How to Refresh a Cedar Chest

A cedar chest's potent aroma is one of the biggest draws to adding the furniture piece to your home collection.

A cedar chest not only gives its owner a pleasant, woody odor, but it also offers a natural protection against moth larvae and other destructive pests. When chests age, however, this odor will fade as humidity and airborne debris clog the wood's pores. Fortunately, opening these pores and refreshing the smell takes just a few hours' work with minimal supplies and woodworking skills. .

Empty all items from the cedar chest. Place a plastic covering on the floor that is slightly larger than the chest's base, and put the chest on the center of the plastic covering.

Remove dust from the chest. Use a hand-held vacuum or the soft brush attachment to your vacuum cleaner to clean the sides and base of the cedar chest's interior. Wipe the chest with a tack cloth, a sticky cloth available at most hardware stores or paint supply outlets.

Lightly sand the chest's interior using fine-grain sandpaper. Sand with, not against, the wood's grain. Clean the interior of the chest again using the vacuum and the tack cloth.

Close the chest's lid and let it sit for a few hours. Open the lid and determine whether the cedar smell has returned to your satisfaction.

Apply cedar oil, which is available from most woodworking retailers and candle stores to further enhance the chest's smell. Dab a small amount of the oil onto a clean cloth and rub it throughout the interior of the chest.

Leave a few cedar blocks or discs, available from most big box retailers, inside the chest to enhance the smell. Alternatively, make your own chest accessory by placing cedar shavings, purchased from a lumberyard, into a mesh sack, such as one made from a cheesecloth or stockings.

Close the chest and keep it closed when not in use. This will prolong the time before it needs refreshing again.

Things You Will Need

  • Plastic sheet
  • Vacuum
  • Tack cloth
  • Fine-grain sandpaper
  • Cedar oil
  • Cedar blocks, discs or shavings
  • Stocking or cheesecloth


  • When purchasing blocks or chips, look for aromatic red cedar rather than the standard cedar used for woodworking.
  • You can use cedar oil, blocks or chips to add the odor and insect-repelling capabilities to wooden chests not made of cedar.


  • Wear a mask and plastic covering over your clothes when cleaning and sanding the chest as well as when working with cedar oil. The dust and fumes are potential irritants.
  • Don't use standard spray furniture polishes or waxes to keep your cedar chest clean, as these can contain silicone, which will hinder future refreshment attempts. Instead, wipe the chest gently with a cloth containing paste wax.

About the Author

Michael Baker has worked as a full-time journalist since 2002 and currently serves as editor for several travel-industry trade publications in New York. He previously was a business reporter for "The Press of Atlantic City" in New Jersey and "The [Brazoria County] Facts" in Freeport, Texas. Baker holds a Master of Science in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.