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How to Get Odors Out of Old Wood Dressers

Corey M. Mackenzie

Old wood dressers often develop odors through the years. Even with gentle use, dressers may smell musty or otherwise malodorous. Wood’s natural porosity means it easily absorbs and holds odors.

You can rid old wood dressers of most odors, from mildly unpleasant to foul, through a two-part process of cleaning and deodorizing. Use cleaning products created specifically for wood, and not only will you rid the dresser of odor, it will look better too.

  1. Remove all the dresser drawers (and remove any contents of the drawers). Wipe them with a dry, clean rag or dusting cloth to remove surface dust. Set the drawers aside to clean later.

  2. Spray the interior back panel and interior sides of the dresser with a household disinfectant. This will help kill any mold or mildew that may be residing in the inner crevices.

  3. Apply wood cleaner, containing lemon or orange oil, to a soft cloth or rag. Wipe down the exterior of the dresser from top to bottom (remember to wipe with the grain of the wood). If the rag becomes soiled midway through the process, you should use a fresh rag.

  4. Clean the inside of the dresser drawers with a fresh rag saturated with the wood cleaner. Use a fresh rag for each drawer.

  5. Clean the exterior of the dresser drawers just as you cleaned the interior of the drawers. Allow them to dry thoroughly and slide them back into their places in the dresser.

  6. Place activated charcoal sachets or discs in each of the drawers. Close the drawers and leave the activated charcoal inside until no trace of a bad odor remains.


Find activated charcoal deodorizing sachets and discs at pet supply stores and home improvement stores. You can safely use these anytime dresser drawers need freshening. Baking soda also works--but activated charcoal tends to work more quickly. Store the dresser in a dry area to prevent a musty odor.