Asked on Jun 18, 2012

Does anyone know how to get foul odors out of kitchen cabinets?

Laura G
by Laura G
I moved into a new apartment building, circa, 1980's and the kitchen cabinets stunk! I cleaned out the all the cabinets with water/bleach solution, which seemed to help the upper cabinets but the lower cabinets are so foul, I can barely open the drawers without holding my breath. The garbage disposal used to leak and was recently changed out. I also caulked and primed the inside of the cabinet under the sink, but the odor is still there. The maintenance person told me its because they are old, which I'm not buying. Anyone have any suggestions?
  17 answers
  • Odors can be difficult to remove, they tend to seep into the very pores of the wood. While I do not know what your foul odor is, I would suspect that based upon you saying the garbage disposal had leaks, that the odor is due to mold or perhaps dead critters under the cabinets where you cannot see. The only way to determine what is causing the odor is to pull things apart to identify them. If that is not an option, you can try using sprays that are supposed to remove odors. But that is just a short term fix. Does the odor smell like a wet dish cloth that has been sitting around a while? If so that is the sign of mold. Which is what I am thinking it is that you have. Painting the cabinets caulking all is good, but it will not stop the odors until things dry up completely. Then with any dampness conditions such as high humidity the odor will come back. Ozone would work well in this case as it will destroy the odor as well. Tell us more about the odor. Perhaps knowing more about it we can help you focus on the cause.
  • Becky P Becky P on Jun 18, 2012
    I have been having that trouble with my son's room. He just moved back in and his stuff smells like the roommate's smoke. So far I have been putting bowls of vinegar out and baking soda. Or you can try activated charcoal (pet dept). Good luck because I know how it is to hate smells!
  • Laura G Laura G on Jun 18, 2012
    Thanks Becky. I have also put a bowl of dehumidifying crystals under the kitchen sink area as well and it doesn't seem to correct any odor. Let me see if I can describe the smell. It seems to be a combination of smells, of old age, residual rotting garbage (left over from old disposal), mixed with a little mildew. I just purchased a bottle of ODOBAN and am planning on removing all the drawers and contents and just doing another hardcore cleaning, caulking and priming in the rest of the cabinet area. I'm hoping that will help, it is just driving me bonkers!!
  • Cheryl C Cheryl C on Jun 18, 2012
    Laura, did you use an odor blocking primer when you painted? We had a mold issue once that just wouldn't go away no matter how much we cleaned it. We ended up using Kilz primer and then painted over that and that took care of it.
  • Karen L Karen L on Jun 18, 2012
    There may be mold beneath the cabinets in the toe kick space underneath. See if you can get the maintenance person to remove a piece below and check (if you can). Good luck. A company that cleans up after floods might have something to spray into the space to make it smell better. I would insist the management move me into a different apartment.
  • Jan C Jan C on Jun 18, 2012
    I would sprinkle a lot of baking soda in the drawers and in the cabinets and let sit for awhile. Vaccum out and redo again, and you should notice a huge difference. Baking soda for odors is like duct tape for fixing anything!! Good luck!
  • Pam Pam on Jun 19, 2012
    Try wiping the entire inside of the cabinets with vinegar. This worked for me on wood with smells. It neutralized the odors. If the cabinets or empty you could use vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz all the interiors.
  • Laura G Laura G on Jun 19, 2012
    Wow, thank you everyone, I'm going to try the vinegar and baking soda. I did use Kilz primer under the sink as well. I suspect the odor is coming from underneath the cabinets, which is not good. :( Thanks everyone, you have all be very helpful!
  • Barbara A Barbara A on Jun 19, 2012
    Don't use vinegar it makes it smell even worse. I have an old steamer trunk made of wood that was cleaned with vinegar it still smells bad. I left it open for a long time to air out that didn't work either. Try Fabreze.
  • Becky H Becky H on Jun 20, 2012
    If you can't get under those cabinets to see what might be causing the odor, buy a couple of bags of charcoal (not the type with the lighter fluid already added!), lay it down inside the cabinet, rip an opening into the side and allow that to sit in the cabinets for a few days, up to a week. The charcoal should absorb the odors. The problem is, if there's either something dead or growing under those cabinets, it could take years. Your landlord should be more aggressive in pursuing this issue.
  • Laura G Laura G on Jun 20, 2012
    UGH, I shutter to think that something is dead under there Becky. I appreciate your advice. I am going to be drafting a certified letter to the management company (as per Texas state law) if my clean up efforts do not work.
    • Redtail Stays Anonymous Redtail Stays Anonymous on Nov 07, 2020

      Pretty sure I have something dead in one of my cabinets. Was putting away dishes when I was hit with the smell of death, the prescence of fruit flies not helping. (No, the fruit flies don't convince me that it's a rotten plant- no plant that I know of smells like a carcass)

  • Terri J Terri J on Jun 20, 2012
    Lowe's sells a product called ZORB. I haven't found an oder yet that it doesn't work on. If you try that, please let me know how it works. Also, I have been told not to clean w/ vinegar, but to put some in a bowl and set it wherever to absorb the odor. I don't know if that will work though.
  • Laura G Laura G on Jun 20, 2012
    I'll look for that product Terri, thanks. I'll let you know what happens. I'll be doing the big clean out this weekend.
  • Gail C Gail C on Jun 20, 2012
    Try putting some vineager in a bowl and just place it in the cabinet for a few days, that usually works for dishwasher and washing machines.
  • Terri J Terri J on Jun 20, 2012
    Laura, forgot to tell you, spray heavily at first, close doors, whatever, wait a few minutes, open, smell and spray again if necessary. I will be thinking of you...
  • Laura G Laura G on Jun 21, 2012
    Thanks Barb, Gail. I'm going to try to vinegar in a bowl first, then move on to the other products. I'll be so happy if any of these ideas work! I appreciate everyone's tips!
  • Deborah  Lingaas Deborah Lingaas on Mar 24, 2021

    I have old cabinets in kitchen also And I think they’re particle board? I got slivers when we moved in trying to clean them so I have to use thick gloves!!! The cupboards are used for pots and pans !!!! I read put coffee beans in a container with holes in the top any other ideas besides baking soda and vinegar in bowls