5 Ways To De-Stink and Un-Funk Vintage Collections

So you like to collect things that are often found in thrift stores, antique malls or auctions. There are great finds to be had, but when that old hat collection is excavated from Aunt Tildy's basement, you don't want it to smell like the 1950s (or whenever it was packed away). Here's a few tips to lend a hand...

1. White Vinegar: There isn't much the stuff can't do, but one thing I know for sure is that if it can take away the smell of mouse pee in cabinet drawers, it can handle a little must or vintage fumes. Brush it on gently and allow to dry fully. This trick works great for wood and vinyl pieces alike.

2. Baking Soda + Shade: Baking soda does great things for vintage sofas or assorted upholstered pieces. Just sprinkle it on thick and allow the piece to sit outside if possible. In the past I've even used a small nail brush to help grind it into the fabric at hand. Let it sit as long as possible (24 hours would be ideal), just make sure the item stays in the shade as baking soda will act as a bleaching agent in full sun. Yes it has a catch, but it also works wonders on smoke and the smell of someone's damp basement.

3. 10% Bleach Solution: Many vintage cafe tables and chair sets have been cleaned up using a bleach and water solution and a soft bristled brush. Although this works mainly for the slightly yellow stains that can occur, it also does good things for those cushions that smell a little stale. You might not notice until you sit down on them and the air is compressed out. Clean the vinyl and the material that the air evacuates through is now a bit cleaner. Presto!

4. Strip & Refinish: Although no one really wants to tackle this step unless you have to, some pieces are so thick with smoke damage that they're unable to be rescued by any other method. Usually smoke will get stuck (say on a coffee table) in the varnish of a piece and simply wiping it down with vinegar just won't cut it. Read up on the products you'll be using so you can do the best job you can the first time around!

5. Rinse, Lather & Repeat: With the exception of stripping and refinishing your furniture or special finds, repeating the above methods with frequency is a great way to help keep the smells under control. Unless things came from an especially smoke heavy or moisture laden home, you shouldn't have to repeat things more than twice, but often, a second go round is needed.

Do you have a method you've been using at home? Share your wisdom for others in the comments below!

Image: Flickr member Meme Sanchez licensed for use by Creative Commons

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Sarah Trover has lived all across the Midwest and currently calls the hot dog-laden city of Chicago home. She rides scooters and seeks out kitchens that make the best pie.

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