There’s nothing worse than scoring a beautiful piece only to get it home and realize it smells terrible. One of the worst smells that stubbornly clings to wood furniture is smoke. And if you don’t stop to take a good sniff before you pick it up, you may not notice the offensive smell until you get your furniture home. That’s exactly what happened to us with an adorable french provincial dresser we picked up. Here we’ve put together a list of 5 things you can do to get smells, including cigarette smoke, out of wood furniture:
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1. A good scrub may remove odors from wood furniture
Residues on furniture can trap in the smells. The nicotine and tar from cigarettes leave a visible sticky residue behind on furniture. Your first step in trying to eliminate the smoke smell, or any other smell, should always be to clean off these residues. Use a soft cloth, water and a mild soap solution. We used TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) or an alternative like this without any fear of what it might do to the surface since our plan was to refinish the piece anyway.
2. Vinegar to get smells out of furniture
Vinegar, or acetic acid, is a great odor remover. You can use vinegar two ways. You can place a few bowls of vinegar inside your furniture piece and leave them for at least 48 hours. The acid should absorb some of the smell. You can also use a solution of equal parts water and vinegar to wipe down EVERY surface. In this application the vinegar will also react to eliminate the odor causing chemicals.
3. Coffee grounds and newsprint help eliminate smells
This technique surprised us. Line each drawer/shelf with newsprint and sprinkle coffee grounds on each. Let it sit for at least 48 hours and the smells should be absorbed. I’m not sure I understand the science behind this one, but it does seem to work! Not to mention, it’s one of the easiest ways to get smells out of wood furniture!
4. Baking soda/pet deodorizer to take out the stink
If you’re like us, you keep a box of baking soda in the fridge for it’s odor eating properties. Good news! You can also use it on furniture. Sprinkle a generous amount all over your piece and let it sit for at least 48 hours. Vacuum up and you should be good to go. We used an extra strong pet deodorizer version of baking soda by Arm & Hammer. We were impressed and it really seem to eliminate, not just mask, the smell!
5. Shellac blocks furniture smells
If all else fails, instead of getting the smell out, you can block it in using a shellac based product. We’ve found the Zinsser B-I-N sealer to be very effective. You have to apply the primer ON EVERY SURFACE to block the smell completely. Every surface includes all the inside parts of the furniture as well – every wood surface must be covered for the shellac to be effective at eliminating odors.
We should also point out the Zinsser B-I-N shellac it is VERY expensive. However, one can will last a long time.
You may be successful with only one of these techniques or you may, like us, have to combine a few. With our french provincial dresser, we gave it a good scrub, wiped it with vinegar and lastly covered it with pet deodorizer. While there was some improvement, in the end we used the BIN shellac primer to make sure the smoke smell wouldn’t be a problem for the new owners. We’re pleased to report it was a success and there is no longer a smoke smell.
Have you had success removing smoke smells from wood furniture? What techniques have you used? Be sure to comment below so others can benefit from your experience!