Miscellaneous - Furniture

How you can remove unpleasant smells from furniture

Furniture comes into contact with things, objects or beings, and ends up borrowing their smells or the smell of the space it is in. Over time the smells mix and sometimes the result is quite unpleasant. Even more unpleasant is if the furniture in question changes its purpose or owner. For the new use or new owner the smell can be so disturbing that it can end up being abandoned. What should be done to avoid losing a piece of furniture that is still strong? Here are some ideas.

odors in furniture

How furniture can acquire unpleasant odours

Unpleasant smells in furniture can arise from several causes: the materials used in manufacture, the way it is used, the way it is stored, long-term use, use in an unventilated, damp space with a specific smell. The type of finish or wood species also contributes to the fixation of odours. Thin-layer finishes and large-pore wood make it easier to fix them. Although there are absorbent materials that can be used successfully in many situations, it is difficult to find a universally valid method that will easily and simply freshen the smell of furniture.

The overpowering, lingering smell of new furniture comes from wood-based panels used in manufacture or from the bonding and/or finishing materials. Not all new furniture has an odour. Most of the time the smell is more pronounced and persistent the cheaper the furniture.

The smell of old furniture comes from using it in damp environments (musty smell), from pets, from use in rooms where it has been frequently smoked, from storing things with a specific smell (shoes) or from long use and storage in enclosed spaces. The smell gets into the pores of wood or upholstery fabric and lingers even if ordinary cleaning materials are used.

Removing odour from new furniture

If the furniture is made of poor quality chipboard or melamine, the odour released through the edges without edgebanding (drawers, pulleys - where the inner structure of the chipboard is visible) is very persistent and even dangerous for sensitive people. The odour is caused by free formaldehyde coming out of the panel. With good quality chipboard the smell is almost imperceptible and disappears in a few weeks. With poor quality it is very strong and can be smelt years later (when you open a drawer, for example). To avoid such a situation, when ordering furniture ask for chipboard with formaldehyde emission class E1 or E0.5 and for all the loose edges of the cut-out elements of the original board to be sealed. Learn more about formaldehyde here.

New furniture can also give off a solvent smell. It's from adhesives or finishing products used. Fortunately, lately, due to the obligation of factories to reduce the consumption of volatile organic compounds (VOCs)In the past few years, organic solvent-based materials have been used less and less, being replaced by water-based materials.

Unfortunately, in both cases, there is not much you can do to get rid of the smell. The only method is airing. If possible, take the furniture outside or on a terrace for a while. Best aired on sunny days with low humidity and wind. If you can't take the furniture outside, keep the windows open as much as possible in the first few weeks after purchase and make the room drafty. In the house, the emission is favoured by the increased temperature and humidity so try to keep them under control. You can use a room humidifier to keep the humidity at a lower level.

odors from furniture

Substances and techniques to help remove odour

To remove odours from used furniture use absorbents or which covers or neutralises odours. But first of all, don't underestimate the properties water and soap. There are many who believe that furniture doesn't go well with them and that they can get damaged and the varnish turns white and runs if it comes into contact with water. It doesn't! Water doesn't have to puddle, but if it is cleaned with a soaked cloth and wrung out thoroughly, furniture is not at risk. For safety, wipe all surfaces with a dry cloth afterwards. A few drops of essential oils. The best results are achieved with lemon and peppermint oils because the scent left is very fresh. Find out more about cleaning old furniture here.

Sodium bicarbonate (baking powder) is a very good absorbent. Sprinkle it on smelly sofas, leave it for a while and then vacuum it up. The operation can be repeated several times. The same bicarbonate can also be put in drawers that smell. Put it in a bowl and leave it for 1-2 weeks, after which it is refreshed. After 1-2 months the smell disappears. Coffee - beans, ground or ground, charcoal briquettes as such or wrapped in newsprint (classic, uncut) are also used to absorb unpleasant odours from drawers or cupboards.

Vinegar and water solution, 1:8, sprayed on furniture, removes the smell of mould and tobacco. Bowls with white wine vinegar, put in drawers, it removes that specific stale smell. Water and ammonia solution removes the smell of smoke. Spraying with laundry bleach disinfects and removes musty and stale odours. You can also do the same with vodka. Use a very cheap variant (don't be sorry😉) because its disinfecting and deodorizing capabilities are important, which are the same regardless of how it is obtained. Of course you can use alcohol or medicinal spirit, but spirit has the strong smell and alcohol is more expensive. Lemon juice helps to remove the smell of urine, human or pet. Maintaining a fresh smell can also be done by spraying a 1:24 solution of olive oil with water.

Of the classic cleaning products, the most effective are those that remove odours from pets.

odors in furniture

Final solution

If you fail to freshen the smell of your furniture, the final solution would be after washing, polishing and ceruirea wooden parts. Sanding helps to remove the surface layer, impregnated with unpleasant odours. Wax will lock in the remaining odours, give a pleasant appearance and a fresh smell. Use ordinary furniture wax or beeswax mixed with linseed oil. Warm the wax slightly before application and mix it with a few drops of lemon or lemon and/or peppermint essential oil. After application, leave a few hours for the wax to soak into the wood and harden, then polish with a soft cotton cloth. The furniture will be left with a pleasant tuft and the smell will be fresh.

I hope you find the information useful and that it helps you to keep or reuse old pieces of furniture. If you know of other ways to remove odors from old furniture, please share them with us. I'm sure there will be many who will thank you.

odors in furniture

About the author

Mihaela Radu

Mihaela Radu is a chemical engineer but has a great passion for wood. She has been working in the field for more than 20 years, wood finishing being what defined her during this period. She gained experience working in a research institute, in her own company, as well as in a multinational. She wants to continuously share her experience with those who have the same passion - and more.

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