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How to Get Rid of the Wood Smell in Dresser Drawers

Brynne Chandler

Removing musty smells from old furniture requires a thorough cleaning, a bit of patience and a healthy dose of fresh air.

How to Get Rid of the Wood Smell in Dresser Drawers

When you buy a brand-new or secondhand wood dresser, the drawers may have an unpleasant smell. You can get rid of a strong woody scent or a musty, mildewy odor in a few quick and simple steps. To clean, disinfect and recondition your dresser drawers, start with a thorough cleaning with borax, a non-caustic and non-toxic natural product. Follow with a generous rubdown with furniture polish and put your dresser drawers outside in the sunshine to thoroughly air out and dry. In no time at all, your odor-free dresser will be ready to join your household.

  1. Check the construction of the dresser so you know whether the drawers are solid wood, particleboard or medium-density fiberboard. Avoid too much moisture with all wood, but particularly particleboard and MDF.

  2. Put on rubber gloves to protect your hands from any mold or mildew. Dressers stored in cellars and garages may have uninvited guests. Check for tiny insects and spiders living in cracks and crevices inside the dresser cabinet and drawers. If your dresser is brand new, the gloves will help protect you from stray splinters in the drawers.

  3. Clean your drawers thoroughly with a soft brush to remove any visible dust, dirt and cobwebs. Go over the drawers again with a soft, clean dust cloth to remove all debris.

  4. Mix 1/4 cup of borax with 1 quart of hot water. Borax is not caustic so gloves are not necessary. The water should be comfortable to your bare hands, but hotter than lukewarm.

  5. Soak a clean, dry cloth in the borax solution. Wring it out thoroughly so the cloth is damp-dry. Remember, solid wood can handle a bit more moisture than particleboard or MDF but avoid soaking any type of wood drawer.

  6. Wipe the drawers down with the damp cloth. Clean deep into the inside corners of the drawers and clean the outside, back and underside where mold, mildew and insects can hide. Repeat soaking, wringing out and wiping down the drawers until thoroughly clean.

  7. Set the drawers in a clean place to air dry. Outside is best, but anywhere with a bit of sunlight and plenty of fresh air will work. Leave the drawers for three-to-four hours to thoroughly dry. Do not leave them outside overnight to prevent moisture exposure such as dew or rain.

  8. Apply furniture polish to a clean, dry dust cloth and go over every inch of the drawers, both inside and out. Spray or liquid furniture polish is beneficial to porous hardwood and softwood drawers since it restores moisture after a thorough cleaning. Avoid treating drawers that will store clothing and linens.

  9. Let the furniture polish dry thoroughly and your drawers will be fresh, clean and ready to use.

  10. Warning

    To prevent damage and staining to fabrics, skin irritation or an allergic reaction, do not use commercial oil-based furniture polishes, natural lemon or citrus oils or fragrant oils on drawers that will store clothing or linens. Carefully read the warnings and cautions on any furniture polish or cleaning product.


    Clean the dresser cabinet as well as the drawers as thoroughly as you can to eliminate all sources of the odor.