What can I do about the musty smell in my second hand drawers? Help!

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I got three second hand drawer pieces last year. The musty smell is driving me nuts. I HATE smells, especially musty damp smells. I can't get rid of it. I have used varnish, paint, baking powder in cups just left it in the drawer to absorb the smell, beeswax polish, coconut oil, wood oil. Nothing is getting rid of it, oh and I left the drawers out in the hot Summer sun last year for days. The smell went for a few days but it still came back. I have little dehumidifier bags that are supposed to absorb damp odours, I have tried scented drawer liners, I put baby powder in egg cups. But nothing and I mean NOTHING is getting rid of it. HELP!!!! I painted the carcass of the units while the drawers were out .πŸ˜žπŸš‘πŸŽ»

q i have three second hand drawer pieces the musty smell is so strong, repurposing upcycling

One of the offenders. Lol!!
  41 answers
  • Cjf7743771 Cjf7743771 on Mar 08, 2017
    Use charcoal in the drawers. It worked in a desk at work.

  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Mar 08, 2017
    Kitty litter,make a mixture of borax and hot water and wash down again then once dry,sprinkle the borax again.

  • Yankeemom100 Yankeemom100 on Mar 08, 2017
    Put a charcoal brickette into the drawers.

  • Cheri johnson Cheri johnson on Mar 08, 2017
    Keep a bowl of coffee grounds in it for a while. You might want to put fresh grounds in once in a while.

  • Rrr14990393 Rrr14990393 on Mar 08, 2017
    Put a bar of soap in drawer.

    Worked for for me in a musty suitcase.

  • William William on Mar 08, 2017
    Seems like you have tried everything. You can seal the odor in the wood with shellac. It stays on the surface and doesn't penetrate the wood like varnish or poly.

  • Diana Deiley Diana Deiley on Mar 08, 2017
    I have heard of using small linen bags of charcoal or placing chalk sticks in each drawer. I personally use scented dryer sheets in each drawer but have not had to deal with strong musty odor. Best of luck.

  • Sandra Crosbie Sandra Crosbie on Mar 08, 2017
    Thank you all so much for taking the time to help me out. I will try ALL of your suggestions. Hope fully some will help kill the mustys.πŸ‘

    • 21382658 21382658 on Mar 08, 2017
      I have used wadded up dry newspapers to get the smell of moth balls out of a drawer. I left it in the drawer for a couple of days and replaced the newspapers with fresh until the smell was gone. Maybe it will work for this, too.

  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Mar 08, 2017
    mothballs create a worse odor and that is old school. new studies the odor emited is very bad for ones health and environment.

  • Patty Patty on Mar 09, 2017
    Charcoal works, when using shellac make sure you use pigmented shellac, that is the only one that blocks odor and prevents stains from bleeding through paint.

  • Ann Ann on Mar 09, 2017
    I don't know about wood, but vinegar works on any of my plastic kitchen containers that pick up funky smells, so try wiping the interiors with vinegar. Let us know if you find something that works!

  • Sandra Crosbie Sandra Crosbie on Mar 10, 2017
    Thank you all. I bought cat litter yesterday and put some in clean candle jars. I put one in each drawer. So hopefully the easy solution works. Then I can do a happy dance.  πŸ‘

    • CarolAnn CarolAnn on Mar 10, 2017
      I would sprinkle cat litter loose in the drawers. It does absorb odors in the litter box so maybe worth a try on the musty smell. Best of luck!

  • Christine Zach Christine Zach on Mar 10, 2017
    try putting a fabric sheet in the drawers.

  • Katholc Katholc on Mar 10, 2017
    I had this with a set of plastic drawers I bought from the thrift store. I guess somebody had been putting their dirty socks in it. ewww. I used some of the linen tea bags and put lavender blossoms in the drawer's. I just left it. The lavender smell will eventually disappear unless you shake the buds. It's been 2 maybe 3 years now with no smell. The smell of lavender is strong but much preferred over the dirty sock odor.

  • Sam Sam on Mar 10, 2017
    there is this stuff called nokout. you can buy it on line.
    our friends even used it to get skunk smell out of their cabin.
    can be sprayed directly on the item. won't hurt wood, or paint or cloth.
    is safe for kids and pets.
    it may have a slight 'industrial smell' for a day or two but after that.
    nothing.
    we rented a duplex that smelled like an old bar. before it was painted again,
    we sprayed this on allllll the surfaces everywhere. one room we sprayed twice because it had a smoker in there.
    no one ever knew.
    its great stuff! it costs a bit, but is well worth it in the end. plus we use it on stuff that comes out of the basement or garage smelling a bit moldy. and it takes the smell right out.
    good luck!

  • Robin Smith Robin Smith on Mar 10, 2017
    I brush pure vanilla on the insides of my drawers

  • Sandra Crosbie Sandra Crosbie on Mar 10, 2017
    Thank you. It sounds brilliant. Thanks for taking the time to suggest it.πŸ‘

    • Sheri Sheri on Jan 24, 2020

      Did you ever get the smell out? I am going through the same thing with an old trunk. I have tried everything. I am in the process of getting cedar chips and putting them in the trunk.

  • Cga20874285 Cga20874285 on Mar 10, 2017
    Paint with an oil primer to seal, such an zingers, then paint. I have an old house and the oil primer works best to cover smells, rust from old tacks in wall, etc.

  • Sandy Sandy on Mar 11, 2017
    Cedar chips will take that musty smell away, or cedar blocks !

  • M. M.. M. M.. on Mar 11, 2017
    have you tried sanding out a layer of each surface of the drawers?

  • Allene A. Adams Allene A. Adams on Mar 11, 2017
    Empty drawers, sprinkle heavily with baking soda. Close for a few days then vacuum or empty out drawers. Dryer sheets will keep them fresh.

  • Linda Linda on Mar 11, 2017
    Crumbled up newspaper will take smells out of things. Have used it in plastic coffee cans and it works there.

  • Sandra Crosbie Sandra Crosbie on Mar 11, 2017
    Thank you. I will give that a go.

  • Sandra Crosbie Sandra Crosbie on Mar 11, 2017
    Thank you. I've done this too. It didn't get rid of it. But thank you for your input.

  • Linda Linda on Mar 12, 2017
    Have you tried using diluted bleach or lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide? Wipe with a dampened cloth sprayed with either. There's also a mold/mildew product that can be found in Lowe's or Home Depot.

  • Barb Blue Barb Blue on Mar 12, 2017
    Put them out side on a sunny day also cleaning vinegar should help

  • Candy cane Candy cane on Mar 12, 2017
    I gave used charcoal barbeque briguettes, (not the match light ones) to get orders out of many things. Just put them in drawers, etc. And let them sit for a couple days. They will absorb any odors. For strong odors, put briquettes outside in the sun for a couple hours and odors absorbed will release. Then put them back in unit for a couple days. Repeat till odor is gone. I have even put them inside stinky gym shoes and boots and put them in a trash bag for a day or two. Odors are gone! I use the same ones over and over. Works like a charm.

  • Sandra Crosbie Sandra Crosbie on Mar 12, 2017
    Thank you.πŸ‘

  • Sandra Crosbie Sandra Crosbie on Mar 12, 2017
    That sounds like a great idea. I will try that. Thank you.πŸ‘

  • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Mar 12, 2017
    I've had success with first cleaning them really well and then putting them out in the sunshine for the afternoon. I also liked the sanding idea and charcoal!

  • Squ20844908 Squ20844908 on Mar 12, 2017
    You could try sealing the inside of the drawers with a clear varnish or wood sealer. This worked on an old wood trunk I had that stunk of mothballs.

  • Kitty Kitty on Mar 13, 2017
    You say you used Baking Powder? What good is that? You need to put small cups of Baking SODA in your drawers! And be sure and wash all of the clothing first, don't put the same clothes back in that have already been affected with mildew! Mildewing occurs when you put something Damp in your drawers, so be sure all items are full dried! It can also occur if the piece of furniture has been left outside for some time! This is one thing you want to check before picking up
    free furniture" posted on Craigslist or similar sites!

    • Sandra Crosbie Sandra Crosbie on Mar 14, 2017
      Thank you Kitty. The problem is not mildew. I did put cups of baking soda in the drawers. I have not put any items of clothing in the drawers because I knew the smell would be dreadfully stinky if I did. Thankfully the cheapest idea seems to have done the job. CAT LITTER. Who would think something like this would solve the musty smell . Thank you for your input.πŸ‘

  • K K on Mar 13, 2017
    Forget simple homemade natural alternatives for dense odors that won't cooperate with your efforts. To really kill it use TSP or TSP Substitute, follow directions on bottle. Useful on nasty odors antiques may accumulate. Although hydrogen peroxide is good too, and the oil primer. Hope this helps someone.

  • K K on Mar 13, 2017
    Oh, and when you varnish or paint over it, you really need to make sure to cover even the tops of the inside of the drawers, every square inch. I missed that and had to go back and recover it. My horrendous smell was as reminiscent of dead bird. 😷

  • Tjlluvia Tjlluvia on Mar 13, 2017
    regardless of how nice the furniture looks - mold is mold. get rid of the drawers before you have to get rid of the furniture. it can also create a mold allergy and you definitely do not want that. i found this out the hard way after living on the north east coast (new jersey). good luck with whatever your decision might be.

    • Sandra Crosbie Sandra Crosbie on Mar 14, 2017
      The problem was not mold. Thankfully it was just unused, unloved, unopened, wood which was left sitting in a cold house for months.
      Thank you for your input.πŸ‘

  • Carrie Faglie Carrie Faglie on Mar 14, 2017
    Might try leaving cedar shavings in the drawers for a while. Especially if you can find some that's fresh cut.

  • Sandra Crosbie Sandra Crosbie on Mar 14, 2017
    Thank you to all of you for your very helpful suggestions. Cat litter has done the job that paint/varnish/ sunshine/baking soda/ drawer liners/ baby powder couldn't do.
    So now I can do a happy dance. "Oooh!! Yea that pong has gone " πŸ―πŸ™πŸˆπŸ±πŸŽΆπŸŽΌ

    • Kathy Allen Kathy Allen on Mar 14, 2017
      What kind of cat litter did you use? was is baking soda or cedar or some special kind or just generic clay? I need something like that for my musty garage.

  • Donald Mccon Donald Mccon on Mar 14, 2017
    Put some oil absorbant in them and wait awhile and smells gone. I did ths even on freezers where meat had spoiled and left it closed and it cleaned smell out.

  • Karris Karris on Mar 14, 2017
    I didn't see this suggestion yet: Fill any drawer in question with a 1-inch layer of cat litter and let it sit for at least a week. (It doesn't have to be an expensive brand.) The litter absorbs the odor(s), and the problem doesn't return. After you dispose of the used litter, vacuum out any dust remaining dust. I've done this before and haven't had to repeat the process; the smell is gone for good.

  • Jim Roache Jim Roache on Mar 14, 2017
    This admittedly can take awhile, but I have found that putting several loosely crumpled newspaper sheets in the drawer and closing the drawer for a week or so and repeating the process two or three times gets rid of the worst odors. I've done the same thing with musty books and other musty paper---old letters, etc. by sealing them in a plastic bag for a few weeks--- or less, depending on the smell-- gets rid of those odors permanently. I hang the tightly knotted bags on hooks in the garage.


  • Jo Jo on Sep 26, 2021

    All you cat litter people. What kind? There are many.