I just bought an older house that had really bad DIYers. As a result, the inside of the kitchen cabinets were never finished and absorbed all kinds of smells. The worst is the musty smells. I started by removing all the shelf liner, that helped some. Then, I sprayed them with a water/vinegar solution. That helped even more, but not completely. Finally, I coated them all with polyurethane. It helped almost all of the drawers and cupboards, but there's still some drawers that are stinky. I'm trying to delay redoing them until I can save enough to redo the countertops, floor, and replace some appliances. Any other suggestions?

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    Welcome! Thanks for asking your question. Musty smells generally come from moisture. Could it be that the musty cabinets are the ones near or at where the plumbing is? If there's water behind/under those particular cupboards, that will have to be dealt with as part of a permanent solution.
    – gnicko
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 1:29
  • The ones that were the worst were under the sink. There was a leak, but it has been fixed already. The ones that don't seem to be dissipating are from a diy island with no plumbing or anything.
    – Brandy
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 1:39
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    Interesting. If you can confirm that there's no moisture causing to the smell with the island, it just might be a matter of waiting it out. How long has this been going on?
    – gnicko
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 1:50
  • I closed August 10th. I think I might have to make the extra effort to coat EVERY surface under the island. I can't remember if baking soda helped (I forgot that step in the original question)
    – Brandy
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 2:13
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    Despite there not being a water supply to the island where the worst offenders seem to be, it's worth checking for water damage. There may have been a flood at some time in the past and these cabinets may still have moisture behind them. Continuing to leave the baking soda box open in there may help. It's an ongoing band-aid, not a final solution, but that may just be what you have to do until you're ready to tear the whole thing out and replace it.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Oct 26, 2021 at 12:55

1 Answer 1


I think the solution (long or short-term) will be to get rid of the moisture and the smell should follow. Once everything is nice and dry you could seal it to prevent the problem from recurring.

If the wood is moist, you don't really want to seal in the moisture, and if you can't detect moisture in the wood of the island/cupboards, the problem could be in/under the floor or on the underside of the island.

As FreeMan mentioned, it's likely there was some kind of flood in the kitchen and water got under the island somehow. Maybe the leak under the sink allowed water to seep under the flooring or it otherwise pooled under the island and caused trouble there. You'll know more when you replace the flooring.

It might be a matter of opening up the area under the island cabinets and allowing it all to thoroughly dry out, and then sealing things up.

If you're going to replace the island anyhow, you could use a hole saw to bore a few holes in the toe-kicks or the "floor" of the island to let air circulate and dry things out.

This stuff (DampRid) does a pretty good job at controlling moisture in an enclosed space. I've used it to dry out an old root cellar put into service as a closet in a basement. One caveat: You have to place it somewhere that's accessible and remember to discard the collected water periodically to keep it working most efficiently, though.

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    @Brandy It's kind of hard to give specifics steps to take on this as we don't know how your island or cupboards are constructed/configured, but if you'll edit your question to include some pictures, I'll update this answer to take that information into account...
    – gnicko
    Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 0:24
  • That's a good idea to look under the island. It looks like it was built by the previous owners. All the cabinets are unfinished wood inside. I wouldn't be surprised if the previous owners installed/made them, too. There was a leak under the sink, but that was fixed months ago, so there's plenty of time for it to have dried out, but it still smelled. There's drawers that smell, too, and it's not possible for a leak to be in those. What kind of pictures are you looking for? I have outside, but no inside ones
    – Brandy
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 1:17

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