Making over a stinky dresser (pt. 1)

This is going to be a long post for me.

Kim came down for Ladies Weekend 2014 last weekend (even though my husband stuck around so it was more like Ladies Weekend and one guy. Don’t mind David on his man chair!). As always we had big plans and not enough time. But we did manage to fit in two trips to the Habitat for Humanity Restore. The first trips was on Friday afternoon half an hour before closing when I spotted a beautiful full size brass bed. I’m talking old school, antique solid brass, not brass plated, with the most beautiful patina (though y’all know I would’ve taken some Bar Keeper’s Friend to that thing). I had visions of Chloe’s room from The Hunted Interior dancing in my head all night so we went back to ask about the price the next morning.

Making over a stinky dresser {}

The bed was still available, but I spotted this dresser instead.

Making over a stinky dresser {}

Fluted sides. Tapered legs. Solid wood with dovetailed drawers. It was exactly what I’d envisioned for one of our totally empty spare bedrooms / someday nursery. It was listed at $80 but after a quick inspection to make sure all the drawers were working and the dresser didn’t wobble + a text consult with David we offered $70. Sold!

It took three guys to lift it into the back of our car.

Making over a stinky dresser {}

Once we got the dresser home we removed the drawers to help pull it out of the car. Here’s where the plot thickens. At the ReStore the dresser seemed in excellent condition. Sturdy and clean. And we’d reasoned that it must have been recently dropped off since we didn’t see it the night before. But once the drawers were removed it revealed a seriously nasty interior. And a stink. Not just a stink but a stank. Kim and I spent three hours in the beating sun wiping that thing down with soap & vinegar followed by bleach and a serious arm workout.

Making over a stinky dresser {}

We knew it would take three of us to haul the dresser upstairs to the bedrooms and after some major scrubbing it looked shiny and clean so we carried it inside and upstairs and opened a window to let the vinegar smell air out, leaving the drawers in the garage to clean out another day.

On Sunday it became apparent as the vinegar smell dissipated that the dresser still reeked. I wiped it down with two Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, vinegar and bleach again and coated the interior with baking soda per some quick Googling around.

On Monday the dresser still reeked. I freaked. And then things got real. I decided the source of the smell was probably mildew from a storage unit or basement. And I determined that it was probably attached to the porous back board of the dresser. So I measured the length and width of the backboard and had a new backboard cut to size at Home Depot. While I was out I also picked up a biodegradable tarp and a bottle of Concrobium Mold Control spray, a non-bleach, no VOC spray that eliminates and prevents mold. Plus a quart of Kilz Premium (my go to primer for No VOCs, stain blocking, and mildew-resistance), a couple different sanding blocks, and some painting supplies. You see where I’m going with this…

Making over a stinky dresser {}

When David got home we ripped the old backboard off and trashed it. Thankfully it came off easily without damaging the dresser. Then I vacuumed out all of the baking soda with a Dyson and used an attachment to go over all the nooks and crannies now that the back was removed. We moved the dresser on top of our tarp and sprayed down the whole thing with the Concrobium Mold Control spray. I literally coated it from head to toe, let it sit for a couple minutes, wiped off any excess or puddles, and allowed the rest of the dresser to air dry.

You guys, after 3 days this dresser finally doesn’t smell! Like, at all. Between ripping off the backboard and spraying that thing down I think we’ve eliminated all the mildew and mustyness.

So here’s my question for you. During my freak out I’d determined that I was going to rehab this dresser to get rid of the mildew and then paint and seal it to be extra safe. But now that the smell’s gone, what would you do? I’m not usually a wood purist, but this piece was in such good condition that I originally thought I’d keep the cherry finish. But a white dresser could be ultra sweet for a kid’s room, and I usually lean toward painted furniture for children anyway, so now I’m leaning towards painting it.

What would you do?

Stephanie from



  1. So glad you were able to overcome the stank! I’m a sucker for wood finishes, so if it were me, I’d keep it as is. And then if the arrival of a little one is underway, you could always consider a painted finish. Oh and congrats on such a great find! 🙂


  2. I am a lover of wood, seriously I have too much wood and have to limit myself. But I’m leaning towards paint. I’m really cautious about anything moldy/musty though (and I’m having my own freak out session in my own life) . I think painting would give it a modern feel, and would look great in a future kids room. Plus I have been wanting to paint a dresser so I can live through you if you do it 😉


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