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How Can I Get an Odd Smell Out of Wood Furniture?

Is your wood furniture giving off a funky scent? Here's how to remove smoke, pet, food, mothball, and mold odors.

By Andra Chantim
Illustration of skunks in and around a dresser. Woman is blowing them with a fan.Peter Oumanski

“My wooden dresser has a funky smell.” 

Janis, via e-mail

The fix: For smoke, pet, food, and mothball odors, empty the dresser, then place a small bowl of baking soda in each drawer; close the drawers and let sit for a week, says Peter Muldoon, a furniture conservator for the Smithsonian institution.


Still stinky? Mold is probably the culprit. To combat it, vacuum the interior and the drawers with a brush attachment, then set the dresser and the removed drawers out in the sun for at least two (and up to eight) hours. If the odor persists, mix 1⁄4 cup of borax with 1 gallon of water and wipe down all the unfinished wood surfaces with the solution. Let air-dry.


To mask any lingering odor, spritz the interior and the drawers with citrus-oil wood polish (try Howard orange oil Wood Polish; $10, and rub it into the wood with a cloth, says Rod Keyser, the owner of the Restoration Studio, in Philadelphia. If you want to go all out, seal the interior and the drawers with shellac (try Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac; $14,

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