Why Do Antiques Smell So Bad?

Tuesday 1st May 2018 at 16:34

Antique furniture can sometimes emit a funky, musty smell, especially after spending years stored away in less-than-ideal conditions, such as a basement or a warehouse. There are several factors that can contribute to the smell; if you own an antique piece with an unpleasant odour, here is a list of some possible culprits that can help you get to the root of the problem.


Product build-up

Taking care of antiques with the appropriate products is important, but using too much product can leave a residue which can build up over time and cause a bad smell. Oily, greasy products are often the culprit; well-intentioned owners who attempt to take care of their antique piece by applying them in great quantities can end up making the problem worse by causing a product build-up.



Dust can accumulate quickly in the nooks and crannies of antique furniture. A mixture of dead skin, pet hair, dust-mites, and pollen, it can contribute to the bad smell if left alone for too long, as well as creating an ideal environment for microorganisms and other nasty critters to thrive.


Wood degradation

Like every other organic material, wood is subject to degradation. Unless you take care of the conditioning and upkeep of your wooden antique piece, the natural decay process will gradually take over, forming unpleasant smells that can compromise the usability and value of your piece.


Absorbed Smells From Daily Use

Over the course of years, furniture can absorb the smells and vapours that come from everyday use; this is especially true for pieces that used to be placed in a kitchen (where they can absorb grease and the aroma of cooking ingredients) or in an environment where strong perfumes and chemicals were used, like a bathroom. Stale smoke is another factor that can contribute to the smell; smoking used to be much more common in the past, and furniture that has been in a smoker’s home for decades is likely to have absorbed some of the substances contained in cigarette and cigar smoke over the course of years of use.


Mould and mildew

Humidity is the natural enemy of antique furniture. A moist environment, such as a dark, humid basement is an ideal breeding ground for fungi, and the formation of mould and mildew can be the cause of a nasty smell, especially if the fungal growth is located in hidden crevices (such as the back of a cabinet or behind drawers) and as a result is hard to spot and treat.