How do I get the musty smell out of my kitchen cabinets?

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We moved into a cabin a year ago that had been previously used seasonally and closed up in the winters. On separate occasions I have cleaned all surfaces with white vinegar, baking soda, and bleach. I tried sprinkling baking soda overall and leaving for a full 2 weeks then vacuuming it out. For the past 9 months I’ve tried just using them hoping the smell would go away. I tried lining the sections of drawers with contact paper and also spraying these inside and out and in the cupboard, that surrounds them with a strong mixture of peppermint essential oil and water, over and over for a 2-week period. None of these methods have worked, the smell just comes back. They are what I think are called builder’s grade oak cabinets. How do I get rid of this smell? ? It was worse when it was humid this summer but it’s still awful. I have fibromyalgia so I'm very sensitive to smells. Help?

  8 answers
  • JoAnn Meyer JoAnn Meyer on Oct 07, 2017
    Sealing them with varnish or shellac might do it.
  • Emily Emily on Oct 07, 2017
    Why not remove the doors for a while and let them air out? Don't seal. I did that to my china closet and it takes forever for the fumes to evaporate and I mean many years. I also painted inside some small drawers I have in my kitchen and while the stored items smell o.k. the drawers themselves do not.

    • Leslie Alley Esposito Leslie Alley Esposito on Oct 07, 2017
      I guess I didn't mention it in my post but even though I didn't remove the doors we did leave them open for a few months. Thanks for the heads up about sealing them / fumes. Being sensitive to smells I guess that wouldn't be that great an idea for me after all.
  • V Smith V Smith on Oct 07, 2017
    Activated charcoal. You can buy it where they sell aquarium supplies. Place it in bowls then put bowls in cabinets, close doors and wait.
  • Ellis Ellis on Oct 07, 2017
    I would try leaving the doors open all the time, or removing them, for a long time, to see if the odor dissipates.

    I have seen recommendations to use ground coffee, tied up in a sock or cheesecloth, in the back of the cabinet, to deodorize cabinets from the musty smell. Can you tolerate the smell of coffee with your fibromyalgia? It might be worth a try.
    • Leslie Alley Esposito Leslie Alley Esposito on Oct 07, 2017
      As I mentioned to another person who replied above, I did leave them open for a few months but forgot to mention it in my post. However, I like the coffee grounds suggestion. I can't stand the taste of coffee but love the smell of the fresh grounds! Go figure! LOL! Someone else suggested activated charcoal so there are two good possibilities. Guess I'll price them out and try the cheapest one first. TY!
  • PJ Wise PJ Wise on Oct 07, 2017
    Wad up the black and white sections of newspapers (no ads)and fill the cupboards full. Allow to remain in the cupboards with the doors closed for 7-10 days. You can also add charcoal briquettes (not used and not fast lighting), set throughout the cupboards at the same time. I've used these to remove the most offensive smells from refrigerators, freezers and ice chests as well as cupboards and closets in the past without fail. I've also been told that coffee grounds, fresh or used work. When you leave your cabin at the end of the season, stuff the cupboards with newspapers and charcoal!
    • Leslie Alley Esposito Leslie Alley Esposito on Oct 08, 2017
      TY! We live here year round but I wish the previous owners had known about the newspaper trick! Still, maybe I could try it in a couple of cupboards at a time. Activated charcoal in bowls was suggested so that's probably similar to the briquettes. We use them for grilling so I'll check to make sure they aren't the fast lighting kind and that sounds like a great possibility, too!
  • Sharon Sharon on Oct 07, 2017
    With all that washing with vinegar etc, spraying with oil and water, you've probably introduced more moisture into an already too damp problem. Take some kitty litter and put in some disposable bowls, put in the cabinets, close doors, wait a day or two and get rid off. Repeat until it stays dry. You can also buy the commerical Stay Dry moisture removers, Dollar Tree has them most of the time here in PNW.
  • Ellis Ellis on Oct 09, 2017
    I love the smell of coffee, too. I guess you don't have to buy gourmet coffee for this purpose!
  • Mfi47590246 Mfi47590246 on Aug 02, 2019

    Paint the inside of the cabinets with Kilz paint and then a few coats of regular paint. Allow to dry for several days. Maybe that might help the odor.


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