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#Remove #Odors #Vintage #Goods #WorthPoint

vintage primitive dry sink
Smoke, mold, mildew, and other odors can permeate vintage goods, causing a funky “old” stench.

In the article “5 Tips for Finding Vintage at Thrift Stores,” I advise against buying smelly vintage items because some odors are difficult to remove. However, if the piece speaks to you, there are ways to remove some odors without causing damage. The great news is that all the supplies needed for the job are ones you probably already have on hand.

There are several odor-removing products on the market today, but the products I’ve had the best success with are not store-bought but are common household supplies. The following tried-and-true products worked well for me in removing unpleasant odors. I hope you will try them so they can do the same for you.

It’s important to note that not all vintage goods will respond well to the same products. Some trial and error may be necessary, and certain items may require a combination of supplies to do the trick.


Vintage goods can be damaged by washing them with water. In some cases, saturating the item could cause more of the offensive smell to surface. Before you grab the bucket of sudsy water, try to absorb the odor first.

The following supplies are some of my favorites for absorbing offensive smells:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Kitty litter
  • Baking soda
  • Coffee grounds
  • Cedar chips
  • Newspaper
Arm & Hammer baking soda neutralizing bad odor
Most households have a box of baking soda at the ready. Aside from helping baked goods rise, baking soda has many benefits, including neutralizing bad odors.

For these supplies to work, you need to seal smaller vintage items in a resealable bag or lidded container along with the odor absorber for one day to one week. For larger items, like furniture, you can fill a container with the odor absorber and place it inside a closed drawer or cabinet. If you are concerned a vintage item could be damaged by coming in contact with the odor absorber, place it inside a larger lidded container along with the item so the item can be near it without touching it.

Don’t forget the bacteria-killing power of the sun. If direct sunlight won’t harm your vintage item, air it out in the sun for thirty minutes to twenty-four hours. Fresh air and the sun’s UV rays usually help carry away lingering odors. I once left an early printer’s tray out in the sun for a day, and the musty smell completely disappeared.


If your vintage item can withstand washing, a thorough scrubbing could eliminate any odor. Always test a cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area of the item first to make sure it won’t cause damage. If it is safe to proceed, don’t let the solution sit on the piece too long, and remember to rinse and dry it thoroughly.

Fill a bucket or spray bottle with warm water mixed with one of the following solutions in a 3:1 ratio (3 parts water, 1 part solution):

  • White or apple cider vinegar
  • Dish soap
  • Listerine
  • Vodka
  • Lemon juice
Listerine mouthwash
Listerine kills bad breath but also other odors causing your vintage goods to smell. Try soaking a sponge with it and placing it near your vintage piece to help capture the stink.

Soak a sponge in the diluted solution and scrub the piece with it. Once the entire piece is scrubbed, dump the bucket or spray bottle and fill it with warm water. Using the sponge, rinse off the piece with the water, then dry it completely with a towel. You may need to repeat the process a few times to remove the smell. I once bought an old stoneware jug that was previously used as an ashtray, and it took several washes to get rid of the smoky stench.


If absorbing or eliminating the odor doesn’t remove the stink, try masking it. Even if one of the first two odor-removing methods worked well, this method will add a pleasant scent to your vintage piece, so it’s worth trying.

The following household supplies are some of my favorites for masking offensive smells:

  • Dryer sheets or laundry beads
  • Orange, lemon, or lime peel
  • Essential oils
  • Vanilla extract
essential oils for odor
Essential oils come in a variety of scents. Rub your favorite scent over the entire vintage piece to help mask unwanted smells.

Similar to the method for absorbing the odor, place the dryer sheets, laundry beads, or fruit peels in a resealable bag or lidded container along with the item for one day to one week. For furniture, place the odor-masking product inside a closed drawer or cabinet. If using essential oil or vanilla extract, sprinkle a few drops on a microfiber cloth and rub it over the entire piece. Reapply as needed.


Once you remove the odor, unfortunately, it can surface again. If it does, you could repeat the odor-removing process. However, a better solution is to take preventative steps to stay ahead of the stink.


If you love vintage as much as I do, these methods for removing odor will come in handy. The next time you find a vintage piece that smells smoky, mildewy, or musty, don’t pass up purchasing it. Buy it confidently because you now have an arsenal of tricks to eliminate any unwanted smell.

Karen Weiss is a freelance writer and enjoys decorating her home with vintage finds from her many collections. She also has an Etsy shop called SimplePatinaFinds.

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