Stinky Dresser!

Article - December 20, 2007

This week’s second question comes from Melanie. She writes:

My Father in Law made a gorgeous dresser for our son…problem is when we use it, the clothes smell like finish and then so does our baby. We’ve aired it out numerous times and it also aired in his shop before it came over. I’ve tried a couple of odor discs and sachets, but the smell comes back. I’m afraid to try anything stronger for fear of adding/combining the smell. FIL and my grandfather (who also does wood items) are both stumped. What can I use to safely conquer the smell and use the dresser?!

Hey Melanie. This is actually a very common problem. As oil cures, it maintains an odor. Fortunately this odor dissipates over time. But on the inside of a piece of furniture, where very little air exchange takes place, the oil can produce an odor for many many years. So what can you do? The first option, which I’m sure is not feasible, would be to let the unit air out for a very long time. The second option would be to coat the interior with a new finish that doesn’t produce an odor. There are two finishes that are perfect for this: shellac and water-based polyurethane. One or two coats on the interior should do the trick. This material will lock in the oil odor while producing no smell of its own. Your FIL or Grandfather should be able to help you apply either material. So as an FYI for your woodworking relatives, its a good rule of thumb to leave the interior of casework (especially those intended for clothing or blankets) unfinished, or finished with a few coats of shellac or water based polyurethane. That should take care of it.


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