How to Get Musty Smell Out of Wood Shelves

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Wood shelves stored in damp areas can develop a musty, mildew smell even if no visible mold or mildew is present. Ridding shelves of the odor is not always easy. You can try bleach on many surfaces as bleach kills mold and mildew and many other odor-causing organisms. Using bleach on wood, however, may cause some fading or drying of the wood. If you do use bleach, you should only use it highly diluted (one part bleach to 10 parts water) and rinse it off the wood afterward. Fortunately, you also have other products to choose from that are as effective for removing the dank, musty smell from your wood shelves.

Things You'll Need

  • Sponges
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Wood cleaner with orange oil
  • Towels
  • Fan

Step 1

Wipe down the shelves with a dry sponge to remove surface dust. Follow with a clean, damp sponge to remove more dust or dirt.

Step 2

Mix 1 part water to 1 part white vinegar in a bowl. Soak up some of this mixture in a sponge, squeezing out the excess and then wipe it over all the shelves. Vinegar has slight antiseptic and antifungal properties and is a natural deodorizer.

Step 3

Rinse the sponge under clean water (or use a new sponge) and wipe this damp sponge over the shelves again.

Step 4

Apply orange-oil wood cleaner (and water, if applicable) to a clean sponge. Dilute the cleaner in water as necessary (the label will indicate if you must do this). Scrub the shelves with the wood cleaner.

Step 5

Wipe the shelves with a dry towel. Turn on a fan in the room and aim it at the shelves to aid drying.

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Tips & Warnings

  • If wood shelves are actually particle board, with some bare, porous surfaces exposed, the must odor will be more difficult to remove. Try exposing these shelves to direct sunlight (a natural mold/mildew inhibitor) outdoors and fresh air for up to a week. Next, spray them down thoroughly with a household disinfectant before bringing the shelves back inside the home.
  • Avoid placing wood furniture in humid areas of the home, such as basements.

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