totally carried away a little wordy (who me? what a surprise!) in a recent comment I left for another blogger on tips for getting rid of that musty "old people" smell we sometimes find inside thrifted, old furniture and other items. These tips are pretty good, so I thought I'd expand on them with a post here. I cannot take credit for them, as I know I've probably picked them up "here and there" over the years.
|To get rid of "old people" smell from thrifted furniture and other items, read on.|
If a simple airing out of the item over time (out of doors, in the sun works best if you can get the item out there) does not solve the problem, or for stubborn smells, prepare to:
(1) Put the item in the freezer, for at least 24 hours. Yes, the freezer. This works SO WELL. I have no idea how or why, but it does. Maybe the cold kills the mold? (ha! poet!) Now, I know you can't get an entire dresser in there, but perhaps the drawers will fit, even if you have to put them in there one at a time over a week's time? Of course, small items like home decor accessories or even fabric or clothing will easily fit in the freezer. Apparently this method works well on soft items like pillows as well (though I've not tried it for that).
True story: I wanted a garlic roaster and found a really cute one shaped like a giant head of garlic on eBay. Love! The outside is unglazed ceramic, the inside is glazed. The seller gave a great description of size, color, etc., but failed to mention that the thing reeked like it had been stashed in a moldy basement for 20 years! That nasty musty smell grabbed onto the unglazed ceramic and was holding on for dear life. Scrubbing it within an inch of its life did not help! I was *thisclose* to just tossing the thing in the dumpster, when I found a tip somewhere that freezing musty-smelling things will take away the odor. I thought "what the heck, this thing is destined for the trash" and put it in the freezer. Behold, the next day I removed it and it looked (due to the scrubbing) and smelled (due to the freezing) brand new! And the smell hasn't come back. Now I love my garlic roaster!
Another true story: I fairly recently purchased a gorgeous vintage armoire that smells like the lady from the 1930s is still living inside. Well, I suppose if she were still in there, the smell would be a lot fresher; suffice to say, I stored a jacket in there and thought no amount of airing would get rid of the odor! Yuck! There is no way that armoire is going to fit in my freezer, and I couldn't lift it to get it in there if it did, so I am going to resort to these other tips in an attempt to get rid of the odor:
(2) Thoroughly scrub down the insides of the cabinet case and outsides and insides of drawers with a (nice-smelling, if you can find it) disinfectant. Don't saturate the wood too much, you don't want it to swell or warp. Sometimes this works on its own, other times you have to do this, then move on to the other steps.
|Baking soda can help neutralize odors.|
(3) I've been known to make a thick-ish paste out of some baking soda and some lemon juice or fragrant essential oils, and a little water, and apply it to the inside of the cabinet case and all around the outside and inside of the drawers. Again, you don't want to swell or warp the wood, so watch how much water you use. Vacuum up the baking soda solution after it dries, allowing it to sit for a while first. You can also sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda inside the drawers, let it sit for a while, then vacuum it up. Run a damp cloth all around to pick up any remaining baking soda residue.
(4) Lightly sand the inside of the cabinet case and the outside and insides of the drawers. Sometimes that will work to take down a hairs-width of wood surface and also take the smell with it. Again, vacuum up the sanding residue and/or run a damp cloth all around to get the last bit of residue.
(5) You can also try painting the inside of the cabinet case and outsides and insides of the drawers to seal in the odor. But you have to be careful with this as too many layers of paint can either make your drawers and/or doors stick (especially if you use a glossy sheen paint) or make it to where you can't close or open them at all, as the paint fills the gaps or clearance between doors and drawers. Use a light hand!
|Dryer sheets - not really a solution to the problem!|
(6) A maintenance tip: Dryer sheets (or scented sachets) inside the drawers do not really remove the odor as much as mask it, so you will have old people smell and lavender fields (or what have you) mixed together, which is almost worse than just the old people smell. However, to keep the insides of the drawers and your clothes smelling fresh (after you do the other procedures), I've placed USED dryer sheets inside the drawers. New dryer sheets can be too saturated with the lard or oil used to make them and can leave marks on clothes; used sheets still smell nice and are much softer and not as stiff, plus most of the lard/oil has been removed by running them through the dryer with your last load of laundry and they are safer against your clothes.
On a personal note, to rid my lovely armoire of the antique lady smell -- and because I cannot get the thing into my freezer -- I plan on doing steps 2, 4, and 5, in that order. My armoire is like a wide open closet with a small open cubby for storage, so I don't have to worry about fiddling around with drawers. It is not an antique nor an heirloom quality piece so painting it is not a problem for me (it's already painted on the outside, and that needs to be redone), and I really want to convert the inside into a linen closet because I do not have one in my current apartment. I think installing a removable shelving structure (because one day I hope to have a real home that has a real linen closet in it!) and painting the inside a surprising, pretty color like aqua with apple green accents would work nicely, and when the time comes that I do have a real linen closet, I can remove the shelving structure and convert it into an office center, an entertainment unit, or just back into an armoire!
Hope some of these tips help you get rid of the antique people smell from your salvaged furniture!