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Furniture Refresher

Martha Stewart Living, February 2002

To remove musty smells from old furniture, fill plastic containers with white vinegar; seal, and punch holes in lids. Put one inside each drawer or cabinet overnight to absorb odors. For extreme cases, clean interiors with a vinegar-dampened cloth.

Comments (38)

  • magicis 23 Nov, 2014

    I know this is off topic a bit, appliances instead of furniture, but we just bought a house and so have a new stove, dishwasher and fridge.....the stove and dishwasher give off noxious fumes when in use and i wonder just what these fumes are. i know there are threads about what plastics we can put in the dishwasher, but what about the plastics and elements these appliances are made with. is the insulation or inside materials giving off VOCs or other harmful gasses? they certainly make me sick!

  • harvard44 22 Mar, 2010

    Vinegar is a great natural cleaner. I use it to wash windows and glass, to replace fabric softener in the washing machine [your laundry will only smell like a deli while it's wet], to clean toilet bowls, to set bright colors on new clothes [1/2 cup of white vinegar in gallon of water and let item soak for several hours].

  • Blakester 22 Mar, 2010

    That should read N.W. not N. WI. Sorry.

  • Blakester 22 Mar, 2010

    Cathylewis, there is a book titled The Vinegar Book produced by Tresco Publishers 718-12th Streedt N. Wl Canton Ohio 44703. This is written by Emily Thacker. Hope this helps.

  • jimathome09 21 Mar, 2010

    I have reduced the number of cleaning products in my house by over 50% since I discovered the wonders of vinegar as a household cleaner.

  • iedesign 21 Mar, 2010

    Here is a useful website about the uses of vinegar called

  • cathylewis 21 Mar, 2010

    Very good tip. Vinegar is so useful. Has anyone ever written a books with all the uses for vinegar?
    Do you think I could add an essential oil, such as pine or almond oil to the mix to give a nicer smell??

  • meeknmild 21 Mar, 2010

    I bought an old dresser- it smelled really bad, plus the wood was so dry. I took out all of the drawers, and "painted" the inside of the dresser with boiled linseed oil- the the outside of the drawers got the same thing- it smells new, and the old wood thanked me, it is no longer brittle-

  • FellaNation 21 Mar, 2010

    I add a little of lavender to it, so the smell is not so unpleasant

  • loroberts27 21 Mar, 2010

    my grandmother used white vinegar and mineral oil religously as a furniture polish to clean, deordorize and polish. I too have continued her tradition on her beautiful heirloom pieces!

  • jeannemara 21 Mar, 2010

    Oh, and I don't use plastic bowls, I use glass ones. Even in a drawer. You just have to make sure you don't fill it too full and carefully close the drawer and carefully open it.

  • jeannemara 21 Mar, 2010

    You can also set small bowls of vinegar around the room if your dog happens to think the rug is her special urinating area...I also first use a rug cleaner and then spray the vinegar on the rug (with paper towels under the rug so the floor does not get wet) and let it dry.

  • whiskygrl 21 Mar, 2010

    THANK YOU, I have an old wash stand that has been musty for years so we never put anything in it now it is a beautiful place to store all kinds of things, now i just have to figure out just what i want to store in it.

  • grannyj3 21 Mar, 2010

    Creative ideas from readers! How sad to lose 200# of salmon! And to the lady who set fire to the cement porch problem - how on earth did you come up with THAT idea? Wonder if it would work on other stains on a concrete garage floor - hmmm.

  • auntlizzie 16 Mar, 2009

    Your ideas are brilliant! Thanks for sharing these ideas. Someone unplugged mine and it is solid mold. I dreaded cleaning it but these tips will clean it up nicely.

  • NINIPAT 9 Mar, 2009

    I had an old freezer that broke, and I was unable to get anyone to take it out of my home for a long time. Everything was out of it but it still had enough moisture left in it that the entire inside mildewed, talk about gross. I didn't know what to do so I took a plastic bowl put about a cup of bleach in it and placed it in the freezer. Within a few days all of the mold was gone and it just smelled like bleach.

  • pattieshair 9 Mar, 2009

    A client of mine that owns a moving company told me this one, after my young son turned off my freezer with 200 lbs of salmon inside! Take a small bag of charcoal, put it in the fridge/freezer, and cut the bag open from top to bottom. Leave in for one week, remove and do again if still musty. To keep the fridge/freezer fresh all the time, take a knee sock and put charcoal inside and tie a knot in the top. Place in the fridge this is good for a month.

  • macgrift 9 Mar, 2009

    Does this work on musty refrigerators that have been closed up for awhile? We've tried many applications of a baking soda solution, but the odor remains.

  • SandySpearsRobinson 9 Mar, 2009

    KathMeg--You do need details on this project since there are few of the original trunks left. You will not find a lot of good instruction on saving them from further deteriioration. I inherited 2 that moved my grandmother of 4 generations thru the mtns from VA port to TN. Glad to share info I got from professionals at

  • SandySpearsRobinson 9 Mar, 2009

    KathMeg--You do need details on this project since there are few of the original trunks left. You will not find a lot of good instruction on saving them from further deteriioration. I inherited 2 that moved my grandmother of 4 generations thru the mtns from VA port to TN. Glad to share info I got from professionals at

  • thegoodfaery 8 Mar, 2009

    My sweet kitty missed her litter box, a few times, (which is out on my front porch (cement)....and it was pretty smelly. What I did, was to soak it with isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, and then, I set a match to it. (with an extinguisher right in my hands, to prevent an uncontrollable fire). This is the first time that I was ever able to completely eliminate a cat urine odor.

  • shaz5980 8 Mar, 2009

    I have always used vanailla essence in my fridge after cleaning and used baking soda to remove odours but never knew how to do it with my furniture. This is the greatest tip yet.

  • kitchenwhich 8 Mar, 2009

    To the person who wanted to know about getting rid of cat smells: I use a mix of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alchol, diluted with some water. It works about as well as nature's Miracle, and is MUCH cheaper!

  • Katharine155 8 Mar, 2009

    To Roka: For Cat odors try vinegar or an enzyme based cleaner. Rug Doctor has one that I squirt full strength on cat urine, Keep it moist while it works then rinse clean. I keep a spray bottle of vinegar and water (50/50 mix) handy for quick clean-ups. Great for cleaning all over the house.

  • jellylava 8 Mar, 2009

    Hi Perrenialgrower, I sprinkle ground cinnamon between the pages of old books I want to keep. I also sprinkle it behind bookshelves in a room where mold has appeared in the past on an exterior wall of this apartment. If you have anything you can wash, a few drops of cinnamon essential oil helps control mildew. The scent is quite pleasant too.

  • roka 8 Mar, 2009

    How about pet odors????????? What works for cats??

  • Perennialgrower 8 Mar, 2009

    Jurziegirl, could you give a little more detail for books? I inherited some turn of the century homekeeping, entertaining and cook books, but hey are so musty, I can't use without stuffing up. Any help would be appreciated.

  • ocrents 8 Mar, 2009

    Baking soda, maybe sprinkle some essential oil on baking soda, wait a few days for the oil to dry and be absorbed, sprinkle on and vacuum off. Try watching How Clean is Your House on BBCAmerica, Kim and Aggie have great natural tips. ( :

  • pearlsparkes 8 Mar, 2009

    What to do about plush furniture? Couches, chairs etc.
    I know vacuuming, but anything else?

  • jurziegurl48 8 Mar, 2009

    old encyclopedias, white vinegar and water solution, sunny, dry new books. See if this gets

  • jurziegurl48 8 Mar, 2009

    This is not working!

  • jurziegurl48 8 Mar, 2009

    I inherited a vintage 1950 set of Funk

  • jurziegurl48 8 Mar, 2009

    I inherited a vintage 1950 set of Funk

  • KathMeg 8 Mar, 2009

    Romnhom-I'd really like to know how to refurbish and old trunk. Have looked for directions, but have not found any. My trunk has a canvas like covering with wooden slats and the lether needs replacing. I really need details; I'm not a "wing it" person.

  • ivahays 8 Mar, 2009

    So does baking soda not work as well like in the fridge? Vinegar is good for so much. Will try it.

  • boonedesigns 8 Mar, 2009

    Putting container with holes with charcoal inside in the bottom of a diaper pail keeps the odor contained.

  • Neenaw 8 Mar, 2009

    another solution is to set an open container of coffee in the drawer, trunk or even the car. It will get everything, even cigarette odor.

  • romnhom 27 Aug, 2008

    Alternate solution for really REALLY extreme cases, such as musty trunks: Put a few drops of patchouli oil on a cotton ball -- put cotton ball on a small dish or plastic container so it will not harm surface of item you are refreshing. It might take as long as a week, and you may have to add more patchouli oil. It works for the old trunks that I refurbish.