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How to Refresh a Cedar Chest

Michael Baker

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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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