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Removing Mothball Odor From a Cedar Chest

The odor of moth balls can so permeate a cedar chest as to make it unusable until you can remove the smell. This is a guide about removing a mothball odor from a cedar chest.

Cedar Chest
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March 8, 2011 Flag
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How can I remove the smell of moth repellent from an old cedar chest? I have tried sanding it down, wiping it with vinegar, setting it out in the sun, wadding up newspaper to absorb the odor and many other things as well. Nothing has diminished the smell. I love the chest, but I don't want anything I place in it to smell like moth balls! Please help. Thanks in advance.

By Laurie from Waldo, ME

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September 8, 20050 found this helpful

How do you remove the scent of mothballs from an old cedar chest?


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March 9, 20110 found this helpful

I would use baking soda, but don't just open the boxes and put those in the chest. I would dump them inside the chest and after a couple of weeks I would vacuum it out. Then you can proceed with sanding if necessary.

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Anonymous Flag
February 2, 20160 found this helpful

I just inherited a lovely cedar chest and put some blankets in it, and in a month, everything reeked of moth balls that had formerly been in the chest. After trying a few web suggestions, one suggestion, spraying Fabreeze in the chest, actually WORKED! A furniture maker also said that heat (space heater or blow dryer) and air movement will help the chemicals in the mothballs dissipate. Haven't tried that yet. So far, the Fabreeze is holding! Can't believe my nose!

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February 22, 2012 Flag
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I have a cedar chest that had mothballs in it for about a year and I am trying to get rid of the smell. Can anyone help me?

By Lucretia D.

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February 24, 20120 found this helpful

That's a shame, best air it out, time will heal, also lightly sand inside of the chest and the cedar will be so renewed. gl

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September 2, 20140 found this helpful

I used a charcoal closet deodorizer I bought at the hardware store. I put it in, and I honestly forgot about it. I don't know how long it took, but it got rid of the odor .

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August 9, 2011 Flag
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How do I get rid of moth ball smell in a blanket chest? It is part cedar and part particle board. I did not want to damage the wood, so I have just been airing out the chest when the weather is nice.

By Donna

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August 10, 20110 found this helpful

Try a bowl of vinegar or coffee beans. The acidity should take care of the smell.

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June 20, 20150 found this helpful

Pour some rubbing alcohol in a pump-type sprayer and mist the interior of the chest wait a minute and do it again, but this time wipe out the interior. Repeat a couple more times and stop for the day since you don't want to oversaturate it and also so you can check your progress in a couple days. If you have a place where you can put it in direct sunlight, place it there to dry. Drying it with a hair dryer works too (the heat helps it dissipate).

In between treatments, place a homemade deodorizer in the chest. Get some cedar chips from the pet store and also some activated charcoal. Mix together and put in an old stocking or two (easier than just dumping it in and taking it back out) and place your "log" in the chest and close the lid.

Repeat if necessary in a few days.

I had a chest that had a full box of mothballs PLUS a mothball holder (shaped like a daisy of all things) closed up in a chest for over 40 years. That chest took five treatments.

Actually, after the fourth I sanded down the interior and placed fresh deodorizer logs.

It smells great now. When the cedar smell starts to fade a bit I just scuff the inside lightly with a piece of sandpaper and it renews the smell. I have heard of people using natural cedar oil, especially if their piece wasn't solid cedar.

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June 27, 2013 Flag
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I've seen countless posts on "what to try" to remove mothball odor from a dresser and I've tried many of them without success. I also don't see any follow up posts of folks saying what actually worked for them. My next attempt will be to cover the entire inside with polyurethane. Has anyone tried this? Does it work?

I'm asking that answers don't include "what to try" -- there are so many posts on the web to that effect already. Instead, I'd like to hear "what worked".


By Mike D

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October 22, 20140 found this helpful

Get a bag of cedar shavings from the pet store (hamster or guinea pig litter). Put a 2 inch layer in the bottom of the cedar chest and close it up for 2 days. Clean it out (I used a shop-vac and reused the cedar shavings as mulch) and leave the chest open to air for a day. Repeat- this was fine for me. Repeat again - passed my wife's smell test.

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