If you buy vintage furniture, chances are you are going to run across one that just reeks of smoke. it wasn’t too long ago when it seemed like EVERYONE smoked. I know I grew up in a smoking household. The hard part is that now a lot of great MidCentury Modern and vintage furniture still have that lingering odor. In fact, I just bought a cute little MCM dresser on FB marketplace, and it was awful. I ended up Googling what the best way was, and it finally took trying several things before I stumbled upon the magic combo of the best way to get smoky smells off of wood furniture and thought I should share my experience with you. This piece of furniture wasn’t a family heirloom or a precious antique. If you have something like that, you may want to consult a furniture refinishing professional or even a fire and water reclamation company. before tacking it so it doesn’t get ruined. They deal with smoky smells in furniture all of the time. If worse came to worse, I was just going to clean and paint it to seal any odor in, but I wanted to enjoy the wood on this piece.
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To get rid of the smoky furniture smell, the first thing I tried was repeatedly wiping it with vinegar. While this minimized it, it really wasn’t much better (The inside of the dresser drawers didn’t have any smoky odor at all, but if they did I would have scrubbed them and then when they dried let either dry baking soda or coffee grounds sit in them.).
What I did find was all of the nicotine that was coming up but not easily, so I Googled it again and decided I had to get all of that yucky yellowness off. FYI, nicotine can be absorbed through the skin, so I would recommend wearing gloves.
I then resorted to using Dawn dish soap and elbow grease. The amount of grossness that came off was crazy. Many people have also told me they’ve used Murphy’s Oil Soap with success as well, but to be honest, I don’t like the smell of that either, so it was going to be a last resort for me. The biggest thing is you have to get rid of the source of the odor first before you can do any other deodorization.
I had to scrub it a total of 3 water changes. I finally got to the point where I could let it dry and then see the areas I missed and attack them again. For instance in the bottom picture below, you can see where there are still a few “yellow” spots.
I finally got to a point where the smell was really minimal. I then sprayed with vinegar a few more times and wiped it down and the smell was gone.
Once the dresser dried, I applied a coat of matte polyurethane to seal and protect it. Just to give you an idea of the difference, here is a before and after.
How about that for how much nicotine staining was on there!? No wonder it smelled smoky. Blech.
I can’t wait to share it with you in our living room. The wood is gorgeous on it, and it really updates the room!