Help with odor in kitchen cabinets

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I live in a home built in 1969. The kitchen cabinets are original to the home and have that funky odor that about knocks me down every time I open them. What kind of wood is this and how can I get rid of the odor? The same cabinets were in the bathroom, they had been painted white and the odor from them is even worse! I want to paint my cabinets but I am afraid the paint will seal the odor and make it worse. HELP, suggestions please!
q help with odor in kitchen cabinets, cleaning tips, house cleaning, kitchen cabinets
  10 answers
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Aug 30, 2016
    Wash the cabinets inside and outside with white vinegar and water.Then place open boxes of baking soda in the cabinets.Do not proceed to paint until you find out why you have n odor.Check for holes in the cabinets and droppings from rodents. Remove everything from them and clean as started before.Should you find holes you must seal them up with brillo and spray foam.

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    • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Aug 31, 2016
      Gook Luck.

  • William William on Aug 30, 2016
    I agree with Janet! You need to find the source of the odor. Once you clean the cabinets and find the source of the odor. You can seal the inside of the cabinets with shellac. It will seal he wood and any odor that may have permeated the wood.

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    • Janet Janet on Aug 31, 2016
      Thank you William

  • Joan Gondeck Joan Gondeck on Aug 31, 2016
    It seems to me, the odor shouldn't be in the wood if it is sealed. l Try putting a few pieces of charcoal inside the cabinets. It neutralizes odor.

  • Valerie Roine Malandraki Valerie Roine Malandraki on Aug 31, 2016
    Janet. I was going to say the same thing., but could it be that they have been varnished inside as well as outside. Maybe that should be removed before painting. It might even be toxic.

    • Janet Janet on Aug 31, 2016
      Thanks Valerie but they are only varnished on outside.

  • Ag Castor Ag Castor on Aug 31, 2016
    You're not going to like this, but this is a little-known source of kitchen cabinet odors. They are boxes mounted on the wall. Behind the boxes is a great place for cockroaches. You might not even see them during the daytime... but they are a well-known source of bad smells. Besides, it could be something else behind those boxes. Take 'em down and clean the heck out of 'em, and the wall behind them too. There could be moisture in the sheetrock behind them, too.

  • Loretta Elbel Loretta Elbel on Aug 31, 2016
    After removing any pests, I would use OdrBan undiluted and spray generously. Repeat if necessary. Sam's and Home Depot carry it in various scents. This product rescued us from a truly evil smelling grease trap. I use it in my washer to kill the odor of diesel on my husband's clothing.​

    • Janet Janet on Aug 31, 2016
      Thanks Loretta. I've never had a rodent or pest problem. Cabinets cleaned often. I'm trying a new odor eliminator now called Fresh Wave. And will try some of the many others suggested here. I'll update in couple of weeks!

  • Tanya Tanya on Aug 31, 2016
    You've told us you're sure it is the wood itself that smells bad to you and that you have a vague memory of smelling it before. You could do an online search for "scents of wood". I did a quick look and thought maybe this link would get you started in identifying it. If your cabinets are cedar and the whole cabinet isn't sealed (including the backs), my guess is you won't fully solve the problem. Have you asked a consultant who works with woods what they suggest (carpenter, maybe Home Depot, someone in construction, really anyone who works a lot with wood ... I had a father-in-law who built specialty staircases and I think he could have told you about any type of wood). -- Note this author's comment about Red Oak smelling to him like vomit and sweat. And I know a lot of people don't like the smells of cedar and during one period of construction fads, cedars were used a lot. http://wattswoodproducts.com/what-does-wood-s...

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    • Tanya Tanya on Sep 01, 2016
      It is amazing what an illness and medications and treatments can do to your senses. I hope your treatments have left you cancer free. And I hope you get your answers. You might just have to seal inside, front, sides and back to solve it. Or, maybe you'll have to do what they did in our earlier histories, when bathing daily couldn't be done or was considered a health risk ... keep a perfumed handkerchief near to hand, to put to your nose when needed. ***grinning***

  • Donna Donna on Sep 01, 2016
    After thou roughing cleaning, as suggested above, check with a reputable paint store. They sell sealers that are used by restoration companies to use after a fire and before the cabinets/walls/etc are painted. If that doesn't work, then you could go that extra mile to have them taken down to see if the smell is actually behind the units.

  • Donna Donna on Sep 01, 2016
    "Thoroughly" ... Sometimes I hate "spell check" :)

  • B. Enne B. Enne on Sep 02, 2016
    I know what you are talking about regarding the smell...I have noticed it before in cupboards that look like yours. I find that it is often in the shelves or backing...often they are not 100% wood or they are plywood...Like Willaim said, it could be off-gassing, and shellac will seal it well. Is there any contact paper on the shelves? I would remove that too. Personally, I would sand them well or use steel wool and a deglosser (liquid sandpaper --any generic brand will work), and give them a good scrub in and out, wash and dry them out very thoroughly, and either re-seal with a clear shellac (OR polyurethane see comment below), or use a shellac-based primer like Zinsser B-I-N RED label, and paint them. It does make a big difference. You need to make sure that you don't miss any spot, so you are looking at a lot of work. Varnish sometimes smells too...BUT SO CAN TRADITIONAL SHELLAC...IMO they often get an almost rancid smell when enclosed...almost like a cooking oil that has gone bad. Maybe if your nose is sensitive like mine, a polyurethane everywhere would be better, if you want to preserve the natural wood look, but you will have to get the varnish off first... I like the shellac-based primer because it smells more like rubbing alcohol (the smell does dissipate), but then you have to paint... Like you said start with the Fresh Wave and/or afore-mentioned cleaning methods, and see if they work...you may avoid a ton of extra work...