumidifier in a small enclosed room. Leave it running for a few days to suck the moisture and odors out of the wood.
4. Strip and Sand
Strip and sand the piece. If the odors are caught in the original finish, this will help by removing the finish and letting the natural wood breath. If there is still a slight odor after stripping and sanding, using method #2. The odor absorbing substance should get rid of any remaining unpleasantness.
5. Bleach or Vodka
Put bleach or cheap vodka into a spray bottle and mist the entire piece inside and out. Then leave it in the sunshine or another moisture free area to completely dry. This will help disinfect and eliminate odors.
So how did my nasty experience with “high-boy” end… I re-claimed the gorgeous hardware and put the piece out on my curb for garbage collection.
The interesting part of the story is even with missing hardware, someone curbed-shopped it from MY driveway! I really hope they had better luck removing the odors than I did. I’d love to think that stunning piece got a new lease on life and is sitting pretty in someone’s home.
Once again, thank you Sue for this great question.
If you have any other methods of Getting Rid Of Mothball Smell & Other Musty Odors… PLEASE PLEASE SHARE! I would love to learn more techniques so next time I can be the one to save the “high-boy”.
Have the best day!