mothball smell in cedar chest

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Forum topic by RickB posted 10-20-2011 09:56 PM 3899 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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48 posts in 1957 days

10-20-2011 09:56 PM

So, my wife acquired an old cedar chest used by a now-deceased family member. The thing was made by Sears a long time ago and had seen better days. My wife wants to refinish it and use it. My wife is doing the Lion’s share of the work and I am supervising.

One problem with the chest though is that there is a persistent mothball smell on the inside. The cedar lining has absorbed the smell. I’d like to get the smell out.

Any thoughts as to how I would get the smell out?


10 replies so far

View HorizontalMike's profile


6970 posts in 1730 days

#1 posted 10-20-2011 10:04 PM

The only thing I would suggest is to sand the interior with some 200grit. Wear a dust mask. No guarantees but worth a shot…

-- HorizontalMike -- "Woodpeckers understand..."

View ajosephg's profile


1862 posts in 2377 days

#2 posted 10-20-2011 11:00 PM

Maybe set it outside with the lid open exposing the inside to the sun?

-- Joe

View crank49's profile


3681 posts in 1787 days

#3 posted 10-20-2011 11:29 PM

Ozone treatment gets the smell out of smoke damaged belongings after a fire. Same process might work for the chest.

-- Michael :-{| Don't anthropomorphise your tools, they hate it when you do that.

View Jim Finn's profile

Jim Finn

1818 posts in 1738 days

#4 posted 10-20-2011 11:35 PM

A friend of mine had the same issue. (Who would put mothballs in a cedar trunk?) I gave him about 1/2 bushel of cedar chips from my planer that he put into the trunk for a few months. I am not sure how it worked though. I need to ask him. Just anogther attempt to correct this.

-- In God We Trust

View TJ65's profile


1357 posts in 1866 days

#5 posted 10-21-2011 04:22 AM

try the sun if you can then if it is still there try sitting a large dish of Bi caronate of soda in there with the lid shut. It should gather up the smell pretty well after awhile. The other thing wold be to replace the smell with another – like lavender or camphor. That way you can keep it in there all the time. But I would try the Bicarb first.
good luck

-- Theresa,

View DS's profile


2141 posts in 1237 days

#6 posted 10-21-2011 05:47 PM

I think Theresa is on the right track with the baking soda. Something to absorb the odor.

Not sure I’d subject this to direct sunlight because the heating cycles will cause movement in the wood.

Sanding likely won’t help as the odor is likely penetrated deeper than just the surface.

Rice is often used to dry things as it absorbs moisture—this might have a similar effect as sunlight without the heating cycles. You could layer uncooked dry rice on the bottom for a day. Turn the chest, layer the next surface. Patience would be key.

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 1785 days

#7 posted 10-23-2011 12:42 AM

Eliminating odours is a breeze with Febreeze.

If nothing else works you could just leave it open for a few weeks and put scented lining paper in.

View mrg's profile


555 posts in 1816 days

#8 posted 10-23-2011 01:24 AM

If sanding doesn’t work you could seal it and reline the inside with new cedar. You can get a closet kit at a big box store.

-- mrg

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


15413 posts in 2492 days

#9 posted 10-23-2011 04:35 AM

It will go way if you leave it open, but it will take a loooooooong time.

-- "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Schoey's profile


23 posts in 2291 days

#10 posted 10-23-2011 05:35 AM

After doing a little research a while back I found out that cedar does little to ward off moths. Myth busted!
Ironically neither do mothballs. In “highly” concentrated amounts the chemicals in mothballs will kill moths.
Be careful if you sand as the chemicals in the mothballs are known carcinogens. I’d remove the cedar if it’s a lining.

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