How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in Chest of Drawers

Musty musty-smelling chest of drawers can be more than just a minor inconvenience.

Wood drawers with a bad odor can translate to musty-smelling clothes and in severe cases, can taint the smell of your bedroom as a whole.

Fortunately, bad-smelling wood drawers are treatable. In this post, you will discover how to get rid of a musty smell in a chest of drawers with four different methods.


To get rid of a musty smell in a chest of drawers, apply a disinfectant solution such as soap and water, or bleach to eliminate mold. For mild odors, let bowls of baking soda sit in the drawers overnight to absorb the odor.

Eliminate any mold or mildew

There are several reasons why your chest of drawers or dresser could smell musty. Smells could be caused by spills inside the drawers, or bacteria transferred by clothing. However, if your wood drawers have a stale and decayed smell, there is a good chance the mold or mildew is to blame.

Mold can form when the wood drawers absorb moisture in the air and there isn’t enough air circulation for the wood to dry out completely. This is a common problem with antiques, in particular.

Inspect the inside and outside of the drawers in your dresser for mold one by one. Pull the drawers out completely and thoroughly look at the inside and outside for steaks of mold. Use a flashlight if necessary and pay close attention to the inner corners.

If you see any mold you will need to treat it. If not, move on to the next solution.

If mold is present, before treating it, be sure to take the proper precautions. Breathing in mold spores is certainly not good for your health. Use an N95 mask, rubber gloves, and goggles when treating mold.

First, vacuum the inside of the drawers to remove any mold spores that may be lingering within the drawers.

Next, clean off the mold with a solution. If the mold isn’t super severe, you can simply use a mixture of dish soap and water. A few drops of dish soap in a cup of water can be all you need to remove the mold. However, if the mold is severe, warm water and bleach are a more powerful solution. Mix two parts of warm water and one part of bleach.

Once you have mixed your solution, dip it in a sponge and wipe down any affected areas until the mold has been removed. If the mold is extremely severe you may need to sand the wood to completely get rid of the mold before applying the solution.

Once finished, leave the drawers outside for a few hours to dry out.

Apply an odor treatment solution

If you have removed the mold from the chest of drawers with cleaning solutions such as bleach or dish soap, these efforts will most likely remove odor from dresser drawers. In this case, your work is practically done.

If there was no mold to be found but the drawers still smell, there are a few solutions you can use to treat them:

  • Water and vinegar: A 1:1 ratio of tap water and white distilled vinegar (available here on Amazon) can be a powerful home remedy to sterilize wood and make dresser drawers smell better.
  • Dish soap and water: A few drops of dish soap in a cup of water can be a highly effective way to make dresser drawers smell better
  • Rubbing alcohol or vodka: Rubbing alcohol is a powerful disinfectant that kills bacteria that cause musty odors. Similarly, you can use vodka to remove odor from wood furniture as well.

There are a few ways you can apply these solutions. You can simply mix these solutions in a bucket, dip in a rag, and wipe down the entire insides of the dresser drawers. Be sure to pull the dresser drawers out before you start this process so that you can easily get every corner and angle of the inside of the drawers.

Alternatively, you may use a spray bottle instead of a rag to apply these solutions.

When finished, take the drawers outside so that they can air out and dry. If you live in an apartment complex, move the drawers to a well-ventilated area where there is little humidity.

It is important to ensure that the drawers are bone dry before putting them back in the chest of drawers to avoid mold growth in the future.

For mild odor: Apply odor-absorbing material

For drawers that only have a mild smell to them, you may not need to necessarily wipe down the drawers with a solution.

Instead, you can place odor-absorbing material inside the drawers. This may come as a relief to anyone that doesn’t want to put in much effort to get their furniture to smell better.

Substances such as baking soda and dryer sheets are great or absorb bad odors.

To apply baking soda, simply fill up a bowl of baking soda for each drawer. Place the bowls in each drawer and close them shut. Leave the furniture this way overnight, and the next morning, remove the bowls of baking soda and give the drawers a sniff.

Alternatively, you can line the inside of the drawer with dryer sheets and let them sit overnight. Dryer sheets will absorb bad smells similar to baking soda.

Primer: A last-resort solution

If you have thoroughly applied any of the solutions above, chances are that you have successfully zapped the bad odor. However, if the drawers still smell bad, you may need to take extra measures.

As a last resort, you can apply primer to the inside of the drawers. The primer will essentially trap bad odors that are emitted from the wood.

Use a painting brush to apply the primer to all surfaces inside each drawer. Once finished, leave the drawers outside to dry.

Final words: Prevent bad smells in the future

Note that mold and mildew are most often why dresser drawers can smell musty. That being said, to prevent bad smells in the future, it’s important to prevent mold growth.

Mold thrives in warm, dark, and humid environments where there isn’t much airflow. Thus, if your chest of drawers or dresser was originally located in an area like this, consider moving it to an area where there is good airflow, low humidity, and sunlight if possible. A dehumidifier can go a long way in helping furniture stay bone dry.

It’s one thing to get rid of the musty smell in a chest of drawers, but it’s another to make dresser drawers smell good. To do so, consider adding air fresheners to each drawer. Not only will this make your drawers smell good but your clothes will smell great as well.



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