Recently purchased an older home and the cabinets in the bathroom have an off smell that transfers into the towels as they sit in there.

There is exposed, unfinished plywood and I’m assuming it’s due to the moisture exposure over the years. No visible mold but just has a smell of old house in it.

What I’m wondering is if putting a layer of paint would block the smell or is there something more that would have to be done to get rid of it?

  • if that's the origin, paint can help reduce it a lot. I don't think it will be 100%, but it should help. some paints are better about that than others, ceiling paint being the least effective and outdoor paint or garage-floor epoxy being most effective.
    – dandavis
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 15:33
  • What finish is on the plywood right now? Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 15:45
  • Good quality primer like Kilz should be applied first. Sand lightly before the primer. Some people claim oil based Kilz is superior to water based, but others say there is no difference in performance. However, if there was varnish on the plywood, I would think that oil based primer would adhere better. Water based paint can be applied over oil based primer. Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 15:56
  • @JimStewart Your last comment should be an answer. Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 18:03
  • Sorry, somehow I didn't log in properly when adding this question but the plywood is unfinished. Not sure if I can get registered properly but thanks for the help!
    – zigloo99
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 15:56

1 Answer 1


The best option if you're going with paint is a synthetic shellac primer, which provides an odor barrier without the cost of natural shellac. Shellac is widely used in refinishing furniture to prevent nasty odors like pets and cigarette smoke.

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