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The Complete Guide to Getting Smells Out of Furniture — 7 Easy Methods

The Complete Guide to Getting Smells Out of Furniture — 7 Easy Methods

There are many theories on removing odours and smells from antique and vintage furniture.

I've come across pieces with smells that would curl your toes, but I've never met a piece that wasn't salvageable.

Here are a few favorites techniques that I’ve always found to be effective, and best of all, most are inexpensive supplies you may have on hand:

1. White Vinegar

Spray it or brush it on. Once dry follow up with another spray or wipe down with a vinegar-water-essential oil dampened rag. Peppermint, tea tree and lavender essential oils all work great and also work to keep creepy-crawlies away.

If you’d prefer not to spray directly onto the surface, set cups of vinegar or sponges wet with vinegar (on plastic plates) inside and tightly close drawers or doors.

2. Newspaper

This is one of those set-and-forget techniques. Great for when you're not in a hurry.

Ball up newspaper and fill the drawers or cabinet. Close it up and leave it alone. Change the paper as it starts to take on the smell.

This can be used with other techniques as well including vinegar and those listed below.

3. Charcoal

Using charcoal to eliminate furniture smells 

Another favourite!  

Place pure charcoal (powdered or in pieces) inside cupboard on dishes or plates, change every couple of days,

I've never had it take longer than 3 days to remove an odour.


4. Bicarb / Baking Soda

Bicard soda to remove furniture smells

Many of these remedies are similar in technique.

Sprinkle or place bicarb in cabinet and let it do its job removing stinky odours!

I prefer to sprinkle directly throughout then vacuum it out. Adding a few drops of essential oil helps it along.


4. Coffee Grounds or Instant Coffee

Using coffee grounds or instant coffee to remove smells from furniture

Nothing new above, get it in there and let it sit. Change after a few days if the odour persists. 

I've used instant coffee as well as coffee grinds and have had success with both.

​Bonus? Who doesn't love the smell of coffee lingering around your painting space?


6. Kitty Litter

Eliminating smells from vintage furniture cat litter

This is amazing stuff. I've used it to remove grease spots from concrete and it will lengthen the life of your blooms when added to a vase of water.

The trick? The more natural the better. In fact, if you can find pure clay litter, it's the bomb and there are several other ways to use it around the house...Google it!

7. Lemon and Sunshine

Isn't this the cure for everything?

Add fresh lemon or a few drops of a quality lemon essential oil into a spray bottle of water, spray your piece and set out in the sun. This is the exception to sealing up, it's a better technique when allowed to breathe.

I also prefer this as an "end" treatment to the others listed above. Or if the odour is light and not very offensive or stubborn. 

Cigarette smoke is a different kind of problem compared to ordinary “old” musty smells, animal urine and the like, but you can still get it out with a bit of effort. Don't let an exceptional piece of furniture frighten you off due to stinkiness. Instead, don't be in a rush and allow time to treat it with one of these techniques!

The Final Word — Paint!

It's amazing how many things a bit of paint will fix, including final lingering, light odours!

If you get the worst of the smell out, you can paint the rest away.  Add a few drops of essential oil to your paint to increase the effectiveness. (As long as as you're not using white because essential oils can yellow the finish).

*Worst case scenario you may need to use Shellac in extreme cases to seal in the smells. I personally cannot recommend a toxin-laden product that can lead to more harm than good. It's just not my thing. Instead of using pre-mixed like BIN,. I would mix my own with straight shellac.

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