removing pee smell from old wood?
July 17, 2008 10:46 AM   Subscribe

help me get the poop and pee smell out of an old chest

I'm a lover of antiques - especially beat up ones in need of lots of help. I bought this wonderful blanket chest 2 years ago for a song, it's fairly early and has a great "Columbus, OHIO" carving on the front, which is where I live. Just a wonderful chest, and I've never seen any carving like it.

The problem is that it was a chicken feed bin for decades. I hosed it out when i first got it, and it still stunk like hell. Then it sat in the garage for 2 years, still stinking. A few months ago i used two bottles of "urine gone" on it, then filled it up with hot water and a gallon of bleach, which drained out through cracks in the bottom. It's better, but still stinks.

I want to restore this chest by fixing major cracks in the wood and repairing the hinges, sanding it slightly then giving it a period light coat of water based paint.


I can't get the smell out! i have to get rid of this smell or this is a dead duck

how do i do that? submerge it somehow?


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posted by Salvatorparadise to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The stench is in the wood's pores. You can't ever get it totally out.

Solution? Seal the stench in with several coats of heavy-duty varnish. Like, marine varnish.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:53 AM on July 17, 2008

Heat may help get out the smell. Leaving it the sun for many days would be the easiest, but probably not as effective as finding some way of putting it in a hot box.
posted by ShooBoo at 10:58 AM on July 17, 2008

posted by randomstriker at 11:03 AM on July 17, 2008

That's a neat chest - I'm from Columbus, too, so it's particularly interesting for me.

Anyway - poop/pee smell in wood...I got a neat writing desk from the Fredericktown auction, and it had been stored in a barn for a while - so the legs got marked (I think, that's what my cat suggested, ha ha) by farm cats etc...

Febreze didn't work - just masked the odors briefly. I found many web sites that talked about the odor being IN the wood - it seems especially significant to your case, given the lack of varnish on the piece.

The one thing that worked for me was some enzyme stuff from Petco that's supposed to break down pet odors. I sprayed it on, then let it sit outside in a sunny/breezy area all day.

I also found this stuff mentioned online a few places - OdorXit Concentrate.

I know that marine varnish would probably look hideous on this piece - but you may want to try to get as much of the smell out as you can, then seal with something before you paint.

Good luck!
posted by Liosliath at 11:18 AM on July 17, 2008

I'm not sure if there is any chemical difference btwn "urine gone" and Nature's Miracle or Skunk Away. Both of these are enzyme based odor neutralizers in an alcohol base. Both should be available at your local pet store. Our dogs seem to have an amazing ability to find skuks or other dead things whose smell will wake the dead. Using Nature's Miracle has been overall the best and we found that it can be used on almost any lingering odor of organic origin.
posted by beelzbubba at 11:19 AM on July 17, 2008

Also, bear in mind this tidbit I found about using bleach:

"f you use Clorox, make sure you follow up that treatment with vinegar or other neutralizing agent to neutralize the bleach. Otherwise you could have serious problems with your finish in the future, i.e., the chlorine left in the wood will attract moisture and weep from the wood."
posted by Liosliath at 11:19 AM on July 17, 2008

Response by poster: hmmm

good suggestions, i fear that sealing it in may be the way to go, ultimately.

the piece doesn't have too, too much value left in it in this condition, so i can't really hurt it

for a columbus person, it's darned neat! so perhaps what i need is some kind of sealant that can be painted over...

posted by Salvatorparadise at 11:32 AM on July 17, 2008

My only experiences like this have been with smoke, mold and general filth impregnated instrument cases. But man, those can be nasty and stubborn odorwise. I don't think dousing with liquids of any sort is going to do much but hurt the wood.

Sunshine and air are your best friends. Put it in a dry, sunny, breezy place outside for awhile. Don't let it get wet. After that, the best you can do is seal it in (per c. Papa Bell) or mask it with something better smelling (throw some cedar chips in it).

If that fails, maybe get some chickens...
posted by quarterframer at 11:35 AM on July 17, 2008

Read this question - it talks about wood flooring, but seems to apply. (for the sealing part, that is)
posted by Liosliath at 11:38 AM on July 17, 2008

We've had great success with AtmosKlear. I tried to find some online and it looks like the reviews for the stores selling it weren't so stellar, but we bought a bottle from our local Ace hardware. It works like how you think Febreeze should work. You spray it on, things stop smelling. There's no fragrance to it. We like to think of it as the Magic Eraser of stink.
posted by advicepig at 11:42 AM on July 17, 2008

sand the insides lightly, then coat with shellac (available at hardware and woodworking stores). it has very good smell-sealing properties. it will darken the surface slightly.

it's an awesome chest - please provide an updated post once you're done restoring it!
posted by killy willy at 12:48 PM on July 17, 2008

Febreeze won't solve the problem. I second the idea of sealing in the stench with a few coats of matte polyurethane or other sealant, but take care around the joins, as some of the odor will seep out through there.
posted by yellowcandy at 1:09 PM on July 17, 2008

After neutralizing the bleach, use more pet enzyme. Then try some cedar oil, which is a mask, but the smell is a woody smell, so it does a good job. It will seep into the wood, lasts a long time, and repels moths.
posted by theora55 at 2:23 PM on July 17, 2008

This won't help with the smell, but... Am I right that the name inscribed is "E. A. McIntire"? I found an Edward A. McIntire living in Columbus at the time of the 1870 census. His occupation was given as "Plasterer." He had the same job in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1860. He seems to be the Edward McIntire who died in 1877, buried in Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus. This narrows down the date of the inscription to 1860-77. Who knows, maybe the chest was used to carry his plastering tools.
posted by Knappster at 3:06 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have gotten urine smell out of concrete with a paste of baking soda and water. Perhaps it will work with wood also.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:58 AM on July 18, 2008

My mom got me into these Volcanic Rock odor absorbers. I hung them in a room where a stanky housemate had lived (she never cleaned her bunny's cage and there were bunny pee stains everywhere) and it really helped.
posted by radioamy at 10:15 AM on July 19, 2008

I had a related problem recently. My son vomited on oak stairs before we had a chance to stain and finish them. After much research and gnashing of teeth, I found Magic-zymes, an enzyme-based product that neutralizes smells on contact. What "contact" meant for me was buying a full gallon, and spraying on so much it soaked it, and working it in with a plastic bristle brush. I had to go over it several times. You may have to work in a similar manner if the source of the odor is deep in the wood but the product doesn't work if it doesn't reach the odor source. In our case, the smell left completely and there was no visible change to the wood, no residue, no nothing.

The product website is

I feel your pain, or at least I can practically smell it. Good luck.
posted by Breav at 3:07 PM on July 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

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