Remove musky smell from wood?
July 30, 2013 1:20 PM   Subscribe

So we have an old tiny cabin (about 8x12 ft) that is a bit in disrepair. But the real problem isn't the drafty windows or creaky door, but rather that we apparently had mink or some other musky-smelling animal nesting underneath (the cabin is raised about a foot off the ground) for quite a while, and it has pervaded the whole cabin with a musky, urine-like smell. We're really hoping not to replace all the wood, which is old, sound, and worn in the best way. What's our best bet for removing this smell permanently?

I figured I'd ask here for a bit more of a hive-mind "this actually works and this doesn't" take on the problem before asking around my local Lowe's or whatever.
posted by BlackLeotardFront to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I know nothing about getting the smell out of wood, but is it possible there are still remnants of a nest or something still under the cabin? Perhaps just cleaning all that out would help.
posted by timsteil at 1:33 PM on July 30, 2013

Not at all sure this would help, but easy to try. We had an unretrievable dead animal under our 8*12 shed. We flung massive amounts of coffee grounds that we got from Starbucks under, around, and even inside in containers. It did clear up. Took a while. In the meanwhile, was certainly better than not doing anything. You could try it, will not interfere with any other activities, and might help. best regards, jcw
posted by jcworth at 1:44 PM on July 30, 2013

Response by poster: The nest was still there, we cleaned out a bunch of it and I'm trying to get the rest this weekend. It will definitely help but we're talking baked-on-in smell...

jcworth, do you mean coffee grounds on the wood itself, or just in the area of the grossness?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 1:49 PM on July 30, 2013

I rehabbed a house that had had 60 cats trapped inside for weeks with a human dead body. The floors were old oak hardwood. I cleaned thoroughly with detergent and and hot water. After the wood dried there was improvement in the smell but it was still not acceptable. I then spread lime (not the fruit, the chemical) thinly across the whole floor, making sure to cover well. Over a few days, the lime (which is white) discolored as it soaked up the smelly stuff out of the floor. I removed that layer of lime and replaced it with a fresh one I think twice. (Until it didn't discolor anymore.) It did the trick. The house is still occupied and the floors have not been changed. Good luck!
posted by txmon at 1:59 PM on July 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'll try what you suggest, txmon... but does lime negatively affect the wood? I mean, if it has to, it has to, but I'm just weighing options. At any rate hot water and detergent are the first step.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:10 PM on July 30, 2013

You wrote "musky" which I (as a Minnesotan) interpreted as your house smells like a muskie fish.....

If you don't mind painted wood floors, try this Zinsser product: B-I-N Primer Stain Blocker.

Typically this is the product I've recommended for people with cat urine problems where the urine has seeped into the sub-floor, and they are going to re-carpet or re-cover the wood floors with a new surface so bright white floors are not a concern. But it will work applied directly to the wood for you to walk on, and it can be tinted lighter colors as well.

Using the B-I-N will stop the odor if it is indeed coming from the wood itself - but having a raised northwoods cabin like you have described lends me to believe that there will be smells emanating from the dirt below the floors as well as what has permeated the wood, so you may have some crawling under cabin to do to completely eliminate the odor.
posted by lstanley at 2:33 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

If the mink (or whatever) were nesting under the cabin and not in it, I'm not at all sure that there's any point at all in scrubbing the floors inside the cabin. Presumably they sprayed scent all over the soil under the cabin and the undersides of your flooring and that's what you're smelling. I'd have thought removing a few inches of topsoil under the cabin and perhaps sealing the underside of the flooring with some kind of goopy product would be the most effective way to go.
posted by yoink at 2:58 PM on July 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm definitely going to be doing what I can to replace the soil underneath, and to get whatever I can off the underside. But the floor inside definitely reeks.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:46 PM on July 30, 2013

I would use lime liberally under the cabin. It's extremely alkaline, so use caution with it. It kills bacteria and smells, and I think it would discourage future pests from taking up residence. Wood ash might suffice. (When we visited a cabin with an outhouse, we used woodash to controll the aroma, and it worked up to a point.) I would wash the floors inside the cabin with vinegar, which seems to neutralize animal spray and urine smells. And I would get a lot of cedar oil spray, and spray the floor frequently. I used to get cedar oil at Target or some other big box store and it is a good cover aroma, as well as repelling moths.
posted by theora55 at 4:00 PM on July 30, 2013

Based on an AskMe recommendation I tried Odoban on a funky smell in a storage area that I thought was a dead animal (but may just have been fermented birdseed and mice droppings left by the things 'at ate 'em). Other odor control products had been tried and barely made a dent. Odoban knocked it back in a couple of applications (more may yet be needed, I'm still cleaning up). It's also great on our garbage cans.
posted by dhartung at 2:54 AM on July 31, 2013

The man who detailed my car after an unfortunate water-retention problem told me that the best way to get rid of a nasty, pervasive smell is to place a bunch of oldish apples in the car, close it up, and let them go all cidery. I tried that, put in a half dozen apples or so, and left them in my car as I drove it around for a couple of weeks. Worked a charm. The musty smell was replaced with a pretty apple scent (once the decaying apples were removed; before then it smelled like apple cider) which lasted quite a while.

Totally non-toxic, requires zero scrubbing, and cheap.

So I'd give that a shot. Buy a crate or two of apples and leave it in the cabin with the doors closed for a while, a few weeks maybe. If you're going in an out of the cabin regularly, maybe replace them periodically so you can leave them in longer.
posted by Capri at 12:07 PM on July 31, 2013

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