I've come across pieces with nests and smells that would curl your toes, but I've never met a piece that wasn't salvageable.
Here are a few favorites techniques that I’ve always found to be effective, and best of all, most are inexpensive supplies you probably have on hand:
1. White Vinegar
If you’d prefer not to spray directly onto surface, set cups of vinegar or sponges wet with vinegar (on plastic plates) inside and tightly close drawers or doors.
Some even seal the entire piece in plastic like giant rubbish bags to prevent any "escaping" smells.
Ball up newspaper and fill the drawers or cabinet. Close it up and leave it alone.
I can't help but check every day and change the paper as it starts to take on the smell.
This can be used with other techniques as well including vinegar and those listed below:
5. Coffee Grounds
Nothing new here...as above, get it in there and let it sit. Change after a few days if the odour persists.
I've used instant coffee as well as coffee grinds and have had success with both.
Bonus? Who doesn't love the smell of coffee lingering around your painting space?
6. Kitty Litter
This is amazing stuff. I've used it to remove grease spots from concrete and it will lengthen the life of your blooms when added to a vase of water.
The trick? The more natural the better. In fact, if you can find pure clay litter, it's the bomb and there are several other ways to use it around the house...Google it!
7. Lemon and Sunshine
Add fresh lemon or a few drops of a quality lemon essential oil into a spray bottle of water, spray your piece and set out in the sun. This is the exception to sealing up, it's a better technique when allowed to breathe.
I also prefer this as an "end" treatment to the others listed above. Or if the odour is light and not very offensive or stubborn.
Cigarette smoke is a different kind of problem compared to ordinary “old” musty smells, animal urine and the like, but you can still get it out with a bit of effort. Don't let an exceptional piece of furniture frighten you off due to stinkiness. Instead, don't be in a rush and allow time to treat it with one of these techniques!
The Final Word — Paint!
If you get the worst of the smell out, you can paint the rest away. Add a few drops of essential oil to your paint to increase the effectiveness. (As long as as you're not using white because essential oils can yellow the finish).
*Some furniture painters might recommend Shellac in extreme cases. I personally cannot recommend a toxin-laden product that can ultimately lead to more harm than good. It's just not my thing. But if need be, I'm sure you can find info out there on what to use if you're in a hurry and willing to use these types of products.
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