I’m All Alone With My Musty Drawers

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Dear Home Ec 101,
An old roommate of mine borrowed a dresser from me and used it while we lived together. After she gave it back, the drawers had a musty smell that I couldn’t get rid of. If I put any clothes in the drawers, they come out smelling funky and musty too. What should I do??
Funky in Fults

Heather Says:

Would you mind opening a window? Thanks. Now that the air has cleared a little let’s get down to fixing your little problem and get your social life back on track.

Mold and mildew love nothing more than damp and still environments. Pull all of the drawers out of the dresser and give them a good wipe down with denatured alcohol. Typically you can find denatured alcohol at hardware stores, but I have seen it at Walmart in the past. Thanks to the meth dealers, the quantity you can buy is limited, and I wouldn’t purchase Sudafed on the same shopping trip. (Have I ever mentioned how much I hate people who make me feel like a criminal?) Wipe all the interior surfaces with the alcohol to kill any mold or mildew spores. If your drawers are painted, a mild bleach solution may do the trick.

If you don’t live in a swamp, like me, set the drawers and dresser outside in the sun for a few hours to dry thoroughly. Otherwise, leave it disassembled in a dry room (not the basement) for a few days.

Please give it a good sniff. Still funky?

Pick up cedar chips, the same kind used for pet bedding. Fill the drawers part way and shut them tightly. Again, give it a few days.

furniture care guide
Click the picture for more tips!

If your friend raised a powerful stink, you might have to resort to drastic measures. Yes, I’m afraid it’s time to break out the sandpaper and lightly sand all interior surfaces. After sanding, apply a thin coat of varnish to all of the sanded surfaces to seal in any remaining odor.

P.S. If you need help getting the funk out of your pants, we’ve talked about that before.

Send your domestic quandaries to helpme@home-ec101.com.


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2 thoughts on “I’m All Alone With My Musty Drawers”

  1. Cleaning and airing was not enough to get the funk out of a giant armoire I got at an estate sale…and neither was putting a container of baking soda in it or stuffing it with newspaper, which also can absorb odors. The musty, mothball-y smell had been in there so long it had penetrated into the wood. The only way to get it out was to drive it out with something even stronger!

    To the rescue: Method’s fragrance disks, which are extremely strong-smelling in enclosed spaces and feature a very penetrating volatile to release the scent. I bought a bunch of them in the grass scent (which I think they’ve discontinued, but they have a fig scent that is almost as good – beware the lavender scent, it smells like a toilet cake) and put one into each recess and drawer, a total of about six of them. I closed it up and left it sit for a month. The funk is now gone, replaced with a more-pleasant fresh scent. I now keep a disk in there for “maintenance” to keep any lurking funk in hiding.

    BTW, those Method fragrance disks to wonders on de-funking a car, too, because the scent will get into the upholstery and supplant other smells…it even got out a stubborn vomit smell. (Don’t ask; the person responsible paid for a complete cleaning, but the “memory” lingered.) Be aware that Method disks in a car on a hot day will be an eye-watering experience, so you may want to take them out of the car before running your errands. OTOH, leaving them in a car in the hot sun for a day is a sure way to “bomb” that stink but good.

    If you can’t get Method disks, use those filter-scents they sell for attaching to your air conditioner filters – cinnamon scent works best if you can find it, green apple is acceptable. In both cases, be sure to place the disk or scent pad in a cup or on a piece of paper: they can damage some plastics and finishes if they come in direct contact.

  2. I wanted to add that baking soda does have natural properties that will neutralize odors. They now make those stick’ems for the freezer, and I think that would work quite well in drawers as well. Either that or the fridge packs. I have also used water with baking soda in it to wash down things that needed defunking. I’m a closet curbside crawl olympiad, and sometimes you just wish you didn’t bring stuff home. Baking soda worked wonders. I pick up the BIIIIG box at wally world all the time. I’m never without it.


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