How to Get Musty Smell Out of Furniture: 7 Easy Hacks to Remove Odors from Wood

Old antique sofa, musty wood furniture
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Old wooden furniture may be solid and beautiful, but it can have a lingering musty smell. Depending on the furniture’s age and the type of wood, removing musty smells can be a challenge. The source of the smell may dictate what remedy could work. Fortunately, you can try more than one method. Here are seven tips to answer the question of how to get the musty smell out of furniture. Be patient when working with your wood furniture, it has a history that you want to preserve and enjoy for years to come.

How to get the musty smell out of furniture

1. Dehumidify.

Wood is porous and will take in moisture, air, and smells of its surroundings. If your furniture has been kept in an old house, attic, basement, or garage, that is most likely the source of your furniture’s musty order. Move the furniture into an air conditioned room that has relatively low moisture.  Close the door and turn on a dehumidifier. Do this for several hours for a few days.

Woman turning on dehumidifier for her furniture
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2. Sit outside in the sun.

If you don’t have a dehumidifier and you live in a dry climate with little relative humidity, let the furniture sit outside in the sun. Placing it under a covered or screened porch is ideal, but not for days on end. This may work well if the musty smell isn’t too severe.

Wood antique furniture in the sun to remove odor
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3. Sand and refinish.

The next answer to the question of how to get the musty smell out of furniture is to sand down the original finish and allow the wood to breathe for a few days. Once again, leave the furniture in an air conditioned space so it doesn’t absorb new odors and moisture. Refinish the surface with 2-3 coats of stain, allowing each coat to dry fully before applying the next coat. Finish with a clear coat to seal in color and keep out moisture and air.

Close up of worn wood table in kitchen
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4. Wood soap.

Often, the culprit of musty smelling wood is germs and bacteria inside the wood. This is especially true if the wooden furniture was left in a moisture-rich environment for an extended amount of time. So, how to get the musty smell out of furniture that needs to be cleaned? Use a wood soap product meant for cleaning and killing bacteria inside wood. Before using, read the manufacturer’s directions on use and care of the wood. Thoroughly clean all the edges, corners, under the handles and underneath the furniture to ensure all of the wood has been well covered. Then, let it dry completely.

Cleaning wood with wood soap
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5. Coffee grounds or charcoal.

If you have a large armoire or dresser with drawers, it may be hard to reach all the surfaces with some of the other methods. Instead, place coffee grounds or charcoal in an open container inside of the drawers and close them. Check back after a few days and replenish with new coffee or charcoal as needed. Charcoal is a natural substance that could solve the problem of how to get the musty smell out of furniture.

Coffee grounds in wooden bowl with spoon
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6. Bleach.

Bleach is one of the most readily available, all-purpose disinfectants around. The key is to make sure it is diluted sufficiently — go with a one-part bleach to 10 parts water solution. You want the surface of your furniture to stay wet, but not soaked, for 30 minutes to kill all the germs that may be causing the odor.

Making bleach and water solution to clean furniture
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7. Dryer sheets.

A simple answer to the question of how to get the smell out of furniture is to use dryer sheets. If the smell isn’t too bad, this is a quick and easy way to go. Just replace the dryer sheets every month or two.

Dryer sheet on table
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How to get the musty smell out of furniture

How to clean wooden drawers

If the drawers of a dresser have become stained or smell musty, you’ll want to clean them by not only disinfecting them, but also deodorizing them. You don’t want to saturate the wood, so the key is to not use too much liquid. You can disinfect the drawers with a combination of one fourth cup of borax to one quart of warm water or two tablespoons of vinegar to one quart of warm water. After cleaning with one of these solutions, let the dresser dry, at least overnight.

The next step is to deodorize the dresser. This will help remove any lingering odors. Use one of the following four furniture deodorizers.

  • Borax — sprinkle in the drawers and make sure it is spread evenly over the surfaces. Let it sit overnight, then run the vacuum over the drawers to remove the borax.
  • Baking soda — same as with the borax, sprinkle baking soda evenly over the surfaces of the drawers. However, this time, leave the baking soda in for several days before removing it with the vacuum.
  • Charcoal — place several pieces of activated charcoal in a container and put in each drawer. Leave this in for several days. However, do not use the charcoal briquettes you use in your grill.
  • Kitty litter — place some unscented kitty litter in disposable containers and place in each drawer for several days.

The baking soda, charcoal, and kitty litter can all be placed in semi-permanent containers and left in the drawers, along with your clothes, to work on odors on an ongoing basis. You’ll just need to freshen the supply every month.

Purchase wood furniture odor removers

Still uncertain about how to get a smell out of wood? Turn to Amazon. There are many wood furniture deodorizers and other products on the market that could solve this problem.

Wood table and shelves inside loft apartment
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The bottom line

Don’t let the question of how to get the smell out of furniture keep you from your favorite antique stores or yard sales in the quest to find magnificent wood furniture. Once you find your favorite piece, simply use any of the tips and products mentioned above to remove odors from your wood furniture.

Frequently asked questions


How do you stop furniture from smelling?


Use any of the tips or products mentioned above to remove odors by cleaning and deodorizing your wood furniture.


How do you deodorize wood furniture?


Once you’ve cleaned your wood furniture, put borax, baking soda, charcoal, or kitty litter in the drawers of a dresser to deodorize it. Freshen up the supply every month.


How do you stop new furniture from smelling?


Instead of placing your new wood furniture outside, open your room windows to increase circulation to the room. Then, using the methods mentioned above, clean and deodorize your new furniture.


How do you freshen furniture naturally?


There are several natural ways to freshen up your wood furniture. You could use vinegar, bleach, baking soda, charcoal, or coffee. Read the above tips to learn how to use each ingredient.