15 answers

Stinky, Musky Smell Inside Unfinished Cabinets

Our home is older and has cabinets that are unfinished inside. The wood gives off a "musky-old" smell. Every time I open those cabinet doors, I have to brace myself for the smell. Our sheets and towels reek of it, too. Potpourri, drawer sachets, air fresheners, etc. haven't seemed to work, because combined with the musky smell, it becomes worse. What can I do to get rid of this awful smell?

2 moms found this helpful

What can I do next?

More Answers

baking soda and lavendar petals

2 moms found this helpful

Once you have ruled out a moisture issue behind the wall (If you don't and there is moist damage, anything you do would be like putting a bandaid on a deep gash.)

There is a product, KillZ that covers and seals. It stinks terrible, but it really works and the smell eventually goes away. Then you can paint the inside of the closet.


1 mom found this helpful

Dear J.,
You have received some great advice. But I didn't see anyone mention this...
Charcoal briquettes.
I know it sounds crazy, but they actually soak in moisture and odors.
Place several in a pie tin or plastic cottage cheese container and put them on a shelf in the cupboards. Change them every two weeks or so, depending. I put them in closets and damp areas and they really work.
Instead of throwing them away afterwards, you can put them in a brown grocery bag and store them in the garage. When summer comes, they can be re-used if you go camping or have a fire pit. You don't have to cook marshmallows on them, but they make great coals for starting your fire or keeping it going.

1 mom found this helpful

I also rent an older home and Damp Rid has worked well in our closets. I am able to purchase it at Target by the cleaning supplies.

1 mom found this helpful

Damp Rid. I live in an older apartment 1/2 mile from the ocean. I have a container in my under-the-sink cupboards, under my bed, and hanging in linen closet and clothes closet. Comes in either hanging or free-standing containers. Available at Ace Hardware & Bed Bath and Beyond--and elsewhere, I'm sure. Works like a charm. The top of the container contains crystals they absorb moisture that is collected in the bottom section. When the crystals are all gone, empty the bottom & refill the top. Works like a charm. Just don't spill the liquid, or put one where it might be knocked over! The liquid is very hard to clean up--voice of experience speaking :)

1 mom found this helpful

Hi J.,
Try cat litter box crystals. I've used them for getting out lots of bad smells. The cabinets might have something in the wood. You can make a sachet ball of the crystals with an old sock and leave the cabinets open. I know it sounds kind of weird, but I've been in your predicament with different house smells...and it really works! Good luck & let me know how it goes.
J. A.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi! My husband insisted on using his old 70s bureau in our boys room, and it was smelly. I was pregnant and nesting and NOTHING could get rid of the smell. My mom came over and put dryer sheets under and behind all the drawers. It took a few days, but it worked! My youngest turns 2 this week!
Good Luck,

1 mom found this helpful

Hi! We also live in an older house...moisture can be a problem. The first thing I would do is hire someone (inspector? carpenter? not sure...) to come take a closer look at it, because with an ongoing smell there is inevitably a deeper problem of moisture getting in to your house there that has to be addressed and fixed. Because if you just cover over the problem it's not going to fix it. You might have to replace the shelving if it has rotted. Ask the professional that comes, but, you may also cover them with shelving liner.
Another possible 'quick fix' is getting a dehumidifyer and running it next to the cabinets with the door open. I think they run around $100-200, are big & heavy, but they work. They basically draw the moisture out of the room. I think you need to run it first with the cupboards empty, though. We have one in our guest room downstairs and it does the trick.

I would hire someone to seal and finish the inside of the cabinets.

a samll dish with cotton balls soaked with camphor

Finish your cabinets. You can paint them in any condition with this paint called "Kilz" and it takes care of any moisture or mildew.

I think that cabinets are rarely finished inside. I had this problem when I lived in San Francisco and lived in a converted garage apartment with poor air circulation. The kitchen cupboards were particle board and they stank. I believed it was due to the moisture in the apartment and the particle board cabinets. Particle Board is various bits of wood or saw dust mix with glue to form a board (I think). I was so bad I kept my glasses out of the cupboard. I ended up moving out so I never solved the problem. The suggestion regarding charcoal sounded good. Good-luck!

I would try cleaning out the cabinets with a nontoxic cleaner, then replacing shelves with cedar boards that you can buy at any hardware store. Cedar is a natural way to freshen your closets or cabinets and it also provides against moths. You might also try cedar chips in bags as well and just place all over. Be very careful of any brand air fresheners as they contain toxic ingredients and are harmful to your health.

If replacing the shelves with cedar boards isn't an option, they also make cedar liners that you can align up together on top of a shelf. That works nicely and I've actually done that in my closets. Just remember to keep it to nontoxic solutions to rid the smell. Most air fresheners, most name brand cleaners contain toxic ingredients. You don't want to be inhaling those!

good luck!
Linne S

I taped with masking tape (clear kind) the costco brand dryer sheets inside the door & around the walls inside of my cabinets that had a smell & now they just smell dryer fresh. Also use regular drawer liners to make sure what you have in there is not resting directly on the wood.

Cedar balls. Not quite sure where to get them...maybe OSH or Target.

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