How to Get a Smell out of an Old Wooden Trunk

An old wooden trunk that's been stored in an attic or basement for many years may reveal family treasures, or at least memories.

Removing the Source

An old wooden trunk may have mildew or mold growth.
It may also contain odor-causing mildew and mold. The first step in removing any odor from an old trunk is to go through the contents, discarding any ruined items and restoring those items worth saving. Once the trunk is cleaned out, identify and remove the cause of the odor. Once any mold or mildew has been removed, good ventilation and a few common household supplies can take care of lingering odors. .

Mix 8 to 10 tbs. trisodium phosphate with 1 gallon warm water in a bucket.

Dip a sponge or scrubbing brush in the solution and scrub the entire wooden trunk thoroughly to remove any mildew or grime. Don't over wet the wood.

Place the wooden trunk in a well-ventilated place to dry, preferably on a solid surface outside in the sun.

Removing the Odor

Pour 1/4 cup vinegar into a small bowl. Set the bowl in the trunk for several hours to neutralize odors.

Dip a cotton ball in vanilla extract and place the cotton ball in the trunk. As the alcohol in the extract evaporates, it will eliminate the smell.

Spread activated charcoal on a tray and place it in the trunk for several days. Remove the charcoal and discard it.

Things You Will Need

  • Trisodium phosphate
  • Bucket
  • Sponge or scrub brush
  • Vinegar
  • Small bowl
  • Vanilla extract
  • Cotton ball
  • Activated charcoal
  • Tray


  • Mold and mildew thrive in warm, moist conditions. Store the wooden trunk in a dry, cool location and check it periodically.
  • Paint the inside of the trunk with a mildew-resistant paint to minimize future problems.

About the Author

Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."