How to get gross smells out of old furniture

Home fix it tips 03.28.16
Actually, the better title might be, "How do you get the 'dead' smell out of furniture?

But don't call the cops on me; this question came from the cops, a CSI friend of mine.

She wrote: "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?"

I gave my pal some suggestions for getting the stench out of old furniture and thrift store finds, which you can read on my blog, Atta Girl Says. But I also wanted to post the query here at Hometalk.

What are your solutions for removing gross from furniture?


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    • well, is the deceased still present? if so, put on disposable gloves if you got'em

      or baggie you hand to remove. for a wooden piece....if the wood has not been sealed with paint or varnish, baking soda or small granular kitty litter. leave in place until odor is gone. if the wood has been sealed paint or varnish- odo ban worked the best for me.


  • Debra Housworth
    Debra Housworth Virginia Beach, VA
    I've tried several things (fabreeze) that worked temporarily, but didn't last. I've found two things that work very well. #1 is called OdorBan. I get it by the gallon at Sam's club in a concentrate and mix it in a spray bottle. It's great for about
  • Jill Morse
    Jill Morse North Ridgeville, OH
    What about Thompsons water sealer?
  • Henrietta  Retired-- Love Gardening
    Henrietta Retired-- Love... Williamsville, IL
    Need primer or clear sealer on all nonpainted surfaces.
  • Diane P
    Diane P Hilbert, WI
    I kept switching out crunched up newspaper until the smell was gone. Took a few months but the paper went to recycling after.
  • Lisa Kaplan Gordon
    Lisa Kaplan Gordon Mc Lean, VA
    Spray straight vodka on the wood. It takes out odors.
  • Gail sorensen
    Gail sorensen Council Bluffs, IA
    We had a chest freezer lose power for 4 days before we caught it. The smell of rotted meat was unbearable. Cleaned it with Clorox Put an open bag of charcoal in the bottom and shut the lid. After a couple of days the smell was almost gone. Put one more
  • Lori
    Lori Canada
    Activated charcoal. Must be ACTIVATED. Get a couple of lbs or so and spread it inside the piece on a newspaper and just leave it there for a week or so. Good luck.
  • Toni Hayward
    Toni Hayward Hillsboro, TX
    In Nursing Homes I've worked in they used a Pump spray bottle of a product called "Bye-Bye Odor". It is the Most Amazing stuff! Nice smell that disapates quickly & kills all the foul urine & BM smells! It even clears C-Diff BM odor & that is horrible,
  • Bea
    Bea Copemish, MI
    We've used ground coffee that we couldn't bear the awful taste of :-).
  • Susanne Johnson-Cruey
    Susanne Johnson-Cruey Lenoir City, TN
    Anyone know how to get the smell of cedar & moth balls out of cotton quilts? I have about 30+ quilts that that my Mother made that we ruined by the odor. I've tried washing with everything normal, including backing soda, to no avail.
    • Susanne Johnson-Cruey
      Susanne Johnson-Cruey Lenoir City, TN
      Connie Phillips...Thank you, I love those quilts & wish I had known that I'd never get the smell out of the quilts when I stored them away in the old cedar chest I bought
  • Henrietta  Retired-- Love Gardening
    Henrietta Retired-- Love... Williamsville, IL
  • Rosalie chow
    rosalie chow San Francisco, CA
    I heard that Clorox Liquid Bleach with kill the mold on wood furniture. After cleaning with Clorox, then sand it down and retained. Bring out to air it out for a long time.
  • Dianne Anderson
    Dianne Anderson Timmonsville, SC
    There's nothing like fresh air, baking soda and sunshine to eliminate odors. If you can get the piece to a covered porch or barn, where it can get fresh air, put some baking soda in it and let it stay for a few days, I think that will eliminate the problem.
  • Philo Charmang
    Philo Charmang Pearland, TX
    No name brand shaving cream from the dollar store , apply a thick coat several times then wipe off and spray vinegar 3 parts to 1 of water and that should help with some of the odor. I asked a coroner (20+ years ago once how would he handle odors like
  • Gayle
    Gayle Blairsville, GA
    I also have an old chest that has an odor. I researched online and learned that spraying vinegar inside the drawers was a good solution. I'm about to try this for myself. Hope it works.
  • Dee
    Dee Canada
    Well, when I bought a very old house from an estate there was coal in the basement. Apparently it was placed there because the 'something' that died in the house was the previous owner. The coal apparently absorbs the odor (it did work, 'cause the house
  • Jane Brenning
    Jane Brenning Grantham, NH
    clean it like the others said then put a couple coats of polyurethane on it.
  • Espie Tamayo
    Espie Tamayo Hurst, TX
    Some rolled up newspaper placed in drawers. Leave for at least a week. Also charcoal might work. Good luck.
  • Shirley
    Shirley Kingsland, TX
    On this note, I have a brand new (four months old) Lazyboy leather recliner that has smelled (leather smell) to high heaven.since purchase. I like the smell of leather, but this is too much. Vendor couldn't help. I really like the chair so didn't want to
  • Connie Phillips
    Nooo...don't ever give up on a quilt! There are several new products on the market that are amazing. I try to go the natural route first but I admit I have a "thing" for cleaning products. One product that I picked up at Winners recently is a spray
Atta Girl Amy