Musty-smelling Furniture

From TNH Reader DWBrentsmom:

I have a couch and loveseat that has been stored in a building for a few years and they smell musky and just plain stink! How can I clean them to make them smell fresh and clean?


radonc's picture

I have inherited a sofa from a lady who was a chronic smoker. The sofa is lovely but the smell is terrible! I have kept it outside for almost a year now trying to air it out but the smell won't go away. Help! Is there a way to deep clean the sofa to get rid of the las vegas hotel room smell out of this piece of furniture. Thanks.

Jessi Ann's picture

The very best thing is straight vinegar (NOT diluted with water), sprayed onto to the carpet, fabric, etc. I have tried it and it works and there is not even a trace of the odour, even on hot humid days. Be sure to spray both sides if possible, repeat a few times, if necessary, but it definately does work.

Jessi Ann

sanderson's picture

Good Afternoon,
I wanted to comment on the mildew smell in the couch. I have read all of the comments but I do want each you know that by using Fabreeze you are just covering up the smell for a short time and caking up the pores in the material. Using Baking soda actually clogs the pores up in the material causing it actually mold and causing even a bigger problem. Steam cleaner, think about this. When you add water to dirt, what happens? (Steam is actually water mist) You create mud. Again your cloging the pores of the material. Not letting the material breathe will diffently cause more problems then its worse. Not to mention the health problems that can happen from breathing in mold and mildew. Air bourne sickness is what its called. I have done lots of research on this and the only thing that helps get rid of mildew, mold and air bourne sickness is purification. Yes, this is true. Air purifers is the answer. Now there is a lot of gimmicks out there and I have put each to the test. Adding sprays and fragances will cause health problems. A hidden agenda for those advertisers that don't seem to mention it. Now air purifers is tricky never purchase one with a filter. Carbonized screens, yes but no filter. I do have lots of information on this so if your interested I will send you more or direct you to a website. Let me know.
Yours truly,

T-Mom's picture

I hate to admit that I don't have home remedy but Fabreze as an initial step to kill the odor works extreeeemly well. Just be sure to use the formula specifically for furniture - I'm always afraid of staining so I still test in a hidden area, but I've never had a problem -

beth322's picture

hi everyone!
i've read other posts and i don't think any of them apply. I just recieved a sofa and love seat set, and left them outside overnight unfortunately in rained (which wasn't in the forcast) so we brought them in in the morning just to get them from outside. Now two days later and hours of blow drying parts are still wet and the smell of mildew is outragous. any suggestions would be great! Thank you in advance!

Rachel's picture

I just picked up a used couch and chair from a friend. They are in great structural shape, but are used and the cushions feel and look generally dirty. I don't want to use a bunch of perfumes or chemicals, but would like to clean them well for good use in my house. I was thinking about the steam cleaning, but read some of the comments above and am concerned about possible mold issues due to severe allergies. I have several air cleaners and love them for stuff in the air, but this is the furniture itself that feels dirty. Any suggestions? Thank you!

Lynn's picture

From: Jennmommy4

try renting one of those steam cleaners from the grocery store or usually uhaul has them and also small machine rentals or even walmart may have them.Hot water and some oxi clean followed by a few spays of febreeze or any fabirc refresher you life should make them smell great and look great.I just did this with my sofa and chair and had great results.Make sure you get the attachments sometimes the cost extra but the price aorund here is $22 wich is a bargain compared to paying a service to do this cleaning for you.

From: sully7

Use the steam cleaner like suggested above and then for the deodorizer try this: mix 1 quart water and 2 teaspoons of tea tree oil in a spray bottle and spray the couch like you would with Febreeze. It will smell strong! But when the tea tree oil smell goes away the musty smell will be much less, too. You may have to repeat this a couple of times, but it will work. You can get tea tree oil at a health food store. I use this weekly on a couch that sits on my screen porch in Florida and it works great!

Scott S's picture

I am a firefighter and found an antique dress form in a burned out building. I took it home and it smelled badly of smoke as you can imagine. Somebody suggested a mixture of water and ammonia in a spray bottle. I sprayed it down once each day for several days then let it air dry. It worked great. This antique smells clean and new - not even a smell of ammonia. Sorry, but I don't remember what ratio I mixed it at.

harborflower's picture

Some weeks ago {almost a month now} our cat drug in a bird and it somehow got away. we assumed it flew outside. We noticed this putrid smell radiating around our living room and mostly in between our sectional where the ends meet along with the deceased bird. we have sprayed it with febreze and lysol as well as steam clean it...nothing is getting this smell out of the base of our us....what to do...
Down and out

Jan Ireland's picture

I start with a thorough vacuuming and cleaning.
I do use a professional because I don't want my vacuum to be full of the spell and source of odor.

Here is my story of how I discovered the most incredible odor remover that works by breaking the chemical & molecular bonds of odor.

I moved into a house that had all wood floors
EXCEPT for the kitchen. While moving in the neighbors cat crawled in a window and sprayed the carpet in the kitchen and down a heat vent. It was extremely hot and only the Dakotas can do. Carpet cleaners could not come for 3 days and we were literally sick by the odor.

I purchased spray bottle of Natural Magic Odor Blaster. NON SCENTED as the citrus scented did not work as well. I sprayed the area and down the vent. (I've been told cats have figured out if they spray a vent their scent will fill the house...not that they understand it....but they understand it will work) Anyway, I sprayed it and the smell vanished!! Completely!!! Immediately!!! 3 days later the carpet cleaners came, cleaned, and there was a remnant of the smell. I sprayed it again and never smelled the source. I use it in the laundrey, with old fishing stuff etc. If I could I would buy stock in the company. It can be difficult to find.
I've found it in small hardware stores...not the big ones. But I believe it is on line and you could get your store to order it. Don't use the citrus. I have a couch from the sixties that has a tone on tone Egyptian scene taken from a tomb painting. It smelled awful when I purchased it before they knocked down the abandoned house. I used the above procedure and everything is fine. I have a minor in Egyptology and just could not resist this couch.

Hope this helps. OH!!!! If a child wets the bed, you can use salt to lift the liquid or blot with pampers etc. Then pour hydrogen peroxide liberally. It didn't change the color of my mattress (it could yours) but completely broke down the urine by oxidization.


SUSIE TAYLOR's picture


MegLogan's picture

I recommend trying a baking soda paste. Mix a bunch of baking soda with a small amount of water to form a thick paste, cover the area where the bird was with the paste, let dry. the past should begin to absorb the stink. after this is dry you can vacuum it off or sweep it off... you may have to try this two or three times. but i have used this with the smell of blood (long story about an accident) pants. Another way would be to make a very thick paste out of corn starch, spread on the area, let dry (this will take hours) then vacuum it up.... i think that the corn startch is harder to get off the area afterwards, you may have to steam clean it again after that.... (the stuff is like cement)... good luck to you

Guest's picture

I read your comment which is a few years old but would still like info about the best air purifier to buy.
thanks so much

Anne Marie Kavanagh's picture


I have an old piano. I have it stored in my front porch. I have to keep the door closed to keep the smell from spreading to the rest of the house. i do not want to get rid of it, because we bought it for our daughter when she was young for piano lessons and I promised it to her when she gets her own home. I want to decorate my inside front hall but cannot because of the smell from the piano. If I can get rid of the smell I can move it to another room. Your help and any other info. would be greatly apprecitated.

Thanks so much,
Anne Marie K.

Kathy Parker's picture

Please send me info about air purifiers.

Jessi's picture

Where can I find more information on using an air purification to best get rid of the actual mildew and musty smell, and not just cover up or clog the pores as you mentioned?

Guest's picture

hello thank for your information i need more on this subject or a website
thank you

joann's picture

my new couch and loveseat was stored for 19 months in a new building that was not well ventilated and now has mildew oders and you can actually see the mildew on some furniture pieces as well.i have tried fabreeze ,vinegar[white] bake soda ,lysol sprays,and just plain ole hot water and dawn soap liquid,,,washed it and now i am at my wits end .i found a product at home depot that you can hang in your areas that can control mold and mildew but once its on your furniture forget it.about all you can do is call the steam cleaning truck out and let them do the work then if that doesnt help well throw it out ..dont make yourself sick just to keep something that isnt any good any more...i even put baking soda in the dresser drawers but the oders still there.i could sure use some info too.. thank you .joann

Sandy Detweiler's picture

I was told about the frabreze and the other things mentioned. Also I was told cedar chip under cushions works.

I wassnot told what your remedy is.

Please tell me more.



Guest's picture

I would like more information about air purifiers. We have a den in the basement and I can't get the mildew smell out and I don't want to just cover it up!

Connie Bachman's picture

I am writing for our son's family. They had all their furniture stored in a storage unit for 1-1/2 years. Now when they got out their mattresses and box springs they find them molded, musky. What can they do to avoid just buying new????

Will spraying a bleach/water mixture on them sovle the problem??

Need a reply ASAP

thank you,

Connie P.'s picture

please send more info or website you mentioned in a previous section. I have musty (but otherwise great condition)fabric couch & loveseat that are stinking up the basement (that did not previously stink) We have 2 Living Air purifiers that haven't been used for approx. 4-5 years but are not working currently. Is this the type of purifier you mean? and what other kind/brand if we can't get these back up and running?
Thank you!


Guest:  Ed's picture

Please let me know your suggestions - I recently sold a mountain vacation home and have brought all of the furniture home and stored it in my garage. I had purchased all of the furniture new in 2006. When it was in the vacatopm home there was no smell, but, now that it is not in that enviroment it smells!!!
A Friend recommended that I use a dehumidifier to extract the smell. Will you please share your thoughts and ideas!


Guest's picture

Could you send me your informtion i am getting desperate the couch in my motorhome got damp and now smell terrible any help is greatly appreciated.


rms1967's picture

Yes please help I would like any info you have on getting rid of mildew and mold smell. I was away for 2 years and my home sat empty with all my belongings in it. I would like to start with clothes and leather furniture.

nancy m a alex's picture

do you have suggestion for a particular brand and or model of air purifer? I hae a big problem with odor form old boxes and old papers that were stored in a guest bedroom. thank you!

linda Barker's picture

Daughter purchased an upholstered chair at a yard sale and it is very musty smelling.What do you suggest?..Thanks

Guest's picture

Due to the MILLIONS of little holes throughout the foam cushions, it's impossible to remove EVERY particle of contaminate--so in my opinion the best way to deodorize AND clean a sofa that has been penetrated with odors is to have the inner cushions replaced. You can do this yourself by buying quality foam at a fabric store. Then have the cushion covers washed by whatever means the manufacturer says (I had one I could launder in the washing machine!). For the rest of the couch, the best you can do is a reputable company that steam or foam cleans with LOTS OF SUCTION. The problem is not getting slightly damp (NOT WET), the problem is if it STAYS damp. I turn up the heat & put a fan on cleaned fabrics. This small bit of padding may hold some odors, but if not deeply penetrated, you have a very good shot at getting it clean. The foam cleans the surface; the benefit of steam is that it penetrates & then can be sucked back out, pulling lots of dirt & junk with it. But cheap suction machines will NOT do it.
For what little may linger, baking soda is helpful, and although it's possible that could grow mold, I've never heard of that before. Baking soda is very alkaline, so I doubt it, but who know? Anyway--the method above would eliminate literally billions of smelly particles, so would have to drastically help. That said, I've never found a cigarette smoke removal process that completely works on padded fabric--only made it lots better. That's why I'd replace all the foam I can. (I will say sometimes the owner gets used to the residual smell & THINKS it's all gone--thus to me, mustiness & smells can be eliminated, but cigarette smoke RUINS furniture.)

Guest's picture

My sister has 3 air purifiers in her house and had brand new furniture and carpet as well. She has 2 dogs and her house smells terrible. The air purifiers work well and are cleaned out biweekly. They have not been able to cure the smell in her house at all.

pen's picture

we have some older pieces of furniture and they do have that musty smell. what air purifiers do you recommend? we have adult children who have allergies who will be visiting.

tyf's picture

the same thing happened to me please let me know how you got rid of the mildew smell. having a baby in a few weeks, dont want him breathing it in. the couch is like brand new!!!

Guest's picture

I would love more information - or to be directed to websites - re: air purifiers. I have been fighting with a mold/mildew odour in our Florida vacation home. We have had it professionally cleaned, HEPA filters for days running non-stop, a guarantee that the mold is gone, but it still smells! I keep washing, and rewashing fabrics, but I think it is in the furniture and I don't want to replace $20,000 worth of beds and sofas. Maybe your air purifer is the right idea!

dolphin's picture

I would really love the information and websites on purifying air. I live in the woods in the east and my whole house smells mildewy. It's better when the heat is on but most of the year it is really wet. I have had a chronic cough for years and get out of breath (can't afford health insurance). Do you know anything about WAVE? I just found a website and this system claims to be better than dehumidifying and cheaper to run. I am pretty sure my house keeps me feeling sick and wheezing and coughing and out of breath.

Fran's picture

It sounds like you may have asthma and living in an environment such as yours is not safe for your health and could even prove dangerous.

Please contact your power company and see if they can tell you where you might sign up for free weatherization. It's totally paid for by the government for low income people and perhaps you qualify and they could take care of this problem. This is for homeowners or renters.

Harry's picture

Febreeze has it's own odor, and with someone with chemical sensitivies, and bother them for days if not weeks. Not a great solution for the problem for sure. The odor of Febreeze is just down right awful.

Bobby Brown's picture

:) Thanks for the comments you have made about cleaning the chouchI have a piano that has a terrible smell where mice have been in it. I have cleaned it out but it still has a terrible smell do you have any suggestions as how to help

Thanks very much

Guest's picture

The air purifiers will help decrease the odor but they will not get rid of the source. Air purifiers clean the air but they also just circulate the air in the room and does not introduce a new source for fresh air. You still have to get rid of the mold and mildew pores on/in the furniture/matress itself.

old princess's picture

I have an Oreck air purifier. Would this be adequate to remove the mildew smell from furniture?

Donna welch's picture

Wanted additional re: mildew in leather

owen gregory 's picture

like reading your ad any more help would be great

Denise Roberts's picture

HI Sheila, I see you have done a lot of research on this and wondered if you have come across any solutions for musty smells in leather. I have purchased a 2nd hand leather chesterfield from an elderly guy and he obviously has had it in a damp room which I didn't realise until after purchasing!!! The smell is killing me each time I sit on it..... thought perhaps you may have some ideas . Thanks . Denise

sandi's picture

can you tell me more about getting the musty/mildewy odor out of a sofa?

Michael Cwikla's picture

My wife and I purchased a table from a young Indian couple moving back to India, and cooking smells like B.O. linger heavily on the table. How do I get smell out of wood??

Guest's picture

I just bought a folding table and chair set (the mainstays set with a metal frame and fake leather on the table top and chairs) from an Indian man and the stink is horrible. I tried everything, bleach water, pure bleach, an entire bottle of Febreze sprayed in intervals for an entire day, baking soda and vinegar and the stink is still there. I finally decided that there was nothing better than fresh air and a little sunshine so it's sitting on the balcony right now and has been out there for a week now. The smell has decreased only a minute bit and I need to use the set now! Any suggestions anyone? Help us out.....PLEASE :-)

Jennifer F's picture

My 15 month old daughter took her diaper off and pooped all over her crib. We wiped it down with bleach and water, then again with just water. The smell will not got away specifically in one spot. Any suggestions?

Guest's picture

You might try a product called OdoBan. I've purchased it at Sam's Club and also at a mom and pop shop that sells cleaning products for cleaning services.

Guest's picture

Mix 2 ounces of vanilla extract (not imitation) in a spray bottle of water to kill odor of both urine and poop - works like a charm. Shake bottle well before spraying. You'll love it and find other uses for it, too, carpet, in car, sofa.

Guest's picture

I have an old bureau that was left in the garage for about a year and smells musty. I brought it upstairs to see if I could get rid of the smell. Is there anything I can use?

Rena's picture

Need some advise on how to remove smell of mildew/mold from Leather Couch. Left outside with a box on the seat. Now the cushion are smelly and just gross.

The smell is horrible - what can i do to remove the odour as well as cleaning the leather.

Guest's picture

Charcoal is used by professionals (activated carbon they call it) both fish tank and swimming pool filters, and your Britta-type pitcher. But it can work in a solid state.

A couple of home examples:
My ex/roommate bought a used dresser and bed from a small mobile home with a LOT of cigarette smoke, after being a Katrina survivor, she needed all sorts of cheap furniture quickly (I also bought her another dresser from Ikea). Anyway...we laid some newspaper down in the drawers so they would get charcoal on them, wadded up some newspaper into balls for extra odor absorption. We also lay the charcoal-covered paper all over the mattress and in bowls under the bed...not tons of 6-10 pieces per drawer..took one big bag.

Circumstances dictated that these were in a room, an enclosed, walled-up with bricks, that used-to-be a sunporch, with lots of windows, in AZ, room...and we closed it in for 3 days...and let it cook...first day it was stinking out...we changed out the newspaper...then it cooked some more right into the briquettes (otherwise room was completely clean and empty aside from these 2 pieces). She was highly allergic and sensitive to several things, and this charcoal briquettes literally pulled the smell out.

Try it. And a dehumidifier is critical in the East part of the US.

Guest's picture

The answer to all of your problems is so simple! They did an entire episode on MythBusters about this, but you can put vodka, yes VODKA! On clothes, couches, whatever, and then leave it out in the sun. The alcohol will evaporate the dampness quickly and kill mildew! This also works on getting out smoker smell. I've done this myself on a mildewed couch and it worked almost instantly.

Guest's picture

Does it leave a vodka odor behind??

dananfitz's picture

My mother-in-law purchased a new box springs & mattress, but then passed away about a month later. Her new bedding had been in storage for a couple of months, till we decided to use it. When we got it home, it smelled really musty. We have tried everything we know to correct the problem, but no luck. We tried putting it out in the sun for a few hours, spraying it with Lysol, rubbing dryer sheets all over it, but the smell is still deep in the mattress. It is a shame to get rid of a brand new bed....any answers??

Guest's picture

I just purchased a cherry wood hall tree. I went away for a week and when I returned home I noticed a smell coming from my just purchased wood hall tree. It smells like mildew. Ive tried Murphys oil soap and pledge it hasnt helped. If anyone has any ideas on how to get the smell out it would be appreciated.

Brandon 's picture

My kids wet my furniture at night wen they sleep I need to get the Snell out but Its in the padding
That is in the cushions. I need help

Guest's picture

You can go to a major fabric store & buy new cushions to insert into your zip-off cushion covers. In other words, zip off the covers & wash them (dry clean if so indicated). Completely REPLACE everything else (the inside).

Guest's picture

I would love to hear your advise on the following

We bought two new leather sofas at a department store. They were on sale for a very good price. When the sofas arrived home we immediately felt a terrible odor and we thought the odor was from the material they were packed but it was not so. The sofas stink. We went to the store to file a complain and they told us that the sofas were on sale because they probably got wet during the import to our country . The odor is not so bad today as it was 7 days ago. They smell like a wet dog. After many visits to the store, they told us they will return the money to us or sell us another sofas which did not got wet but cost four times what we paid for the bad odor sofas. Our question is if there is any possibility that the bad odor goes away to keep the sofas or if we should definetely take the money and forget about or beautiful bad smelling sofas? Thanks a lot for your adivse.

Guest's picture

Interesting they said "probably got wet." If they had marked them down, that means they KNEW they got wet & they should have disclosed the damage at the time of the sale.
Mold is a living organism. If you smell it, the mold is growing in your sofas. I would get rid of them immediately, as they are not only a potentially very serious health hazard, but you have been dealt with less than honestly by the furniture people. I wouldn't buy the new ones at 4x the price, either--I'd go deal with someone ethical.
I wish you the best--no mere item is worth your family's well-being.
M, suffering from mold infection in lungs

Sharon Whitlock's picture

How do you get strong smoke smell out of a fabric recliner. Tried Febreaze, carpet cleaner and baking soda. Still has smell.

Guest's picture

Help! A bird got inside of my house and pooped on my white couch and chair. Any suggestions as to how to successfully clean this mess?

Guest's picture

I bought a used lincoln town car that carried children in the back seat for years. The rear carpet was gross. I think they threw up back there.I thoroughly shampooed it with laundry detergent twice and vacuumed the solution out. It soured before drying even outside in summer. I tried my mothers odo-ban from sams to shampoo it. That stuff is amazing,seems to stop growth that causes the fowl smell. I paint cars and now I am not afraid to shampoo any car or truck carpet for fear of it smelling afterward. It also killed mildew I found growing on the arms of a fabric covered recliner.

Guest's picture

This is one of those awful web pages with hundreds of people asking the question and no-one with an answer

Guest's picture

Hi i bought a 1920's lounge suite and it has a awful musty old which travelled throughout the whole house. How can i get rid of the smell without damaging the fabric?

Guest's picture

You people are all lucky. You have positively identified the source of the musty, smokey, stinky, etc... smell. Unless it's just a washcloth or a towel that you can throw in the washer, the simple cure is to just throw the item out. Get rid of it. You'll never be able to get the smell completely out of a carpet or upholstered furniture. Even if you get the item to smell somewhat better, the smell will always linger. Sure, you'll be out some money, hundreds, maybe thousands, but you'll never get the smell out of your house completely until you throw the item(s) away. The longer you wait, the more items in your house will start to pick up this smell, including all your rugs, drapes, and upholstered furniture, and much worse - your clothes, and then you will smell musty to others without realizing it when you wear these clothes.

Guest's picture

You apparently are a sad product of this throw away society and if I had to guess you would also never consider recycling a single item. Furniture especially old furniture are sometimes beautiful pieces and the craftmanship that made it sometimes no longer exist I do believe you can refinish anything sure it may take money to do so but your suggestion to just throw it away is an insult to the people that have post on this website that apparently care for their items or maybe don't have the "hundreds, maybe thousands" you speak of to just throw it away and buy new!

Guest's picture

The very best way to get odors out of clothes is to put ammonia in with the wash - even mildew odors.

Best way to clean a dirty floor, walls, anything is to use ammonia. The odor of ammonia quickly dissipates. It eats dirt.
I have a painted porch floor which is hard tto clean, but with a little ammonia and water, the dirt just disappears.

It works on musty furniture too. I found an old blanket chest that smelled awful from moth balls - I washed it out with ammonia and water & took the moth ball odor away.

Works great on cloth furniture - really removes the dirt - much better than any upholstry cleaner.

Great for getting smoke smell out of cars - just wash the carpet,
ceiling, seats and everything, it the smell goes away. Also, great for getting dirt out of car carpet.

A gallon of ammonia at Walgreens cost about $1.99. Try it! You'll like it!

beccasa6's picture

I just moved to a condo on the beach that was closed up for a few months with no air conditioning running. The whole place smells musty and kind of a sour urine smell. I thought there had been an animal in here until I noticed the smell in other units in the building. The bathroom tile w/gout especially smells of the sour smell. How much ammonia should I mix with water to clean this place? Also, wouldn't ammonia change the color of fabric somewhat like bleach?

Guest's picture

just purchased a used mattress and box springs, but they smell terribly of cigarette smoke

Ambreen's picture

I had my entire wardrobe including suites, dresses, coats etc in the storage room that wasn't climate controlled for over 3 years. It just got delivered to my apartment and the clothes look great but have a strong odor which I cannot wash out. I've used Febreeze, but after a day, it stinks just as bad. I really dont want to loose so many clothes and cant afford to dry clean all of them. If anyone has a solution, please help!

Susan Goodwell's picture

I have found lemon oil to be the most effective solution in treating difficult odors found within the wooden furniture. This compound also works wondering in cutting through smoke aromas that have built up within the aged furniture.

To apply, simple dampen a rag with the lemon oil and then wipe down the affected piece of furniture. Once completed, allow a few hours for it to work its magic. You can also use some of the other solutions found within this guide for removing musty odors from wood furniture:

Lemon oil really does work like a charm.

Guest's picture

I have a old down couch, it is
about 50 years old. It was my mother's. I'm moving and just trying to justify giving it up. Is Goose Down bad for you after that many years?

Frank Closert's picture

When we shifted home some furniture was kept unused for a while and now they smell really weird. I was searching for a solution for the same and landed up here. Got some tips from here for that. Keep updating.

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