mildew smell in old travel trunk

Old 01-01-04, 09:50 AM
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Question mildew smell in old travel trunk

Hi. I did a search on this and found a little info but it wasn't specifically for my problem. For Christmas my husband and I received a beautiful wooden travel trunk. This had been his grandmother's for several years and she always used it as a coffee table. We plan to do the same. It is in beautiful condition. The inside looks great but smells badly of mildew (which I am allergic to). The inside is covered with a brown calico fabric all around. I'm not sure if it is the original fabric but the rest of the trunk is all original..his grandparents had an antique shop and were very knowlegeable about them so I suspect it is.

How do I get rid of the mildew smell (and spores) without harming the fabric or the trunk? All the other posts I see about mildew seem to be with bleach and it seems like they are more for hard surfaces. The only thing I have found re: fabric is baking soda but it wasn't specific. I'm guessing I would sprinkle it in the trunk and let it sit for a while and then vacuum it out and repeat until there was no smell. But i am concerned that if this worked it would only mask the smell and not get rid of the actual problem.

Any suggestions? I would like to be able to store things (perhaps blankets for curling up with on the couch) inside the trunk.

Old 01-01-04, 12:18 PM
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You're right, that oder is probably in the fabric and baking soda will probably be ineffective.

You might try setting it outside on sunny days and let the sun shine inside the trunk and lid. It will take a while, but it should help. When you're ready to use it, put some cedar blocks inside.
Old 01-01-04, 12:19 PM
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Sometimes things that are old smell musty. This is often interpreted as meaning that there is mildew present. Mildew requires a certain amount of moisture to grow. If this is just a musty smell, then vacuuming it out and masking it with potpourri or airing it out for a while might help.

The smell may be in the liner irretrievably. Things that sit around closed for long periods of time tend to develop this musty smell. It may be that the only way to remove the smell from the inside will be to remove and discard the liner, then seal the interior surface with lacquer or shellac to seal in the odor, then install a new liner. If this antique has any value, removing the original liner may seriously reduce the value.

Since it is impossible to have an environment with no mildew spores, the chance of removing them from the trunk will be small just as the chance is small that you could remove them from your house.
Old 01-03-04, 07:25 PM
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To remove musty odors, try saving your used coffee grinds, let them dry out, and place them in pie tins, inside the (closed) trunk for several days. They are great at absorbing musty odors.

And this is risk free, because you are not spraying or soaking anything on the interior.

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