Removing Musty Odor from an Antique Trunk

Does anyone know how to get rid of the musty smell from an antique steamer chest that has been in a basement for many years? There is no appearance of mold, but maybe that is what it is.

It just arrived and I would like to buy a custom piece of glass and have a table top. It will make a great conversation piece. But the unknown culprit from this open trunk has triggered allergic reactions in some, e.g. stuffy sinuses. I will vacuum it and am leaving it empty and opened for a while, but now I'm rethinking where I could put it since I do not want to make anyone sick.


It is such a treasure inherited from the Irish side of my family from Salem, MA (Shea) and is probably from the 1890s to 1910.

By Louise from Houston, TX

May 9, 20100 found this helpful

I'd wash it inside and out with a barely damp cloth saturated in vinegar. Then I'd leave it open out in the sun for a week. Next I'd set a bowl of either baking soda or charcoal in it and bring it inside to see how it does. Marthat says charcoal removes the smell from old books so maybe it'll do the same on the trunk.

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Anonymous Flag
March 9, 20160 found this helpful

I came to this site when trying to freshen and sell a steamer trunk from the '40s. I tried bleach water spray and fresh air. I tried Spic n Span spray and fresh air. I put bowls of fresh ground coffee in all levels and closed it for days. Once the coffee was removed, the musty odor returned. Then I thought of this.....I opened 4 bars of Irish Spring soap and set each bar on top of its box inside the trunk and closed the lid. In 5 days the trunk smelled fresh with the soap removed. I sold the trunk!

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May 11, 20100 found this helpful

Spray with lysol and one day in the sun will do it. Then leave the top open inside for a few days or just leave it opened. If you close it, place a bar of soap in it.

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May 11, 20100 found this helpful

Have you tried crumpling up newspaper and leaving it in the trunk for a few days? Or try fresh coffee grounds. Put them in a bowl and leave them for a few days. Or maybe baking soda? I'm just guessing here, but maybe one of these will work.

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May 11, 20100 found this helpful

They say a bag of charcoal (not saturated with lighting fluid) will remove any smell. Just rip open the bag and leave in the trunk a few days!

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March 9, 20160 found this helpful

I tried it all and within an hour or so, the odor returned. Finally, I placed several opened bars of Irish Spring soap inside (each bar set on top of its own box) and closed the trunk for 5 days. The odor disappeared, the fresh scent of Irish Spring remained.

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November 18, 2011 Flag
0 found this helpful

My Granny traveled by wagon with her family from west Texas near Odessa to Weatherford, Texas. Mother was about 2 years of age when Granny and Mr. Hunter loaded a big trunk and started off on a new beginning. They must have had a full load because there were 3 boys along with a minimum of items to set up housekeeping.

When Granny came to live with us due to a bad heart she brought her trunk and later when my immediate family moved to Oklahoma and Arkansas they brought Granny's trunk along. My mother tried to take care of it after Granny died. When my mother was about the age I am now (74) she gave it to me for safekeeping.

Now I've got to find somebody who knows what to do. It is musty, but not water damaged. Please direct me to somebody in southwest Missouri or northern Arkansas. Thank you.


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November 21, 20110 found this helpful

Try soaking some newspaper in full strength vinegar, then setting the soaked newspaper in a bowl in the trunk. Close the lid and leave it for a few days-this should remove the odor.

I learned to do this back in the 70s when I was selling Tupperware. I've used it for antique trunks, suitcases, and all sorts of other containers, it really works.

Please make sure you write down the trunks wonderful history and put it inside once the musty is gone. What a treasure that is!

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November 21, 20110 found this helpful

Spray it with Lysol and leave it in the sun for a day. Turn it so that all sides get some of the sunas the day goes on. Then when you bring it in leave it open for a few days. When you close it place a bar of soap in it. Keep it in a dry part of the house, not the basement or attic.

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November 23, 20110 found this helpful

I live in the south and everything wood gets that musty odor and if you will take some charcoal like you barbaque with and place 8 or l0 in the trunk to absorb the musty smell and sprinkle some nice smelling powder in it it should be fine. I have 2 trunks I store sewing material in on the carport and no smell.

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May 8, 2010 Flag
0 found this helpful

How do you get the musty smell out of antique trunks?

By Niki


Removing Musty Odor from an Antique Trunk

Try opening the top of a box of baking soda (bi-carbonate soda) and leaving that sit in the box. Also works to absorb odours in the fridge. (01/05/2010)

By CasperLilly

Removing Musty Odor from an Antique Trunk

Wad up a bunch of newspaper and close, it absorbs odors, may have to try more than once, like the baking soda idea too, open and leave in the sun sometimes helps. How about Febreze?
I stole this from another post (remove musty smell from mink coat): coffee, use an open can and close lid. The coffee did the trick. (01/07/2010)

By Lisa Kay

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