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How to Remove Smells From Wood Drawers

Melynda Sorrels

Trapped inside the limited confines of wood walls, odors in drawers have nowhere else to go. From hidden treats that someone has forgotten about to that musty old wood smell common in antique furniture, smells in wood drawers can be problematic and sometimes unhealthy.

Eliminate drawer smells quickly.

If the wood has been exposed to moisture, the smell may be a result of mildew, which can also damage the wood. Cleaning the drawer is a vital part of getting rid of these unpleasant odors.

  1. Empty out any contents within the drawer and set them aside. If the cause of the odor is in the drawer remove it and discard it immediately.

  2. Mix wood soap or laundry detergent into warm water. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for mixing wood soap with water. For laundry detergent, mix 2 tbsp. of detergent per 1 qt. of warm water.

  3. Sponge the soapy water into the drawer, making sure to get into all the cracks and crevices. Use a small brush to get into hard-to-reach areas.

  4. Wipe down the inside of the drawer with a clean, wet cloth to rinse away the soap.

  5. Set the drawer outside in the sunshine to dry and air out. A cool, dry place is a safe alternative if you can’t set it outside.

  6. Allow the drawer several hours to make sure that it is completely dry before putting it back into the furniture it came out of.

  7. Tip

    If the odor persists, crumple newspapers and pack them into the drawer. Leave them in the drawer for two to three days to absorb the odor. Keep the drawer smelling good by keeping small sachets of potpourri or your favorite herbs and flowers such as lavender or rosemary. Place a small dish of baking soda in the drawer to absorb moisture.


    If you encounter mold or mildew within the drawer take it outside and brush it out with a soft-bristled brush. Wear gloves, a mask and glasses to protect yourself from mold spores which can lead to skin irritation and respiratory issues.