So, you found that perfect furniture piece to restore. Your thinking, “Everyone else is doing this. How hard can it be to restore furniture? After all, I’ve binge watched HGTV and they make it look so easy. I’ve got this.” Only to get the piece home and realize it reeks of smoke and mustiness. Oh no! Now what? This was my dilemma just a few weeks ago. I was on the hunt for a new, or rather, old desk for Lauryn’s room makeover I was finishing up….

how to restore old musty cigarette smelling furniture

In my mind, I thought that would be the cheaper way to go. I hit several consignment shops and kept coming up with nothing…until I finally found The One. I have to admit, I was not wild about the price. It seemed very high for a project piece that I was going to have to pour more money and time into. I was very tempted to just go out and buy the lumber and build it myself. But my plate was pretty full and I didn’t really want to add one more thing. So this old desk (and a lighter pocketbook) came home with me.

how to restore old musty cigarette smelling furniture

It wasn’t until I got the piece home and started to clean it, that I realized it reeked of cigarette smoke and mustiness. Usually I am super-sensitive to cigarette smoke, so I was shocked that it snuck by me. My only conclusion was that this whole shop smelled old and musty and somehow covered up the cigarette smell. Knowing all sales are final at this store, I was stuck. Google, please give me something.


My first attemp was to use one of my favorite products–TSP….

how to restore old musty cigarette smelling furniture

I thoroughly cleaned the entire desk, inside and out, with TSP. Now the desk was clean but it still smelled like we had pulled it out of an old ’90’s bar. Not ideal for my 13 year old daughter.

Next, I sprayed bleach mixed with water on every square inch of the desk. And then hosed it all down.

how to restore old musty cigarette smelling furniture

It was getting better. But not completely odor free yet. One more thing I wanted to try….I doused the piece with lemon juice. Well actually I sprayed it, but it would have been a lot quicker to just throw the bottle at it. 😉 And then I let it sit outside for a few nights. And finally, I could only smell a trace of it. Airing it out, proved to work well.

At this point, I figured once I put a coat of paint on it, it would seal the smell. And it did. After a full coat of paint, the musty-cigarette smell was gone….

how to restore old musty cigarette smelling furniture

I believe the mixture of all of these steps was beneficial to removing the awful smell. I don’t believe just skipping straight to the final step would have done it.

So just to recap….


  1. Thoroughly clean the furniture piece with TSP.
  2. Spray it down with bleach and then rinse.
  3. Mist vinegar all over the piece of furniture. DON’T rinse.
  4. Let sit outside for a few nights.
  5. Paint the entire piece.

So, the next time you love the look but hate the smell…give this a try.

how to restore old musty cigarette smelling furniture

And be sure to check back for more pictures on Lauryn’s room and the rest of the story on this desk…all in an upcoming post.

Until next time,

Happy Building!!

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