How to Get Rid of the Smell in Musty Wooden Kitchen Drawers

Mary Ylisela

The environmental conditions of the kitchen change with different cooking methods and the use of kitchen appliances. Running the dishwasher or boiling and steaming foods introduces heat and humidity into the kitchen. When moisture becomes trapped in the kitchen, it's absorbed into nearby surfaces.

No one wants to be greeted by musty smells when opening drawers.

Although your wooden kitchen drawers might seem safe, wood's natural porousness makes it a likely candidate for the absorption of moisture and development of mold and mildew. As fungus grows, a musty smell develops. Even if you can't see the tiny mildew spores in wooden kitchen drawers, the musty smell is an indication they are there.

  1. Empty the smelly wooden kitchen drawers of all contents. Keep the contents organized, if desired, by placing the items in cardboard boxes. Use one box for each drawer.

  2. Clean debris, dirt and mildew spores from the drawers by vacuuming with an upholstery attachment. Get into the corners of the drawers with the hose to remove mildew. Remove the vacuum bag from the vacuum and discard it in a sealed trash bag to prevent the spores from transferring elsewhere.

  3. Fill the bucket with a stain and odor removing solution.
  4. Pour 1 gallon of hot water into a bucket. Add 1 cup of ammonia, 1/2 cup of white vinegar and 1/4 cup of baking soda to create a mildew stain and odor removal solution.

  5. Rubber gloves protect skin from drying cleaners.
  6. Put on rubber gloves to prevent the ammonia-based solution from drying out your skin. Dip a clean cloth in the solution and wring out the excess. Scrub the insides of the drawers, making sure to get the sides and corners, as well as the bottoms.

  7. Rinse each drawer out with a damp cloth then leave the drawer open to allow it to air dry completely.

  8. Drop two to three drops of vanilla extract onto a cotton ball and set one cotton ball in the back of each drawer. This will combat any remaining odor and keep your drawers smelling fresh.

  9. Place the contents of the drawers back in as soon as the wood is dry.


Substitute a solution made from 1 cup of bleach and 1 gallon of hot water to remove mildew smell and stains. Use an exhaust fan or open windows during cooking or dishwashing to prevent moisture buildup in the kitchen.