How to Keep Cedar Smelling Nice for a Closet

Eastern red cedar or aromatic cedar will lose its pleasant smell when the wood's surface is exposed to air.

Over time the oils that reside in the red colored wood will dry out at the surface. Red cedar should never be treated with any type of sealant or oil product. These types of products will close the pores of the wood structure and prevent the natural oils from being useful. In most all cases, the cedar can be lightly sanded and the strong aromatic smell be restored in a single afternoon. .

Place the dust mask over your face, following the instructions on the manufacture's label. The red cedar dust is very fine and can cause minor irritation.

Remove all items from the closet. This includes any hooks or hanging shelves. Give yourself as much access as possible to the cedar walls. Set the small stepladder inside the closet, in such a way, so you can reach the upper corners of the room.

Fold the piece of sandpaper in half, length ways. Keep the rough surface facing outwards. Fold the paper again in half. This will give four sides to the full sheet of sand paper.

Begin in the upper most corner of the closet and proceed downwards. Lightly work the sand paper across the cedar boards. Move the paper in the same direction as the board, or in the direction of the grain pattern. The cedar boards should have a bright red color to the sanded surface. One full sheet of sand paper should be utilized for every 32 square feet of cedar boards, so you will use all four sides of your sand paper on that section. A 4-foot by 8-foot wall area is equal to 32 square feet.

Vacuum the walls and the floor once all the walls have been lightly sanded. The closet should be full of the aromatic smell.

Apply a single layer of the door foam sealant against the door jam's two sides and the top of the door's mating surfaces. This will seal any external air from entering the closet. Install a lower door sill seal to the bottom of the door. If all of the seals are correctly installed, little to no external air will enter the closet space.

Things You Will Need

  • Dust mask
  • Small stepladder
  • 1 sheet of 60 grit sandpaper per 32 square feet of red cedar
  • Vacuum cleaner with brush attachment
  • Door foam sealant
  • Door sill seal


  • Thoroughly clean out the closet or storage area once the sanding process is completed. The fine dust can prove to be an irritant for some people.
  • A cedar oil can be applied to the surface of the wood as an alternative to sanding. In some cases though, the cost of that oil is by far much more than a couple sheets of sandpaper. The cedar oil may also contain a type of sealer that will actually seal the surface of the wood.