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The UpcycledHOME: Pee-yew! How do I get rid of this horrible smell in my furniture?!

by | Aug 4, 2022 | UpcycledHOME Magazine

Suppose you are an avid rescuer of roadside finds and furniture treasures from thrift stores, like myself. In that case, you will likely have a few stories of pieces you have gleefully brought home, only to discover that they smelled horrendous, like something died inside it, or were used as an animal’s tinkle post!

Do not allow this to deter you from giving that piece a new life.  Regardless of the stomach-wrenching stench, you CAN save it with a bit of ingenuity and work.

Your main goal in getting any awful smell out of furniture is to neutralize it.  No amount of airing out in the fresh air and sunlight will eliminate the smell – it will eventually come back.

Here are some simple and easy tips on how to get those horrid smells out for good!

1. Place dryer sheets inside each drawer, underneath paper drawer liners. Occasionally you will come across an old piece of furniture with that “old furniture” smell. To overcome minor odours, inserting dryer sheets into the drawers is perfect. Lay a couple of dryer sheets inside each drawer, then place a drawer liner over the top. Dryer sheets absorb that old furniture smell and give the inside of the piece a pleasant scent.

2. Sprinkle baking soda or carpet cleaning powder inside the furniture piece and leave it overnight to absorb the smell. The longer the baking soda or carpet cleaning powder sits inside the drawer, the better chance it will have to work its magic. This method works well on minor to moderate smells. Once you feel that it has successfully neutralized the odour, vacuum it all up. You may find it helpful to repeat this a few times to get that nasty funk out.

3. Pour fresh coffee grinds/beans, charcoal or kitty litter over the area and allow it to absorb overnight or longer if possible. Coffee grounds/beans, charcoal, or kitty litter absorb better than baking soda or carpet cleaning powder and will help neutralize those more moderate smells. Use the same procedure as with the baking soda or carpet cleaning powder – pour it inside the piece, allow sufficient time to absorb the funky smell and then vacuum it out.  Give the furniture piece 24 hours, then do a smell test. Repeat this step until the odour is removed.

4. Wipe down with a solution of vinegar and water. Grandma will likely swear by this cleaning method for pretty much anything!  Using a solution of 1:1 vinegar and water, wipe your piece down thoroughly.  You may need to repeat this process several times to get that stink out. Although white vinegar is preferable, apple cider vinegar will also do well. You can also fill a plastic container with undiluted vinegar, cover it with a lid and poke holes into the top.  Then place this container inside the furniture piece and allow it to absorb the smell for several days.

5. Invest in a reputable furniture cleaner.  Murphy’s Oil Soap Wood Cleaner has a sweet citrus smell that will leave your piece feeling rejuvenated and ready for a new coat of paint. Krud Kutter is another fantastic cleaner and assists in preparing your surface for painting. These cleansing solutions are relatively healthy for your wooden furniture piece and will not leave a residue. Spray on, gently scrub and wipe off. Follow the directions on the label.

6. Attack severe smells with a TSP solution. TSP (Trisodium phosphate) is a powerful cleaner that will remove harsh odours like smoke and urine. Mix a cleaning solution carefully, based on the manufacturer’s directions. Using rubber gloves, and ensuring that you are in a well-ventilated space, use a sponge to scrub a small area at a time, then rinse thoroughly with a rag dipped in clean water. You may need to repeat this step a few times, depending on the severity of the odour and allow your piece to dry between treatment sessions.

7. Use an odour-destroying primer before you apply any paint. When all else fails or simply as an assurance that the smell is forever gone, use an excellent odour-blocking primer such as Kilz. Although Kilz Primer has a nasty odour itself when wet, the odour will disappear a few days after it has dried. 

So there you have it, Upcyclers, no matter how gruesome or offensive that odour is, do not be disheartened! There is hope that you will be able to rid your treasured find of the heinous funk and give it a delightful new life!

Do you have a spine-chilling furniture smell horror story with a happy ending or a unique trick I never even thought of? Please share with me below! I am always excited to hear your stories and read your comments!

Happy Upcycling!

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