Is it safe to bring my grandfather's stuff into our place?
May 8, 2012 12:11 PM   Subscribe

Is it safe to bring my grandfather's stuff into our place?

My grandfather is probably selling his house in the next few months and all of us have been offered any furniture or items we may want. Most of his stuff is pretty old and junky (he has lived on this house since 1945) but he does have a desk and some tables which might interest me. My partner is very worried though because he is very sensitive to dust, mold and environmental allergies and the one time he was at that house, he had a very bad reaction. He does't want me bringing something into our place that might be a trigger for him.

The items which interest me are all wood, or some think---I am not an expert on these things and don't know what kind of wood, now it may have been treated, etc. I do know that most of his stuff have probably not been properly cleaned in At least a decade and that it is possible the house itself is not in the best shape either (e.g. there may be mold or other issues in the house itself)

So, is this just a bad idea waiting to happen? Or can something be done to the furniture before we bring it in to make sure it is clean?
posted by JoannaC to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wash or steam what you can (that is nonporous) then use a heavy dose of Lysol according to the directions (you have to actually wait a bit before wiping). It should get rid of most allergens.
posted by jmd97 at 12:14 PM on May 8, 2012

As long as the furniture is solid wood and does not have any upholstery you should be able to just clean it with soap and water. Your partner probably reacted to dust and possibly mold at your grandfather's. Just make sure that you only take stuff made out of solid wood, and clean it before you put it in your house but after you get it out of your grandfather's. I know, that sounds tricky. maybe it could go somewhere temporary where you could clean it? a garage? A rented storage locker?
posted by mareli at 12:18 PM on May 8, 2012

A friend's mother also has a lot of environmental allergies, and in her case it's the newer furniture that's the trigger because all of the finishes, etc. usually have fumes that haven't finished offgassing. Similarly, cleaning solutions that have chemical fumes trigger her - and most commercial products, even if they say they're "unscented," have some kind of chemical fume that she reacts to.

Presumably, then, whatever finish was on your grandfather's things has offgassed by now, and you just have to clean it, would be my guess. There are a lot of books with recipes for all-natural cleaning solutions of various types - usually they're made of things like water, baking soda, borax, vinegar, olive oil, salt, or lemon juice, or a combination of the above; so they'd be cheap. They'd also be gentle on antiques. Check out a few of those, mix up batches of whatever recipes, and clean the furniture. Then have your partner approve of each item just to be sure.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:18 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sensitive and what mareli said rings true to my experiences with furniture/chest of drawers/etc. Carpet and upholstery and dusty corners are far and away more problematic and the root cause of your partner's problem than hard surfaces like tile, wood, or glass.
posted by RolandOfEld at 12:22 PM on May 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Only bring in hard furniture like chairs, tables, bookshelves, etc. Leave upholstered things behind. Take a damp cloth (water and dish soap) to the items you're bringing in and you should be good. Your man was likely reacting to the housekeeping at your grandfather's, not the wood furniture.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:23 PM on May 8, 2012

I think it is with a cleaning, but you will never know until you try. If it is a problem, reverse the decision and get rid of the junk. Just keep the memories of grandpa
posted by JohnnyGunn at 12:51 PM on May 8, 2012

I am also very sensitive (even allergic to lysol!) so I can understand his worry. Wash the pieces thoroughly and then place in an area that he doesn't go very often- garage, your mom's house, laundry room, where ever. Ask him to visit the piece and see how he feels. If he is okay then move it into the house with the agreement that if he develops any new symptoms it will be removed promptly.
posted by myselfasme at 3:19 PM on May 8, 2012

I have a few pieces of wood furniture that spent several years in my grandparents' uninhabited Connecticut home, and then several months in my parents' garage (which is a separate structure from the house, and thus prone to critter infestations), and I also have dust/mold allergies. For the laquered coffee table & painted end table, a good cleaning with soap & water and then some Murphy's Oil got rid of any lingering odors. For the two dressers, cleaning wasn't enough because the wood was exposed and had really soaked in the mustiness and mouse droppings. So, for those, I threw away the flimsy plywood backing, painted the exteriors, and put things in the drawers like kitty litter & newspaper & coffee beans for a few months to absorb the smells, and then put in liners once I'd decided that the mustiness was gone.

The pieces definitely triggered my allergies before they were cleaned, but haven't bothered me since. If you can, do the initial cleaning somewhere like your grandfather's driveway, or yours - just anywhere that's not inside your house.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:16 PM on May 8, 2012

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