The Best Ways to Remove Odors from Furniture

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Learn the best ways to remove odors from furniture.

When you buy vintage furniture, it’s inevitable that you’re going to get a stinky piece of furniture. Read more about my tips to remove odors, plus odors to avoid buying in the first place.

how to remove odors from furniture

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Smells to Avoid When Buying Furniture

Always do the sniff test before you buy.

But be aware that some smells are easier to remove than others.

Once I found a cool wooden trunk that would have made the perfect coffee table. However, when we opened it, the smell that wafted out was something out of a horror movie. Not that you can smell a horror movie, but you can imagine. Needless to say we passed on that stinky trunk that possibly once held dead bodies.

Another smell that I personally avoid is cigarette smoke. While it’s not impossible to remove the smell, the entire piece will be coated in nicotine and need extra cleaning.

If you end up with a piece that smells like smoke, clean it well and let it air out for a few weeks. If you have an air purifier, it might help. (I’ve used one at my dad’s house to remove smoke odors when I visited. If it can remove the smell from an entire room, it should work on a piece of furniture.)

How to Get Musty Smell Out of Furniture

The most common smell, especially in dressers, is a musty smell. Musty smells are usually caused by mildew or dirty clothes.

Luckily, it’s easy to remove.

Six Ways to Remove Odors from Wood Furniture

Cleaning with Vinegar and Water

If you’ve read my post on cleaning furniture, you know that I’m a huge fan of cleaning with vinegar. It’s cheap, it’s easy and it works well!

It cleans every possible problem, but it’s also a great way to remove odors from furniture by killing mildew and mold spores.

Fill a bucket with water and vinegar. Wash the wood down. Be sure to clean the drawers and insides of the furniture as well.


In my home, I’m a huge fan of fresh air to make my home smell better. So it makes sense for furniture too.

drawer taken out of dresser
Taking drawers out of dressers and sitting them in the sun helps remove odors.

Take the furniture apart and let it sit in the sun. All of the drawers need to be removed so that the inside of the piece gets some air too.

Sunshine does a great job of killing mildew as well.

Vinegar in a Bowl

Okay, so this is a bit different than washing the furniture with vinegar. Fill a bowl or two of vinegar and let it sit inside the furniture overnight. It absorbs the smells. Be sure to dump the vinegar out after using it.

This is my favorite trick for making my car smell better after a kid gets sick. And for a while, my daughter got sick every single time she got in the car….

Baking Soda in a Bowl

Same concept as the vinegar in the bowl. Fill a bowl, let it sit overnight and absorb the smells.

Throw it out the next day.


Odo-Ban is amazing. I love this stuff for stubborn smells. The lemon scent is light and fresh without being overpowering.

It works by neutralizing the smell, not just covering it up. Spray it on and let it dry. I often spray the inside of the piece as well, since you never know where the smell is coming from.


Shellac is my last resort because it’s the most time intensive. Sometimes you’ve tried everything and the smell still exists. Your best choice is to seal it in.

dresser without drawers
This dresser ended up with a coat of shellac to seal in the musty smell.

Simply coat the entire piece with shellac, including the insides, drawers and even the drawer bottoms.

Luckily shellac goes on easily and dries quickly. Use a chip brush and clean it with ammonia when you’re done.

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