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How to get gross smells out of old furniture

Oh my God, it smells like something died in here!

Apparently, in my circle of friends, I am the go-to person if you have this kind of problem.

I hope it’s not because my furniture and house stinks but rather because I’m always rehabbing old, musty, dusty furniture. I have a little bit of experience with getting rid of odor in furniture.

My friend, Amy, who is a real-life CSI, recently sent me this query:

You can imagine that crime scene investigators like me get interesting questions. However, tonight’s, though forensically sound, is more appropriate for my Atta Girls.  Neighbor: “How do you get the smell of ‘dead’ out of furniture?”

Seems a 78-year-old, sentimental chest of drawers in her garage became home to a decaying critter without her immediate knowledge. She’s tried Fabreeze and bleach, which not only didn’t work, but also warped a thin, wood packing crate her father used to craft the piece. Any suggestions from the Atta Girls or Friends of Atta Girls?

Well, I certainly have experience with stinky furniture, but thankfully dead is not a stench that I’ve encountered — yet. So, I turned to some of my blogger friends on Hometalk for their input on Amy’s “something died in here” query.

In my experience, the best solution for getting rid of stinky odors is to neutralize them, not to mask them. Because no matter how much air freshener you use,  it always seems the stench comes back. I suspect that what the neighbor’s chest needs is a good airing out — lots of sunshine and fresh air — with some neutralizing agent thrown into the mix.

Here are some tips for getting rid of stinky odors, pulled from my own experience and from the suggestions of the Hometalk bloggers:

  • Clean the stinky chest of drawers, inside and out, with an appropriate cleanser. For the neighbor’s chest, the safest option may be a slighty dampened rag with water or another furniture-safe cleanser. Vinegar and water is another option. For another stinky container, like a trash can or a dirty diaper genie, I would scrub with a bleach-based cleaner and also apply Lysol liberally. The neighbor may be able to use

    Lysol on her stinky piece of furniture.

  • Sprinkle the drawers with baking soda, which should absorb the odors. Let the baking soda sit for several days, and vacuum it up. You may need to try several applications. Alternately, you can place a bowl of baking soda inside each drawer. The longer it is left in, the better.
  • Let the stinky piece air out. Leave it outside in the sunshine — for days, if necessary.
  • Line the drawers with dryer sheets, and let them work their magic for several days (weeks even, if the smell is quite malodorous).
  • Pour kitty litter into the drawers and leave it for several days. It should absorb the odor. Dump it out, vacuum well and sniff. Repeat, if necessary.
  • Put coffee beans inside the drawers to absorb and mask the odor.
  • Place a few jars of white vinegar inside the furniture. The vinegar smell doesn’t linger and it should remove the odor. Depending on how bad the smell is, you may need to leave the vinegar in place longer and repeat, as necessary.
  • Furniture painting pal Lori Young of Vintage Charm Restored swears by TSP cleaner. available at home improvement stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot.
  • Paint can sometimes mask and cover odors. If the neighbor paints the inside of the drawers, the smell may go away.
  • Once the drawers are clean and the odor has been removed, consider storing scented candles inside the chest of drawers. The candles will cover up any lingering scent that may return over time.

Thanks to bloggers Janel at Nellie Bellie and Cheri at It’s So Very Cheri!. as well as my friend Kaaren, for weighing in with tips on how to get rid of stinky smells in furniture. And for more tips on removing odors from furniture , check out this post  from Living with Lindsay, and be sure to read the comments for even more suggestions.

For answering this question, I think we all deserve a “get-out-of-jail-free” card from the other Amy!

If you have suggestions for Amy’s friend, please add them to the comments. I’ll make sure you get your very own get-out-of-jail-free card for adding your two cents.

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