Asked on Feb 05, 2015

How do you get a smell out of a wooden dresser

Maxine Sheehan
by Maxine Sheehan
I bought as stripped down wooden dresser. A lovely style, but when it was delivered I wasn't feeling so good. The following morning when I got up there was an extremely strong smell of tom cat urine. Anybody who has smelt it knows what I mean when I say, "ick." I'm absolutely devastated as I needed this dresser urgently. Does anyone have any ideas for getting the smell out PLEASE?
  23 answers
  • Shannon O- Junkflirt Shannon O- Junkflirt on Feb 05, 2015
    There are lots of remedies, some work, some don't. Each piece is different, First and easiest is a good vinegar/water wash down and place some baking soda along with crumpled newspapers in it for a while. If that doesn't work, or if you want to get to using or painting it sooner, after washing, seal the entire thing, inside and out with polyurethane or shellac or Kilz, then proceed. If you are not painting just use the sealer. If you are painting and distressing, Kilz will leave a strong white color on distressed areas so tint it.
  • Lisa Lisa on Feb 05, 2015
    A lot depends on whether the Tom sprayed the outside once or twice, or daily. You really won't know until you try to clean it. It is possible that only the outside was sprayed. (I hope for that for your sake) I really think that if the piece has been used as a Tom marker for a long time, in the long run your best bet will be to paint it with Kilz and I'd suggest the oil based one. Shannon's advice is all good, too. Good luck!
  • Jeannine Jeannine on Feb 05, 2015
    I got this tip off a blog .... How to get out Musty, Old Smell in Furniture .......... Shellac Spray used for getting rid of musty smells, spray the entire piece and all of the drawers with the Shellac and wait for it to dry. Use Zinsser Shellac Spray ... here's the website It's quite a useful tip. Good luck!
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Feb 05, 2015
    It's probably the outside that got sprayed. I'd wash it down well with soapy water. Then, as others suggested, give it a coat of shellac or poly to seal.
  • Lynne Newmeyer Lynne Newmeyer on Feb 05, 2015
    There is a product called Zero Odor that works for cat pee. It's a spray. Another great product is Nature's Miracle. Treat the piece according to directions before sealing and you're golden. I have had cats for decades and neither of these has ever failed me.
  • Belle Phoenix Belle Phoenix on Feb 05, 2015
    Rub it in lavender oil which naturally eliminates odours. Sand it first it if has varnish on the exterior. It work really well on the old bedside tables I upcycled. It now fragrances the room like giant pot pourri. :)
  • Michele Ahrndt Richards Michele Ahrndt Richards on Feb 05, 2015
    try putting in a small open bowl of coffee grounds..not used...
  • Heidi Hokett Heidi Hokett on Feb 05, 2015
    Nature's Miracle. You can find it at pet supply stores. When we bought I our house the previous owner had kept cat litter boxes in the closet of one of the bedrooms and you could tell they had "missed" more than a few times. We saturated the wood floor and let it dry. Smell was gone. Do this with caution on a piece of furniture that you don't want to mess up. Try an inconspicuous spot to see how the finish reacts.
    • Fab and Pretty Fab and Pretty on Feb 06, 2015
      Nature's miracle may take a few applications bit it does continue to work. We had an issue with our laundry room when we realized the cats had pent rated through to the floor board. Seriously we had to keep at it and it eventually worked...but we really had to douse the area.
  • Cindy Cindy on Feb 06, 2015
    I had this problem. I tried everything to get the smell out to no avail. I finally painted the drawers (inside and out) with KILZ primer and then painted. For good measure, I lined the drawers with scented drawer liners.
  • Joy1119606 Joy1119606 on Feb 06, 2015
    For an old trunk...I wasmtold on a set it outside and also I put dryer sheets in everything!!!! Good luck
    • Bhmgujghvjhf Bhmgujghvjhf on Jul 15, 2018

      Dryer she's cause cancer and put a stronger chemical Oder in drawers not good advice!

  • Melinda Zanders Melinda Zanders on Feb 06, 2015
    You can put a lid inside with vanilla flavoring in it & it will absorb smells. My grandmother used to put it in their older home when the smell of a dead rat got in the chimney.
  • Debbie Russell Debbie Russell on Feb 06, 2015
    I had the same problem. If you plan to paint it you can get a product from Lowes/Home Depot thats an Odor Blocker Primer from the paint section. That is what got the urine smell out of my wood hutch. I already tried using straight bleach in the beginning but it did not work.
  • Darlene Dyer Darlene Dyer on Feb 06, 2015
    Put vanilla extract in the drawers on cotton balls should take
  • Melanie Pennock Melanie Pennock on Feb 06, 2015
    In my experience, enzyme cleaners like Nature's Miracle which was mentioned by two others, are the only things that work on cat urine. It also works on skunk spray, with which I am also quite experienced! Good luck!
  • Leslie Crawford Leslie Crawford on Feb 06, 2015
    There are odor removing products at Lowe's / Home Depot. Once you've used those, the vanilla on cotton balls is a good idea or just use laundry dryer sheets.
  • Elainemclane Elainemclane on Feb 06, 2015
    I used vodka soaked Q-tips and cotton balls to remove smoke smell from an antique cabinet. Worked great. I rubbed it in the corners and on the shelves.
  • Country Design Home Country Design Home on Feb 07, 2015
    Nature's Miracle works great for some odors, especially skunks. You will need to keep applying it, as well as keep the dresser outdoors where it can continue to air out. On the inside, try making a paste of baking soda and white vinegar. Wipe it on, then when dry, wipe it or vacuum it off. That works really well for cigarette smoke as well. Once you get it mostly smell-free (if it has permeated the finish and the wood, it will be very difficulty to get the smell out entirely) then spray it with shellac to seal in the remaining odors. This is a long process- the last piece I had to do like this took a month before it was "house-ready"!
  • Maxine Sheehan Maxine Sheehan on Feb 07, 2015
    Thank you so much ladies. You've given me some great ideas to try.
  • Barb Burnham Barb Burnham on Feb 08, 2015
    It takes a special enzyme, available at hardware store. Soaking cotton balls in Vodka or villa means they never had male cat urine.....sorry, just sayin'
  • Graciana Graciana on Feb 08, 2015
    First, wash off as much as you can with plain soap and water. Cat urine is visible under a black light (it glows), so you may want to buy or borrow one to see where the urine is and how much of it is there. If the wood has been soaked extensively, there may be little you can do pull the odor out. Avoid using anything with oil to treat these areas as the oil will absorb the odor and sink even deeper into the grain of the wood. Using other items mentioned in other posts may reduce the existing odor (dryer sheets, coffee grounds, vodka, vanilla, vinegar and baking soda, etc), but until you remove or neutralize the SOURCE of the odor, it will persist and transfer the odor into clothing items that come into contact with it. If the affected areas are not too badly soiled, (as others have suggested) an enzymatic cleaner may work. Be sure to test the product on a hidden part of the dresser to see how it reacts to the wood and the finish. Wood will swell and warp when it gets too wet, so (depending on where the soiled areas are) you may need to be careful as to how much of a liquid product you use in a single application and be prepared to do multiple applications. Another person suggested sealing the wood with KILZ primer/sealer. I have used the product many times and found it to be very effective in sealing off odors. If you're open to the idea of painting the dresser than this would probably be the quickest, easiest and cheapest method of salvaging it.
  • Yukibar Yukibar on Nov 28, 2015
    I bought a used Fossil purse for $1 in excellent condition except it reeked of smoke. I took fresh coffee grounds (not used) and poured them into paper towels and placed them inside for a few days. Smell gone!
  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Jul 07, 2024

    Give it a good cleaning and let it air dry in the sunshine, not too long because it can warp the wood. Then seal in any smell with shellac.