When bad smells happen to good kitchens
March 19, 2010 10:19 AM   Subscribe

How can I remove an evil smell from my kitchen cupboard?

Soon after moving into my new (rented) place, I noticed that one of the kitchen cupboards smelled like one of the Great Old Ones had crawled in there and died. Many cleaning attempts later, it still smells that way.

It's a vaguely damp smell, as if something wet got put in there and left to rot for a long time. Whatever that was, there's no sign of it now - the only thing in the cupboard when I moved in was glasses and mugs, and they've all been through the dishwasher several times since to get rid of the Smell, which can apparently soak into glass. I am out of my cleaning league.

Things I've tried, thanks to Google/previous AskMe questions/my mother:

- cleaning it from top to bottom with a scented surface cleaner
- cleaning it from top to bottom with white vinegar and hot water
- leaving it open to air (which works in the short term, but a couple of hours after closing it again, the smell returns)
- assault via scented candles and room fresheners
- leaving half a lemon in a bowl of water in there to soak up the smell
- repeated detective work to identify the source of the smell (no luck)

It's now been three months since I moved in, and the smell remains. It's definitely coming from that cupboard - I can't smell much when the cupboard's closed - but beyond that, I'm clueless and getting pretty annoyed. Any suggestions for any ideas to identify/remove the smell, without using anything strong enough to damage the laminate coating of the cupboard. (I'm in the UK, if anyone has any specific product recommendations.) Thanks!
posted by Catseye to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Did you try leaving open coffee grounds in there for awhile? It's my go-to recommendation for stinky cabinets, refrigerators, etc.
posted by cass at 10:23 AM on March 19, 2010

It sounds like its either something I'm the wall or something that soaked into the wood. Either way its time for your landlord to come over and deal with it.
posted by fshgrl at 10:24 AM on March 19, 2010

Just chuck a box of baking soda in there.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:24 AM on March 19, 2010

I would guess it is something BEHIND the cupboard that may not even be there anymore but that left its mark permanently on the wood. Cleaning it isn't going to work -- you've done that anyway -- nor are temporary solutions like air fresheners and the lemon thing. You need an always-on solution. A box of baking soda will probably do the trick.
posted by devinemissk at 10:27 AM on March 19, 2010

What about taking the door off that cabinet for a few weeks? Maybe leave the door out in the sun for a bit too.
posted by Dragonness at 10:43 AM on March 19, 2010

If you owned the place I'd say tear it out, find the source & deal with it permanently. But you prob. don't want to deal with it, and the landlord may not care to do that much work. So...I'd say hit it hard with maybe two or three open boxes of baking soda, then get into a routine where you always have one box in there. And change the baking soda however often the instructions on the box say. I think it's every 3 months?
posted by BlahLaLa at 10:50 AM on March 19, 2010

The first result for a search about "baking soda and odors" gives this page which says baking soda doesn't do much - get a canister of activated charcoal instead. And the domain name ends in .gov! If you can't trust the government on baking soda issues, who can you trust?
posted by komara at 11:02 AM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

You could try a moisture removal product such as Damp Rid. Not sure if it's available in the UK, but there are probably variations.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:02 AM on March 19, 2010

I"d paint the inside of the cupboard with clear shellac--that should help to seal the odor away.
posted by midwestguy at 11:29 AM on March 19, 2010

The story about baking soda absorbing odors was pushed by Arm & Hammer in a long series of commercials about twenty five years ago. Now it's become popular wisdom. But as Komara says, it isn't really very effective.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:01 PM on March 19, 2010

Febreeze every interior surface of the cabinet, a couple of times. Yes, Febreeze was originally designed for textiles, but go with me on this. Very effective on semi-porous surfaces, like wood, too...
posted by paulsc at 1:05 PM on March 19, 2010

midwestguy make me think of this: Kilz! Seriously, when we ripped up a carpet recently, the smell of the subflooring was enough to knock a buzzard off a s**t-wagon, if you know what I mean. Mostly from dog pee, but who knows what else. We painted it all over with Kilz, and the smell absolutely vanished. It was a miracle!
posted by DrGail at 3:22 PM on March 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you tried leaving several bowls full of bicarb soda there for a while?

Bicarb soda gets rid of almost every smell.

I once had a housemate who didn't wash his border collie anywhere near as often as he should have.

When he moved out, his bedroom smelled really doggy and unpleasant.

I opened all the windows and curtains, vaccuumed, put down a thick layer of dry bicarb soda powder (perhaps 3 or 4 kilograms for a master bedroom), left it overnight, then vaccuumed it all up at about 11am the next day.

The bedroom smelled perfectly fresh and clean afterwards.
posted by Oceanesque at 5:51 PM on March 19, 2010

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