Okay, I have a really great tip for you today on how to rid of the old musty smell from vintage upholstered furniture.

But, first you have to promise me something – don’t judge. It’s an unusual tip.


First, I removed the slipcovers on this loveseat and the two matching chairs. I washed them in my front loader washer, several times, with a whole lot of white vinegar and a small amount of detergent (to offset the vinegar smell).

This loveseat and coordinating chairs have a long history and are very well made furniture – they are just old and had been in the same home for many years with two families. They were in great shape – but the cushions, which on the loveseat are down, were very musty.

I tried all kinds of over the counter products and they still smelled. They were really not usable in the state they were in, so I decided it was time to get aggressive in how I approached it.

Then I found some information about how theater companies address the problems.

They use vodka.

Yes you heard me right – lots and lots of (cheap) vodka.

I took all the pieces and moved them to the driveway on a sunny warm day when I knew it would stay that way. I used a spray bottle and around 2 and half bottles of straight vodka.

I simply sprayed the entire piece of upholstered furniture in vodka, wetting it pretty well.

Then, I left it for a few hours in the sun and came back and did it again. In total, I did it three times and let it dry all the way.

By the time I brought them in, they were still slightly musty – but no smell of alcohol. I then used a bit of the over the counter sprays and the job was done.

I think the true test is when you sit on a piece of upholstered furniture – when you offset the cushions, if there is an odor – that is when you will smell it.

I can honestly say there is no longer any musty odor in our sofa – which is perfect since it is such a fun piece and we love it in this room.

Of course, my furniture was a “fix it or ditch it” approach. If you have a treasured piece – please spot check in an inconspicuous area first to see if it leaves any stains or issues. I also was not spraying on the outside – just under the slipcovers.

Happy odor removing my friends!

Thanks so much for reading.


February 24, 2014 — Laura Putnam