Getting Rid of Musty Smell in a Drawer

drawerI bought a 4-drawer dresser at a garage sale a few weeks ago. It’s a really nice little thing, white and just the right size. I thought it was a good deal too. What I didn’t realize then was that it smelled a little musty.

Though the drawer itself doesn’t look old at all, the house I got it from had that “old house” smell in it. I just didn’t think it would carry over to the dresser. Well, it did. I only noticed it when I got it home. We left it in the garage for several days, to air it out. I also sprinkled baking soda on the drawers to absorb some of the odor. It didn’t smell quite as musty as it did in the beginning. I actually thought we’d got rid of it for good. But once we got it inside the house, I still noticed some of the musty smell.

So, just like any modern homemaker, I did my research and Googled “musty drawer”, “musty smell removal” and every other combination of such words I could think of. There are so many remedies being put forward for these things. Here are just some of them:

1. Air out and keep in bright sunshine for several days – I did half of this. I didn’t do the bright sunshine bit. I’m not inclined to haul it down the stairs to do the other half. It’s dang heavy, and we’ve already had enough trouble removing and re-installing the drawers the first time. My husband will be way less than thrilled if I ask him to do it all again. So I won’t.

2. Baking soda – Sprinkle it on the drawers and leave them closed for a few days, before vacuuming thoroughly. Leave a container of baking soda in the closed drawers. I did both of these, though maybe I should have been more thorough with the sprinkling to make sure it got into the corners and crevices.

3. Wash the drawers with 10% bleach solution. This is specially important if the smell is caused by mold or mildew. I checked the drawers and there wasn’t any sign of these (fingers crossed). But I still did a wipe down with bleach solution, anyway.

4. Mist with a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water. Vinegar is touted as a remedy for a number of odors (cat pee, potty-trainer misses, etc.). I did this today. I’m hoping that when I wake up tomorrow, the smell will be gone. If not, there’s more in the arsenal, so read on…

5. Activated charcoal. My mom used to keep some in the refrigerator to keep it smelling fresh. I have high hopes for this, if the first 4 methods don’t work.

6. Murphy’s Oil Soap – A wipe down inside and out has been found to get rid of odors.

7. Apples – I’ve read that sliced apples, left to dry (in a container) inside a drawer will remove any smells. We’ll see, though I’m concerned that it will just increase moisture inside the drawer. And what if it becomes moldy? This is something I’ll try if nothing else works.

8. DampRid has a variety of products that absorb moisture and eliminate odors. I don’t know how effective they are, but I’m willing to try everything to get rid of the musty smell.

9. Kitty litter – Some say this works, so say it doesn’t.

10. Cedar chips – I like the smell of cedar, but I don’t want to just mask the musty odor.

11. Deodorant soap left inside the drawer – See #10.

It might take some time to totally get rid of the smell, but I’m willing to wait. There’s got to be something out there that will do it. Otherwise, I’m afraid that the drawer will be a feature at my own garage sale one of these days.

If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Maybe you’d had success with of these methods, or a new one which you’d like to share.

image via KidsQuartersOnline

Tags: , , , , ,


Share This Post:
    • KT

      How did the dresser turn out? My husband and I bought this house with a little musty smell, beautiful home. Before moving in we had the floors (all wood) sanded and sealed, that worked for our main floor.
      I just used MP on the pine in the basement, that helped, but funny I was sorting christmas stuff left out a dish of PINE CONES!! yes they worked wonderful. I even decided to make an arrangement for the fire place that we have yet to use. Please let me know more on your ideas.
      Thanks KT.

    • Maricar

      Hi KT, The dresser is taped shut with saucers of activated charcoal inside. I checked it today, and I can still smell some mustiness, though it seemed not as strong as before. I’m hoping the charcoal is doing its job. I’ll give it a few more days to a week or 2.

      I’m not sure what you mean by “MP”. Is it Murphy’s Oil Soap? Thanks for the tip about the pine cones. I’ll keep that in mind if the charcoal fails.

    • Natasha

      Having a similar problem with a dresser that I can’t get rid of the musty smell-argh!!! How did yours turn out? So far I have used vinegar, Murphys Oil Soap, Baking Soda and still have the smell. I have heard that coffee grounds placed in the dress can get rid of the smell—plan to try this next.

    • Betty

      Hi Maricar,

      My husband and I were phd students when we got married so we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on furniture. He bought a (used) nice, handmade, antique looking drawer. I tried several things you did, airing out, bleach solution, soaps etc. After a couple of years, it still has the smell. I’m trying to get rid of it but my husband thinks it works fine and looks very good, so why change. I don’t put my garments inside of it but it holds my husband’s underwear and I wash them every week even if he doesn’t wear them. They get smelly, too. If you succeed to get rid of the smell, I’ll think there’s still hope. otherwise, I’m gonna make it (accidentaly) unusable!

    • Jo

      Did you ever get rid of the smell for good? If so, what worked?

    • Maricar

      Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten rid of it. :( I basically gave up, and am not using it for clothes. We hauled it down to the basement. I’m just now working on getting things organized there. I’m putting office and scrapbook tools in it. I just hope those things don’t start smelling too.

    • Eldee

      I have a similar problem with the dresser here in my cottage. Tried just about everything – no success so far. I have been told that I should paint the inside of the drawers but afraid then I will have paint smell. Has anyone tried this?

      • Chris

        I had the same problem with a dresser that I got from a grandparent that passed away. It’s a really nice dresser, but it had a old, musty smell. So, I painted the inside of the drawers with paint. It helped with the old, musty smell but now the drawers smell like paint. Good Luck to ya!

    • Tina

      Well, this is certainly a bummer! I am trying to get the funky smell out of an amoire and it looks like nothing works. I read somewhere that there is some sort of ‘stuff’ that is in a filtering system for pools (I didn’t write it down but it starts with a Z) that helps. Has anyone heard of this?

    • Maricar

      I have tried just about everything short of painting. Tina, would that filtering thing be activated charcoal?

    • Patti

      Antiques that I refinish often have that smell and to eliminate it, I use Methyl Hydrate (available in any hardware store). Pour some MH in a shallow container (I re-use the black and gold ‘lasagna’ trays that go in the microwave or oven). Soak a rag and wipe down the inside of each drawer, and the underside of each drawer as well. Then, do the ‘inside’ of the dresser including all the pieces of wood that the drawers sit on, underneath the top, the bottom (inside & outside), both sides, and the back of the dresser as well. You have to keep soaking the rag because methyl hydrate evaporates fairly fast. I let it sit for a day and air out, then keep repeating if necessary. Don’t use the Methyl Hydrate on any painted or stained area unless you are planning on refinishing or painting the piece. The methyl hydrate is fairly strong if you use it in a confined area, so try to do it in a well-ventilated space.
      If the methyl hydrate doesn’t work to your satisfaction, I guess you could apply clear stain to all of the parts I mentioned above. That seals the pores of the wood and might get rid of the smell for you. I hope one of these things works for you. Let us know how it goes!

    • Tracy

      I used lush bath bombs! Picked a smell I liked and put them in
      the drawers :) bad smell gone,good smell there

    • Get Rid Of Smells

      Also, you can improve odor removal with these recommendations:

      - Use a steam extractor for cleaning carpets
      - Clothing may need to be washed several times
      - Take care of the air circulation
      - Take all the drawers out of your cabinets and open all the cupboard doors, wash inside and out paying attention to the drawer slides and around the hinges.
      - Unplug and wash your stove and refrigerator inside

      Learn more information here,

    • Tom

      Had a bathroom rug with extreme musty odor, which remained after about 5 washings. Eventually hung it outside in summer for about 2 months, some rain, bu mostly sun, turned it occasionally. Gradually the musty smell diminished. I think it was the bright sun or UV in the sun that did it. The smell seemed to be embedded in the rubber backing.

    • :)

      cut an onion in half and leave it in the drawer for a few days