cleaning a smoke smell out of wood furniture

by | Aug 3, 2021 | All Things Home, Antiques, Cleaning & care, Furniture Makeovers | 16 comments

When you buy used furniture sometimes musty, dusty, pet, and smoke smells come with it.  When it comes to severe pet and smoke odors, I’ll usually pass on a piece.  They are notoriously hard to completely remove from furniture, especially upholstery.  But, there are times when a piece sneaks through my filters or I’ll make an exception if I think I can remedy the issue.  Jeff picked up this Facebook Marketplace find for me and, while I told him to check for sturdiness and a few other things, I didn’t tell him to check for odors.  As soon as we brought it in, I would have to address the lingering stale smoke smell that came with this beautiful antique quartersawn oak table.  So, I thought I would take you along and share how I go about cleaning a smoke smell out of wood furniture.

This is the table I spotted on Facebook Marketplace that was perfect for our family room makeover.  It is 48″ wide, making it large enough for puzzles and games, and I love the exotic wood grain and claw feet.

antique quarter-sawn round oak table | cleaning a smoke smell out of wood furniture | miss mustard seed

cleaning a smoke smell out of wood furniture | the supplies

For this particular piece, I gave it an initial wipe-down with some mild household cleaner and that wasn’t enough to get rid of the stale smoke smell.  So, I took it to the next step and actually washed the piece.  Most people feel like they can’t wash wood, but you definitely can!  The key is to not let water sit on the piece, which might cause watermarks, warping, or damage to the finish.

These are the supplies I used to wash this piece…

cleaning a smoke smell out of wood furniture | miss mustard seed

cleaning a smoke smell out of wood furniture | the steps

It’s ideal if this can be done outside on a warm, sunny day but, as I did, you can do it inside.  You can put the table on a dropcloth, piece of plastic, or just have an old towel under the area you’re scrubbing to catch any drips.

1.) Fill your bucket or container with warm water and 1 tsp Murphy Oil Soap per 1 cup warm water.  This is a good soap to use on wood and for cleaning a smoke smell (or other strong odors) out of wood furniture.

antique quarter-sawn round oak table | cleaning a smoke smell out of wood furniture | miss mustard seed

2.) Wet the sponge and work up a lather in the container/bucket.  Scrub the soapy water over the wood surface, working in sections.  Dry the surface with a towel and repeat this step on the rest of the piece of furniture.

antique quarter-sawn round oak table | cleaning a smoke smell out of wood furniture | miss mustard seed

(Eventhough I had already wiped down this table, you can see how dirty the water got!)

Because odors will absorb into all of the finish and/or wood, not just the surface area that gets the most use, you have to scrub the entire peice.  In the case of this table, I scrubbed the top, sides, apron, underside, and all of the way down to the toes.

antique quarter-sawn round oak table | cleaning a smoke smell out of wood furniture | miss mustard seed

I scrubbed a few of the areas 2-3 times until I was no longer smelling the smoke when I put my nose right to the surface.

3.) Once the table is clean and dry, put a few drops of your favorite essential oil on a microfiber cloth and rub it over the entire piece.  This isn’t to hydrate the wood, but to just deoderize it a bit and make it smell nice.  This is an extra step that isn’t necessary, but I liked adding a fresh, natural scent to this table.

antique quarter-sawn round oak table | cleaning a smoke smell out of wood furniture | miss mustard seed

The table is now not only squeaky clean, but it smells nice.

I love buying antique pieces of furniture, but it will drive me nuts if the piece is stinky!  When I was putting the crystals on the chandelier, the odor was really bothering me, so I scrubbed it as soon as I finished.

antique quarter-sawn round oak table | cleaning a smoke smell out of wood furniture | miss mustard seed

As is the case with some stains, it’s possible for the odor to surface again, especially an odor like smoke that really permeates the finish and the grain of the wood.  Repeat this process again as many times as is required.  It’s been a couple of days and the smell hasn’t returned, yet, so that’s a good sign!

This method will also work well on pet smells or pieces that have been stored in barns, attics, are musty, etc.

antique quarter-sawn round oak table | cleaning a smoke smell out of wood furniture | miss mustard seed

If you want some other tips on cleaning and sealing furniture, you can find a lot more information in these posts…

cleaing a grubby piece of furniture

how to clean & hydrate old wood

how to clean stinky furniture

cleaning & sealing chippy antique pieces

And, as a family room update, the empire dresser sold yesterday!  After weeks of having it listed, I was pretty sure it was going to stay, but it went off to a new home.  I am now on the hunt for a great cabinet that will add more height and provide better storage for games and puzzles.

16 Comments

  1. Linda O

    Your “new” table now looks beautiful. I have never seen antique oak table with a top like yours. You are doing such a great job re-doing your lower level. I still look forward to your blog after all these years.

    Reply
  2. Cathy R

    My Fella was looking over my shoulder and exclaimed, “ look at that quarter sawn oak!”
    Yes, I’m chopped liver when it comes to wood!😬

    Reply
  3. Jennifer Anderson

    Great post. Very helpful! And I love the table you found!!

    Reply
  4. Connie

    The wall color, Opa’s wonderful chandelier & that gorgeous table make for a lovely view! Now when the 4 chairs & the windows have their attire all made in that fabulous fabric – watch out! Loving this ride you are taking us on!

    Reply
    • Dawn

      What is the brand and wall color name, please ?

      Reply
  5. Emma

    Gorgeous!

    I have a question: I have two antique bookshelves that my grandfather made, but they’ve been painted and smell like smoke. Is there any way to get the smell out after being painted?

    Reply
    • Jen

      If cleaning alone isn’t helping, I would try lightly sanding them, then use something like Zinsser’s Odor Killing Primer and repaint. Best of luck!

      Reply
    • JC

      Such helpful information. I never though about using the essential oil. Thanks!

      Reply
  6. Maryann Milnarcik

    Just a suggestion, I love your blog and have followed you for years. Instead of covering your chandelier wire with fabric have you ever thought of using chain links. Possibly the same color of the metal on your chandy. I think it may blend better . The fabric draws more attention. I’m not criticizing by all means I love love love what you do.

    Reply
  7. Babs

    What a service you are performing helping people to get use out of old furniture…the ultimate in recycling! I have refinished quite a bit of furniture and have discovered that if I have an older dresser with smelly drawers (hmm, that sounded funny!) I have found that sealing the interior of the drawers with tung or hemp oil has helped to clean them up. They also look refreshed from their dose of oil. I would much rather have an old, refreshed piece of furniture than a brand new one which was probably made in China or Viet Nam.

    Reply
  8. Susan

    That tiger oak is gorgeous! Glad it now smells as good as it looks!

    Reply
  9. Elena M. in Miami

    OMG! You have such luck in your area with Facebook Marketplace! You should see the stuff in the Miami area, even on Craiglist, the oldest things you see here are “antiques” from Ikea and Target. The table is beautiful. In my mind, I see it set up for your guests that stay in the guest room, with a continental breakfast and tea, served from that cute little kitchenette area you have, lots of blue and white china teacups and teapots, with the newly covered chairs, drapes, the new piece you want where the empire dresser was, maybe a china cabinet with ironstone and brown transferware. I’m excited to decorate, and I don’t even live there! I l love the way you’re doing this slowly, like a fine book, not a regular “before” and “after”, I’m excited to open your page and see what else you’ve done! We are living vicariously through your remodel adventure! What’s next?

    P.S. Thank you for your reply yesterday about the hook for hanging your chandelier, your info is very helpful!

    Reply
  10. Cheryl Atkinson

    Marion, the table is beautiful but that chandelier is just amazingly beautiful. Wow. Thank you for the tip.

    Reply
  11. lee

    Hi there, Just wondering if you know anything about what the table is called or any background about it. My dad had that table growing up except the top is different. I would like to redo the finish and would be interested in any information if you have it. I would like to do the top in a driftwood stain and paint the bottom, but am hesitant as it is an heirloom and I don’t want to do a bad job on it

    Reply
  12. Cheryl W

    Good idea to use essential oil as a finishing touch; I’ll bet purification oil would work well too. I use purification oils on cotton balls and leave in older suitcases to take out musty smells there too.

    Reply
  13. Kim

    Lovely tiger oak table! I sure hope that your smoke issue is surface only. I have a piano that still smells like smoke even though it hasn’t been in a smoky environment for 100 years.

    Reply

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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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