How to Get Rid of that Musty Old People Smell

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I like old stuff. It makes me happy. It makes me feel relaxed and content. It makes me want to use words like whippersnapper and hooligan while holding a rolling pin in one hand and a television remote the size of a box of cereal in the other.

The only real problem I’ve ever had regarding my love of old things is this;  If it is old … it will smell.  As an example, have you ever met an old cheese, old sock or old person that didn’t smell?

Several years ago I bought this luggage set.   And when I bought it, it smelled.  Poorly.  Like a musty, musty, must bucket.



I don’t actually keep my luggage on my front hall table, I just thought it was a nice way for you to get a good gander at it.



“Gander” is one of the words I intend to use on more of a regular basis when I get old.



Quite frankly I can’t wait to get so old I can say and do whatever I want without anyone looking at me like I’m a lunatic. When you’re young and you declare in an exceptionally loud voice that you think the person in front of you in line at the grocery store is a “whack job” you come off as judgemental and mean. When you’re old and you do the same thing, you’re just “a lively old gal”.



In order to get rid of the musty luggage stink I used my old standby. Kitty Litter.



Just open up the offending piece of luggage.



Unless you’re feeling poorly.  In which case you should probably sucker some other poor sod into opening up the stink box.



That lining right in there is what holds most of the stink.



Just pour a box of kitty litter into the offending piece of luggage. Yup. The whole box. Pour it right in there.



See? Fill it up.



Then close up your piece of luggage (or any other thing you own that’s filled with musty smells.



And leave it for a week. You heard me. One week. Just leave it.



When the week is up, just empty the kitty litter and fill your luggage with whatever you choose to. I use my fresh smelling train case as my sewing box and it looks like this!



Cute right?



Only it actually looks like this.



Which isn’t nearly as attractive in a photograph. But it’s the truth.

You can use this litter trick with almost anything.  Musty vintage clothing?  Shove it in a plastic bag and cover the piece with kitty  litter.  Tie the bag up and leave it for a week!

The plastic bag technique works great with just about anything that smells old and musty.  Although, I probably wouldn’t recommend this exact procedure with old people.

Most of ’em are feisty.  If you try and cover them in kitty litter and shove them in a plastic bag chances are they’ll knock you right on your keister.

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  1. I have also heard that a remedy for a stinky car is to place a bowl of vinegar. Apparently, it deodorizes it (whatever “it” is) and makes the stench go away. I’ve never had a smelly car to try this is, but do you think it works?
    getting old= sassiness is expected and wanted of you. I’m so looking forward to having an excuse for that.

    • Karen says:

      Holly – I don’t know … I’d have to try it. But I must admit, I have my doubts. :( If I ever come upon a really stinky car I’l let you know. – karen

      • Carol says:

        I use the vinegar trick because I have 3 dogs and my car gets smelly sometimes, and yes the vinegar works.

        • Mary says:

          What kind ofvinager???? White???

          • CAROL says:

            I use apple cider from a health food store. I have also used the white if I am out of the other. I also wash my windows with apple cider water and wipe down the seats with a vinegar water.

            • C. L. says:

              My 2005 car was bought new by an old lady who was a smoker and thn found out a few months later she had lung cancer. The car was under a year d but smelled like an ash tray. I am a non-smoker and very sensitive to smells. Her daughter had a jar of apple cider vinigar on a cloth in a jar in the car. It took a few months but the smell all went away. I have had the car for ears now and NEVER smell smoke in it.

    • shari says:

      When are you old theses days? I’ll be 50 next year and I can tell you if it’s on my mind it’s coming out my mouth!

      • Chris says:

        This was a wonderful, humorous article – thank you much for it. As an aging person, I am definitely wondering what is available (besides lavender and rose spray) to rid my body of the ‘old person smell.’ I do believe it’s our bodies’ chemistries changing, etc. – evolution isn’t keeping up with our desire to work ’til our 80’s, live beyond. Any ideas? The plastic bag could work…..cost is horrendous for a bag that large, even on ebay….

        • Karen says:

          LOL! Well I’m starting to get old myself and I find just walking around with a pet skunk tends to divert attention. ~ karen!

    • Alicia says:

      When we had a skunk spray our house, that vinegar remedy is one of the things I found online. It did not work.

      My husband, having forgot it didn’t work, tries putting a bowl of vinegar in our bar fridge when it smelled like skunk (due to being in the mudroom that smelled) It’s been 6 months and it STILL smells like vinegar!

      • Sheila says:

        There’s a product called N.O.C (Nature’s Odor Catalyst) that was recommended to me by our specialty pet boutique/store after a nasty cat marked our front door. The stuff works awesome! They said they use it on pets that have been sprayed by skunks and many dog owners use it to get urine stank out of outdoor dog runs. Works on a microbial level and is completely natural and non-toxic.

        • Karen says:

          Hi Sheila! Thanks .. If I see it I’ll give it a try. My little cat used to pee on the floor for some reason and it leaves a HORRENDOUS smell. I found Nature’s Miracle (which is probably a similar enzyme reducing product) and it works great too. Nothin’ worse than the smell of cat pee. Thanks again! ~ karen

      • Rose says:

        Maybe you should put kitty litter in the bar fridge to get the vinegar smell out. ??

      • rob says:

        have you tried washing it with tomato juice or Simple green

      • Wanda Rice says:

        Skunk smell removal – works everytime!

        1 bottle of reg. 3% hydrogen peroxide
        1/2 C baking soda
        1 tsp. of dish detergent (dawn or other “gentler” kinds)
        Apply mixture where ever the skunk has sprayed…in all cases I have been fortunate to have my dogs be sprayed…not the house/carpet..etc……so this solution goes right onto the fur….soak the area and leave in for as long as the pet will allow…maybe wash rest of body with shampoo…but let the “stinky” fur soak up all that solution.
        guarantee that this works.
        rinse the area where the solution was applied…then spread other shampoo over, and rinse the pet well just like regular bath…voile’

  2. Helen says:

    once again, informative and yet refreshingly entertaining.
    I wish I could bottle you and open you up when I need a pick me up :)

  3. Alisha says:

    It really does work folks, she’s not lying to us. (Like she would dare!) This method is far better than using a dryer sheet which just covers up the smell. I do recommend using unscented cat litter though. That scented cat litter sometimes smells just as bad as the “musty musty must box” And yes Karen, your sewing box actually rocks. *jealous face* I use an old ammo box for mine and it is just as organized as yours!

  4. Amie says:

    Bicarb Soda works too. I use it to get funny smells out of spice & olive jars. xx

  5. mimi says:

    Gander over here means a little walk, as in “I’m going for a gander round the block”.
    So I could “gander” on and nobody would know I was noseying around their stuff, they’d think I was gone to the shops!

    Love your sewing box, I think you deliberately tossed it for the photo.

    • sue says:

      To take a gander at means to look at. I’ve been taking “ganders” for over 70 years.

      • Trudy Medeiros says:

        I love your site. Just found it. The musty suitcase is great. I will certainly try it. Plus the cat urine smell. So needed at this four cat household. Mistakes happen. Saw one cat standing up in the box, leaning on the wall to use the box. Oh my goodness. A sight to be seen. The look on her face was as if to say “I am not touching this stuff.” Wish I had a camera. I love your advice. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Tonia says:

    Hello Karen

    This is advice I’ve been seeking for years — thanks!

    Question: It looks like you used unscented cat litter. Would scented work? How about the litter made of recycled paper?

    And did you vacuum out the suitcase after the week with the litter in it?

    Thanks so much! I am most definitely trying this out…

    Tonia in Switzerland

    • Karen says:

      Tonia! I would stick to unscented, traditional kitty litter. The scented stuff is somethings reallyyyyyyy strong. Stinky strong. Also, the traditional kitty litter has way better odour absorbing properties than the newspaper type. – karen!

  7. Lori says:

    By gobs, I think you answered my prayer today. Well, I won’t go that far – I wasn’t actually PRAYING about it, but…

    I create handbags from recycled leather jackets and I obtained a wonderful bomber jacket recently that had that OLD musty smell. It’s been on my porch for two weeks now. I resigned myself to researching the internet this morning for a solution. It was truly fate because I clearly found my solution here!

    Now I just need to head up to the kitty litter room and snatch some litter. This should be interesting. Thanks!

  8. Farquist says:

    What’s with the Halloween candy box on the floor in the background of picture #2?
    Musty stuff makes you crave chocolate?

    • Karen says:

      Hah, no. Must make me lazy. I took these pics the day after Halloween and couldn’t be bothered to move re-take the photo after I noticed the box of chocolate bars! – karen

  9. Brilliant! I just bought a persian wool coat with a mink color that smells like moth balls. Would you do this with that curly wool? I’m concerned that it would get stuck in the tendrils.


    • Jeanne says:

      DON”T put kitty litter on your persian wool coat!! You could put it in a pillow case and tape the ends and then lay the coat on top of the kitty litter and put all in a plastic bag…but I have found that by hanging the coat outside on a sunny day will freshen and the mothball odor will disappear.
      I am assuming you have a cat so kitty litter is reusable, or a neighbor who will appreciate the gift as it is @ $10 a box!

      • say wahht? says:

        Put it in a couple of pairs of panty hose and tie the ends.

        Also smells might fade, but rotten manners don’t.
        I’m 64, been an antiques dealer all my life and met plenty of old people for decades who sold me their stuff . Not many of them smelled. But perhaps for every rude old person there might be the same number of obnoxious younger ones with less excuse for making a bad impression.

        When I now hear comments like this now, my personal uncharitably unspoken wish (but with a nice smile) ends up being that maybe you might not get to make that discovery for yourself.

    • Karen says:

      Julie. I actually don’t think putting the Persian Lamb in kitty litter is a bad idea, but you can just try a cuff first to see. It should just shake out. If need be you could vacuum it with a soft brush attachment. Good luck. – Karen.

  10. Devin says:

    This post makes me think of my best friend. She loves that smell. She also loves the smell of mold. Sometimes, she purposely leaves her towel in a crumpled ball so that it will smell mouldy.

  11. Jeanne says:

    Question: Can anyone tell me hat can you put into water base paint that has obtained a musty, mildewey odor? There is a product for oil base but not for acrylic.
    And, kitty litter is recommended to put in old paint cans to dry out the paint before disposing them.

  12. Natalie says:

    So, after you remove the kitty litter from the suitcase, does the suitcase smell like kitty litter?

    I also noticed that your largest suitcase seems to have a smiley face (with pinholes for eyes, and a big smile made of a handle). Perhaps it’s delighted that it no longer smells of old people.

  13. Stefanie says:

    Our entire basement smells like old people. Slightly mildewed old people, anyway. There’s a new carpet down there and we’ve had it professionally cleaned twice this year, but it still smells unpleasant enough that we seldom use the space except to do the laundry and stash the bodies.

    Is there a kitty litter trick that might solve our aromatic basement problem?

    • krystyna says:

      take few onion bags,fill w/charcoal and hang around your basement,and I would try sprinkle the cat litter,you can vacuum latter

  14. Oh my goodness, genius! I have a vintage chest that needs serious help. This is the perfect thing for it.

  15. Amy says:

    What a great idea! I have used cat litter when my son dumped a huge cup of water in the car. After 24 hours, I just vacuumed it up and the floorboards were dry.

  16. sharon says:

    Your post is so timely for me. I am 70 years old. I have a hot date tonight, so I am spending the day in a large plastic bag of kitty litter just to be on the safe side. Thanks for the tip you little Whippersnapper, you.

    • ashley says:


    • Cindy says:

      OMGosh!! Sharon, you just made me snort! I have a vision of you standing in a puddle of litter with the plastic bag pulled up and tied around your neck, just waiting. LOLOL. You are too funny. Keep up the good attitude and I am sure the gent will want to spend more time with you!

    • Karen says:


      I hope when I am old and 70, I’m as funny as you are. Oh my……can it be? Must be reading that number wrong. According to my driver’s license 70 comes in another two months!

      Thanks for the laugh. Now about that horrible smell in my second hand suit case.

  17. Laura Rehbehn says:

    Is it me or does the bottom suitcase look like it is smiling at you – it looks quite a chipper lil suitcase!

  18. Langela says:

    Karen, what if my whole house smells like old people? The people before us painted the windows shut and the smell is always lurking here and there. Would you recommend filling the house ALL the way up with litter or would half-way do the trick? :o)

  19. Sam says:

    If you put this litter in the bottom of a rubbish bin/garbage it will soak up the smells and also any nasty liquid that leaks from your liner.

  20. Marianne says:

    Do you have any suggestions for cabinetry? We suffer from musty old-person smell in our bathroom cabinets (think old lady talcum power smell).

  21. Betsy says:

    This might be the answer I have been looking for too!
    Can I use it to get moldy smell out of books? Would I put the books directly in the kitty litter or a pillow case then litter together in a plastic bag?

  22. Tori says:

    I find that using charcoal is much less messy. I place one or two in a coffee filter and then just dump them back in the bag afterward so they can be reused. They only need 24-36 hours depending on the size of the space and how many you use to do the job. Only on the smelliest, most heavily varnished pieces have I had to leave them in for a week.

    • Karen says:

      Tori! I’ve never tried charcoal for smells. I don’t actually find the kitty litter to be messy at all. You pour it in, you pour it out. Plus it doesn’t turn your fingers black when you pick it up! Usually. :) ~ karen

    • Rocksi says:

      I don’t think I would reuse the charcoal to cook after the old smell has been absorbed into the charcoal. :(

      • Patty says:

        I have several suitcases that are musty. I have heard that rice is good for drying things out. I’m wondering if it will work like charcoal or kitty litter?

  23. Love the stack of old suitcases! They look like they’re smiling at me 😀 I wonder if we can find a way to fill my grandparents’ entire house with kitty litter… I would say get them a ton of cats, but then their house will just smell like poo.

  24. Jem says:

    Yeah, yeah, great suggestions, BUT… WHERE did you get that FABULOUS TABLE?!?!?!? The silver, pedestal one? OMG. Must have it!

  25. liz a. says:

    why do you suppose there is an “old people” smell, most old people still bathe? don’t they? and how did that smell get in my armoire or your suitcases? curious! and as i get older (past 60) i realize i just don’t care what people think so i say what i want…oh wait, i did that when i was 20 too, oh well, it was a thought!

    • Karen says:

      Liz! I liken the smell to “puppy breath” smell, “baby” smell and “random weird fridge” smell. None of them are explainable. ~ karen!

  26. Shauna says:

    Great idea. One question: do you chuck the kitty litter when done, or can your pour it back into the container and save for another de-mustifying use? I’m kinda thrifty (some would say cheap) so I’m hoping it’s the latter. Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Shauna – I have cats, so it goes directly in the litter box! I’m not sure if you can reuse it to be honest with you. I’ve never smelled the litter to see if it retains the musty smell. I have a hunch it’ll only be able to absorb so much smell, but have no idea how much! I’ll do a little testing and see what I can come up with. ~ karen!

      • Laurie says:

        I find if I put the litter outside on a sunny day and stir a bit now and then the musty goes away. Worth a try. ~L

  27. Brook says:

    Great. I work at a hospital, and you can be sure that I’m gonna be grinning like an idiot whenever your kitty litter suggestion pops into my head. Just what I need – more inappropriate mental images to add to the self-monitoring list. Thanks, Karen : )

  28. Tricia Rose says:

    You did mean unused kitty litter, right? I can’t economise?

  29. Eva says:

    I know this is late, but hoping to help for the future. Re: the persian lamb coat. Don’t use kitty litter on the coat! Wool has natural oils that the litter will suck right out of the coat, if left that long. Litter, especially the scoopable kind has powerful dessicants that are used for the “clumping” action. Oh, also, don’t try to wash the coat in the washing machine, even on gentle, unless you want hundreds of little scraps of curly lamb for a project. Gall-dernit, I miss that jacket.

  30. Nicole says:

    I’m glad I found this trick! I have two vintage train cases which looks fabulous but smells nowhere as good. I’ve tried putting it out in the sun (which just melts the glue on the lining inside), the bicarb soda, even had kitchen paper with lavender oil in it for weeks but the smell just won’t go away. I shall give it one more try with the kitty litter. The cases are just too cute to give up. Thanks Karen!

  31. Kat says:

    Any thoughts on photo, vintage cards, spent the weekend tearing up MIL scrapbooks and albums OMG what stinky old people smell – I am thinking ziploc bags and fabric sheets – would like to use these in some mixed media – afterall I have NO clue who these people from 20’s- 70’s are– I think everyone needs to write a name and year to all photos – but saving all mine to external drive these days so guess it won’t really matter– I think my in-laws are related to the “Adams Family” scary!

    • Karen says:

      Kat – Hmm. I”m not sure. The problem with things like fabric sheets and Febreeze is they just mask the odour, they don’t get rid of it. So once the fabric sheet smells dies down, the musty smell comes back. I’d be tempted to try the kitty litter. The only worry you’d have is that the litter would scratch the surface of the pictures, but if they’re a billion years old it probably won’t matter. Do a test run on one of the least offensive Adams Family members and see if it works. If you lose one pictures, it’s not as big a deal as if you lost all of them to the kitty litter. But I actually think it’ll work fine. ~ karen!

  32. JJ Henry says:

    As an antique and vintage item lover an I only way too familiar with this situation. How is it possible that this stuff can stink up a whole room. After doing some internet research I stumbled upon a product called Room Shocker. It’s really easy to use, it doesn’t use any harsh chemicals and the smell NEVER comes back. Check it out at:

  33. Mdm says:

    My dear sweet…you are funny honest and genuine…. Great post

    • Karen says:

      Well thank you! You’re new around here aren’t ya? Glad you found my site. Sometimes I swear. You have been forewarned. ~ karen!

      • Teresa says:

        Once you use the kitty litter in one container, can it be reused a second time to absorb more odor, or is it one time use only?

        • Karen says:

          Teresa – I always end up just throwing the used stuff in the litter box, but I would expect you can use it more than once. ~ karen!

      • mdm says:

        Hello and yes I am new..found you on Pinterest…appreciate the forwarning..
        If it gets too muddy, I will know enough not to get
        my best mdm samm

  34. Jean Lucey says:

    Thanks for your witty advice

  35. Natasha says:

    I love it… and I love your writing! I just have to say, I can’t look at those luggage pics and not see the happy face on the largest suitcase. Almost makes me want to add googly eyes. 😉

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Natasha! A few others mentioned the smiley face, but I didn’t even notice it until it was pointed out to me. ~ karen!

  36. Janel says:

    Oh. my. gosh. I think you might be my twin.

    “When you’re young and you declare in an exceptionally loud voice that you think the person in front of you in line at the grocery store is a “whack job” you come off as judgemental and mean. When you’re old and you do the same thing, you’re just ‘a lively old gal’.”


    I’m visiting via Pinterest, but I’ll be a regular for sure. Thanks for the kitty litter tip! :)

  37. Oh wow! This is the best tip ever! Old people smell is the worst and it is in pretty much everything that comes from the thrift store! Thanks so much! PS I’m visiting via Pinterest too!

  38. Heather says:

    Does it also get out the smell of old moth balls?? I have an old cedar chest that someone put moth balls in along the way. My sweaters always come out with a weird cedar moth ball combo so I have to let them sit out before I wear them. Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Heather – I dunno! I’ve never tried it with the mothball smell. Give it a shot and report back! ~ karen

      • Heather says:

        I did try it in my cedar chest and it got the moth ball smell out for the most part. I sprayed the chest with water after I cleaned out the kitty litter and it brought out the cedar smell. I’ve got my fingers crossed that the moth ball smell doesn’t return.

  39. Janet says:

    I have tried the kitty litter in an old trunk that had moth balls in it for 40+ years. The litter is still in it after a year and the smell is just as strong.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Well I guess that answers that. ~ karen

      • Heather says:

        Try removing the kitty litter and let it air out. The smell might go away some. My litter definitely smelled like moth balls when I took it out but the trunk did not smell anymore.

  40. Kerry says:

    Well, thank God for Pinterest! I’m sure I read this post when you wrote it back in 2010, but I don’t remember it (getting old or something!). And I’m having deja vu just saying that, like I’ve said the same thing before!

    My daughter wore the most amazing vintage lace dress to her prom several years ago. Unfortunately we never could get that old musty smell out of it, but it was so beautiful, she bravely wore it anyway. I’ve hung on to it and I’m going to give the kitty litter a try!

    For the person with the moth ball-smelling cedar chest, would sanding the cedar help?

    As usual, you have the BEST suggestions.
    Thank you!

  41. Donald Gauland says:

    There are a lot of saxophone collectors with old smelly cases that are going to try the kitty litter trick (do you own stock?) and hope it works. Also, I’m turning 70 soon and feel like I’m 30. I sometimes act like I’m 20 (my wife says 12). So being old is not only a state of mind but anybody that is ten years older than you are.

  42. Jena Webber says:

    Great idea. Thanks for sharing, you whippersnapper.

  43. Sandy says:

    I love this idea! Will it work in a cedar chest that smells like moth balls? Yes – someone put moth ball in a cedar chest. I have no idea how to get rid of the smell.

    • Karen says:

      Sandy – I don’t have any experience with that, but someone else who commented here said they had tried to get rid of mothball scent w/ litter and it didn’t work. However … I always say to try it yourself. You never know if something will or won’t work unless you give it a shot yourself. ~ karen!

  44. Kerry says:

    Sorry to repeat, but, the best way to treat cedar is to sand it a little bit. It refreshes the cedar. And, evidently, there’s oil you can use as well.

    Here, I found this online:

    “There is a product that refreshes the cedar oils in the cedar wood.

    I would suggest that you take everything out of the chest and use a fine grade sand paper on the exposed cedar. Do Not use anything heavier than 120 grit and just lightly sand it. Next take the replenishing oil of cedar and using a clean lint free cloth that you have applied the oil to. Rub the freshly sanded wood lightly with the cloth, if you apply to much pressure you will saturate the wood with the oil and leave an oil stain.”

    • Karen says:

      As a quick note … I always mention on this site that just because you read it on the Internet doesn’t mean that it’s true. I never recommend anything that I haven’t tried and know to work myself. I’d like to give the oil a shot to see if it’s true or whether yet again, the Internet is a big fat liar. The other thing is, once cedar dries out it’s really very hard to sand it to have the scent come back again. With newer cedar it works, but not as much with anything old. ~ karen

  45. Kerry says:

    Oh, so sorry.

  46. Rose says:

    I bought a fabulous used sewing machine a couple of years ago. It and its case smell like cigarette smoke. The machine is both plastic and metal, and the case is only plastic. Do you know if the kitty litter would work for getting rid of the smoke smell? I’ll probably try it, but I wanted to get input from anyone who can speak from experience. Thanks.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rose – I have no idea if the kitty little would work on cigarette smoke or not. More specifically cigarette smoke on plastic. You could try it on the case, but I’d be worried about trying it on the machine. What with all the parts that could get damaged from the litter. Give the case a shot, at least then you’ll know! ~ karen

  47. Thenar says:

    I appreciate the tip….going to try it on a vintage fedora I just bought. But I am an old people and I resent your implications. We do not smell…at least I don’t.

  48. Thenar says:

    Fair enough. I’ll be 70 this year, but I also co-chair Spain’s largest digital entertainment conference (Mundos Digitales) and I host the Virtual Humans Forum at FMX in STuttgart…another cutting edge venue for discussion of some of the most advanced technologies. But I also love old things, especially vintage Fedoras. If I can’t return this vintage Akubra to the Ebay seller…first I’ll be pissed, then I’ll get out the cat litter…I have about 40 lbs of it here for Luna-C. Any particular brand you recommend?

    • Karen says:

      Just so long as it’s unscented. You don’t need to replace the musty smell with the overpowering, vile smell of a “flower” never to be found in nature. ~ karen

  49. Jane says:

    I just tried this amazing idea. We will see in a week what my results are! Thanks for sharing. :)

    As for vinegar- it works magic on stinky cars! I recently decided to get rid of my car within a few days. Unfortunately, I am a smoker. Especially when I drive. Well, this left my car smelling so horrible and there was nothing to get the smoke smell out. It was even a convertible! So, the night before I had to turn it back it, I had remembered reading the vinegar trick online. With nothing to lose, I filled a tupperware (preferably a large but short sized) so the vinegar has more surface area. I left a few around the car on stable surfaces. Apparently vinegar absorbs odor, and let me tell you, it worked! Smoke smell gone! It did smell like vinegar, but after putting the convertible top down that went away quick!

  50. Shirley says:

    Was wondering if you can reuse the kitty litter or need to use fresh each time? (I have never had a cat, only dogs). Thanks

    • Karen says:

      Hi Shirley – I normally use fresh stuff, but that’s because I have cats. Once it’s done it’s musty job I just use it in the litterbox. I”m sure you could reuse it, but there will be a point when it can’t absorb any more smell. (I would think) How’s that for a kind of useless answer? LOL. ~ karen

  51. Becca says:

    Please don’t say that all old people smell. I find that offensive. Otherwise I have enjoyed reading your blog.

  52. Lynn says:

    Thoroughly entertaining! I bought a pre-owned LV handbag and the interior smells musty so I am going to try the unscented cat litter today! Thanks so much for your informative and fun column! :)

  53. Nancy says:

    Loved reading this and got a great laugh from your luggage pics using your luggage as a sew box and shown first all neat but shown how it really looks once its closed and you’re carrying it around. You are so funny. I bought a Guess bag off Ebay and when I recv’d it, it SMELLED! I contacted the seller who of course was offended and started slamming the Guess company that they themselves sell smelling bags, ya no! The woman was crazy… Anyway, just wanted to say you made me laugh and gave me a good tip on how to remove smells.

  54. Kaylyn says:

    What could I use to get rid of that musty smell in my house? Any ideas? =]

  55. Poshbargains says:

    Hello Karen…I love your site, love you photos and quirky genre..really stylish. Anyway Ive got this lovely vintage bag…very musty smelling but well worth trying anything to. Ive tried the fabric condition trick and hanging in the sun…nothing has worked , so now, one last try..its kitty litter as you suggest. Ive filled it 3/4 full with the stuff ( boy the bag was hugely heavy to cart home…especially with no cat to appreciate it)…I shall let you know in a week if it has worked. best wishes, Puppe ( poshbargains) ps come visit me and you’ll see why this trick could be an essential tip if it words.

  56. Kira says:

    I came across your post via Apartment Therapy (via Pinterest). I use vintage suitcases & trunks to display my handmade stuffed toys at craft shows. (I’m drooling over your suitcases by the way!) I feel like I’ve tried everything to get that “old” smell out of them, with limited success (baking soda, coffee grounds, crumpled-up newspaper, setting them out in the sun). I’ll definitely have to try this one! :)

  57. Sammy Lynn says:

    Watch what you say about old people. It WILL come back and bite you in the butt! :)

  58. Sue says:

    Karen what a Great Site!! I have an old pressed wood bookcase that smells like mold. Any tips? I have sprayed and sprayed it, to no avail??

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sue – You can try my trick by laying the bookcase down and filling it with kitty litter, but if it’s pressed wood, chances are the stink is on the inside of the pressed wood and will be VERY difficult to get out. I’m assuming it’s pressed wood with some sort of laminate on top. The laminate will prevent the kitty litter from doing its job. You could try it with one shelf or compartment and see how it works, but I sadly don’t have high hopes. Prove me wrong though! ~ karen

  59. ashley says:

    Hi!! I found you on pinterest. I was looking for something else but so glad to find this bit of information! I aquired a large tv entertainment center/armoir thing last week. It’s wonderful but, you guessed it.. it smells.
    Maybe I’ll put kitty litter in some tubs and put it on the shelves ? It makes the entire room smell. Not quite ‘old people’ but not the smell I want in my room either.

    I let you know if I try it :)

    • Karen says:

      Ashley – It’s important that the kitty litter touches whatever material you’re trying to get the smell out of. That’s how it absorbs the smell from within the piece of ick. You probably don’t want to do this, but the best thing to do is lay the unit down and fill the cubbys with litter! If you can, do it, if you can’t .. try it your way and see if it helps at least. Good luck. ~ karen!

      • ashley says:

        that makes total sense. it’s a huge very heavy piece of furniture though and I don’t think the husband would like the idea of moving it again at all :/ Maybe I’ll pour kitty litter on the shelves, keeping it upright

  60. jen says:

    People look at old people and think they are weird but old people don’t give a rats *ss! Thanks for the tip I love old stuff too

  61. Monica says:

    Thank you! And again thank you for the last pic. I always thought that only my stuff looks upside down after a while :-)

  62. nancy wilder says:

    hey Karen
    thanks for the tip! I have some great bags that all smell musty from living here on the coast. My dresser smells like cigarette smoke somewhat, it is old too. It’s good wood, not painted on the inside, do you think the kitty litter will work? Kind of a big drag to dump all my clothes even from one drawer for a week as we live in a postage stamp of a house.
    thanks, your blog is hilarious!


    • Karen says:

      Thanks Nancy – Well … I have no idea if it will work on cigarette smoke. The only thing I can suggest is to try it and see. :) I would think it should at *least* help. ~ karen!

  63. Ruby Cornejo says:

    Do you have any ideas on how to get cigarette smoke out. We bought a massage table. Didn’t realize it was from a smoker’s house. We have sprayed and cleaned. It has been sitting outside on patio for 2 weeks now and still stinks. We still have to try sprinkling it with baking soda, a suggestion from a church friend.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rudy – Hmm … that’s a tough one. Smoke smell really is difficult to get out but it does eventually go away. But it might takes years. SO! The one thing I can think to recommend is Enzyme Cleaner. A lot of people are making their own right now (I did a post on it a while ago) but you can buy it in stores. The easiest place to find it is in pet stores. It’s used for getting rid of the smell of cat urine, but it will work at breaking down any organic matter, including nicotine and smoke smell. I can’t guarantee it’ll work because I’ve never tried it on smoke smell before, but I can tell you enzyme cleaners work quite well on pet urine. As a last resort you can try one part hydrogen peroxide to one part water. Mix it up, wipe the table and let it sit. Wait 15 minutes or so then go back and wipe it dry. Good luck. ~ karen!

  64. Jackie Cardy says:

    I’m 61. Is that old? It must be because I absolutely stink. Maybe I should give up showering and use cat litter instead.

    • Karen says:

      Jackie – See? There you go proving that even though old people stink, they’re very, very smart! Good thinkin’. ~ karen

  65. dahlila says:

    Brilliant idea!
    I’ve tried everything–vinegar, baking soda–then both together. It does work, mostly, but the kitty litter sounds even better. I’m assuming there’s a vacuum step there after the filling & before the using? Will definitely try it.
    thank you, dahlila

  66. Laura says:

    HAHA, Lol @ “Only it really looks like this.”

  67. Shannon says:

    I recently acquired a ‘certified pre-owned’ leather jacket for my 5 year old son. The jacket is for his Halloween costume (Indiana Jones). It has this unidentifiable odor…I can’t place it…I don’t think its that musty/mildew smell…its something else…and it has a zipped in liner (which clearly needs some TLC i.e. ‘replaced’). I have it hanging in my garage to air out, but its not working. Can I use the kitty litter trick for this?

  68. Dory Gardner says:

    I have two old dressers that I want to refinish and use in my bedroom. The drawers smell like my grandmothers’ closet..the kitty litter should work on them too, right?

  69. Judy says:

    I believe cranky old people were also cranky young people. I find most older folks get sweeter and appreciate life more.

    PS the kitty litter works well.

  70. Carl says:

    Great info! Found you on Pinterest. Unfortunately, the only place I can find cool old suitcases or chests seems to be Pinterest.

    Old person smell actually exists.
    Thrift store smell is probably a mixture of old person smell and mold spore.

  71. Denise MacColeman says:

    I recently bought an antique 1940 English sideboard. It is beautiful with grand detail. But this thing smells to high Heaven. I have put a cup of coffee grounds inside, vinegar, charcoal pieces,used Murphys oil soap, cinnamon sticks, cloves and everything I could think of. It still sticks in the cabinets and drawers. I will put cups of litter inside and see if this works. Thanks. Denise

    • Karen says:

      HI Denise – You may have to actually lay the sideboard down and fill it if you can. That’d be your best bet. It works best when the litter actually has contact with whatever you’re trying to destink. ~ karen!

  72. Michele in IL. says:

    Cute and funny! I love your kitty litter idea and will use it. Don’t they say not to buy kitty litter with ammonia? Do u have to repeat the process in a year??
    Thanks so much!

  73. Billie says:

    I have to say that while the idea of Kitty Litter is good, I am amazed that anyone living in this day and age could post such insulting insensitive remarks about old people being smelly. That’s very unfair and unkind -I suppose you do realise that your grandparents and possibly even your parents and other members of your own family come into this category of “old people”.

    And too,I would suggest that you think about the fact that you too will be old one day.

    Anyone can be smelly, both young and old, and some just can’t help it. A little more compassion and understanding of other people’s problems might just turn you into a nicer person!!

    • Karen says:

      Billie – If you don’t associate the smell of must and moth balls with things that are old then you are one of very few in this world. My mother is 77. She’s not offended by the post. And neither should you be. I suppose you’re right that both young and old people can smell. The same way both young and old can either have a good sense of humour or not. ~ karen

    • say wahht? says:

      I also replied above and I am going to agree again with this offended older person.
      Since I have worked with vintage longer than most young people have been alive, I can easily tell you what the “old people” thrift shop smell is. It is nothing to do with being old and everything to do with fabrics and items that can’t be or aren’t washed, crowded intoa badly ventilated shop.. What the smell is: It is old sweat which smells nasty as it decomposes, and old perfume which smells even worse. Perfume goes strongly rancid as it sits on your clothes and in your closet. And mold from improper storage is the finishing touch.I won’t even go into old nicotine. Gak. The worst.
      Since I realized this I NEVER wear perfume with anything that can’t be washed immediately after.
      Don’t ever wear perfume with wool, silk or leather. It will be there rotting away forever.

      • Karen says:

        You understand that I, the originator and writer of this post, am the one to approve all of these comments, right? I’m going to assume you didn’t have much of a sense of humour when you were younger either. ~ karen

  74. Billie says:

    Mmmm – moderated – not really surprised!! I’ll be surprised if you allow that post!!

  75. Crystal Pistol says:

    Looks like I need to buy me some kitty litter. Sounds crazy but I’m gonna pour that stuff in my bathroom along the walls, (I CAN handle that that sight and mess for a week) and down beside my dryer to get rid of the musty stinky smell that every one says they dont smell, but I damn sure do, they all need to get their sniffers checked!!! I hate the smell in my bathroom! thx for the tip chick! *fingers crossed*

  76. Crystal Pistol says:

    oh and I know just what you mean about the old people smell. It’s no doggone secret that yes, old people do smell different…when she used that as her description we all knew exactly the odor she was talking of. So, the people that say they got offended by such comment/opinion I would bet that they are the ones who smell that way, and either dont know they smell that way or know it and they felt compelled to cry about it.

  77. Suzie says:

    I rarely comment on the websites from which Pinterest posts have originated, but I must on this one. While I found your tip very helpful, I found your writing even more enjoyable. I love words and writing, and you combined the two in an interestingly humorous and well-written excerpt as you described your method. Kudos…

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Suzie! I’m happy you found me through Pinterest and left a comment. Welcome to the site … hope you’ll come back. ~ karen!

  78. Emily says:

    If I have a suitcase the size of your middle one, or maybe a little bit bigger would I need to use more than one container of kitty litter, or would one be enough?

  79. Roxie says:

    What about getting the smell of cigarette smoke out of wood furniture? Any ideas on that one?

  80. Roxie says:

    How do you get cigarette smoke out of wood furniture?

  81. Ruth says:

    I have a thrift store and just unloaded a carload of musty clothes – mostly t-shirts that are clean otherwise. Stored 4 years in tight house. To wash would take 20 loads at a laundromat. To soak is out of the question since the pipes froze in my shop this winter. The kitty litter in plastic bags seems to be the best solution. I’m old. I guess if I can smell them then they’re really bad. If I used the smaller kitchen bags and shook them often would that work?

    • Karen says:

      HI Ruth – Yikes. I’m not sure. If I were you, I’d take a few pieces and do as you say. Put them in plastic bags, or even buckets with lids and fill them with kitty litter. Leave them for a week, and then check them. Remember not to use scented kitty litter otherwise you’ll just end up with an even worse smelling article of clothing! Good luck. ~ karen

  82. Ruth says:

    The smell on some of the clothing that was left in clean open air was less this morning but I filled several bags with clothes, oil dry from a auto parts shop and bounce. Will see what happens. The total was over 100 t shirts from one family. About 20 were from a casino – probably the reason they lost their home. Thanks for your response. You’re blog is fun.


  83. carol says:

    When I worked at a convenience store and we had a milk leak in the cooler that started smelling the boss put a charcoal briquette in the back of the cooler and in a day or so the odor was gone. Try that on your bar fridge.

    • cheryl seals says:

      HI KAREN, Just found your site via pinterist ! I have been an antique dealer for 35yrs just retired and closed shop up, YEY ! I have delt with smelly items alot, and i will be trying the kitty litter trick..ONE thing that i have done for years is clean all things in shop with a solution of lavender oil & water in a spray bottle, furniture and anything that can be wet..I used it for dusting and room spray my shop didnt have that antique shop smell aka. old people smell. I also used to put dryed lavender in the drawers and other stuff inclosed in cloth or interfacing it does work the customers always said the shop didnt thought is you can also maybe add some dryed lavender to the kitty litter for a lovely scent if you like lavender..lavender is an antimicrobical also.. AS for the old people smell it does exist, my mothers home smelled like that..When she passed an before we sold it we cleaned every surface with the lavender water solution, and i ground up the dryed lavender and put it on all the carpets and let it sit for a month and then vacumed the house no longer smelled like old people.. Thanks for your advice on kitty litter, i will be trying it forsure,then giving litter to a friend..See you next time….cheryl

      • Karen says:

        Thanks Cheryl! I actually love lavender scent. I just got a bar of lavender soap and I *can’t* stop smelling it, LOL. Glad you found my site. ~ karen!

  84. Great tip! I would have never thought of this! So clever!

  85. Jackie says:

    Helping my daughter with her vintage travel theme wedding this October. Recently purchased several vintage suitcases at an estate sale and both have that musty smell. One we can tell was due to some water damage but it is dry now. We will try your kitty litter suggestion, sounds like it may work for us. Found your site very amusing and helpful. I think that a cranky, smelly old person was probably a cranky, smelly young person, middle age person etc! There is definitely an old person smell just as there is definitely a new baby smell….whether you find either or both enjoyable probably depends on the memories you associate with each. Why should some people be offended, everyone does know exactly what you mean when you say “old person smell”. I plan to live to be at least 100 but I do NOT plan on every getting old. (of course, I may smell a bit by then :)

  86. Maria says:

    You’re a hoot! That’s right! I said hoot!! (I love that phrase!) thanks for the idea! Awesome! I wonder if this would get the vomit smell out of my leather sofa! Someone vomited on it a while ago and no matter what i can’t get rid of the smell that’s coming from in between the sewn cushions! I’ve tried sadle soap-baking soda-borax-you name it! But I haven’t tried kitty litter! I hope this will work!

    • Karen says:

      Maria! omg! omgomgomg! NONONO. Throw the sofa out, LOL. Throw it away, LOLLOLOL! Eep. Hey! Maybe you could take the sofa to those car cleaners who clean taxis. I bet they know how to get vomit smell out of leather. ~ karen!

  87. judi says:

    I was lol’ing all the way through your blog post! found you via pinterest and this is such a GREAT idea. I have some vintage ticking fabric that I washed and still smells…so this is a must try. thanks for the chuckles this morning!

  88. Alexandra says:

    Hi Karen,

    I recently scored a vintage typewriter and case that smells pretty bad. What do you recommend to remove the dingy smell from the actual typewriter itself? I’ve had it out of the case for the past month and I still get a face full of old smell. =(

    • Karen says:

      HI Alexandra- Congratulations on the vintage typewriter. I love old typewriters! Any typewriters actually. The first thing I would do is wash the typewriter carefully. Wash all the keys and body and all the cracks you can get into. Try testing a weak bleach solution (one part bleach to 10 parts water) to make sure it doesn’t dull the finish or anything. Once you wash it, let it dry completely, then fill a tupperware container with a few inches of kitty litter. Place the typewriter inside (on top of the litter) and put the lid on the tupperware. You may need a big tupperware bin for this. Let it sit for a week or two with the lid closed. Can’t guarantee it’ll work completely, but it’s what I would do in your situation. ~ karen

  89. Victoria says:

    i have a friend who has a musty smelling suburban. so what do you do for that? maybe he should use baking soda to clean the carpets.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Victoria – Believe it or not I’d do the same thing. Pour kitty litter on the carpets. It’ll be a pain to clean up (vacuum with shop vac) but it’ll work better than the baking soda. ~ karen!

  90. Angie says:

    Going to definitely try this! Thanks :). Love the humor too :)

  91. Cathy says:

    I saw coffee grounds mentioned once or twice. That is actually what the car rental places use. I used it once by sprinkling the grounds around in the trunk. It worked but it took a long time to get the coffee grounds vacuumed up. Next time I will just use jar lids filled with the grounds and set them around in the trunk.

  92. katie says:

    Hi. Love the idea..thank you! Just a quick Q-if you are familiar with vintage pieces. I’ve inherited a train case made of gator material. Trying to get a bit of background of it. Made by the same company as your set. Do you know about the value of this make?

  93. Wendy says:

    Hi Karen,
    Just stumbled upon your blog, I think I am considered old…58 and you made me laugh! My smelly problem is old vintage jewelry. specifically old pearl necklaces. Nothing expensive just sweet piece’s and they all smell like old perfume…to me that is the “old lady” smell. In your experience will kitty litter work and is safe for jewelry in general?
    Thank you

  94. Lioness says:

    Hi Karen,
    I tried the kitty litter on an old chest and after a week it smelt exactly as musty as before. I didn’t use the clumping sort though, am wondering if that could be it, have you tried this with any other type of litter? I’m now trying charcoal, fingers crossed.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Lioness – Well, that’s no good. Whether it’s clumping or non clumping shouldn’t matter. The other thing I know *can* work is coffee grounds. But you need a LOT. The final resort for something that’s wood, is to use a flat varathane type product. It seals the wood therefore sealing in the scent! ~ karen!

  95. Lioness says:

    Ah well, cheers anyway. Let’s see how charcoal does, though am not holding out hope.

  96. Wanda says:

    I have decided, solely,( well perhaps not solely but mostly anyway), based on your last paragraph, that I like you.
    I shall do some reading and hopefully justify that decision!

  97. Flip Flipenstein says:

    Huh… huh… huh-huh… huh… you said…. STINK BOX! Huh… huh… huh-huh… huh…

  98. Jen says:

    Hi Karen! I just purchased a home built in 1900 w/ old wood support beams & the basement access is outside. It is extremely smelly & musty down there & when it rains the whole house smells awful. If we put kitty litter down there will it need to be vacuumed up up to get rid of the smell? It’s a dirt floor & we don’t really ever need to go down there.
    & there is definitely an ‘old person’ odor that to younger people is not pleasant! I’m not saying all old people have this but many do. I think a lot of it many elderly people are unable to shower frequently so they cover up odors w/ strong smelling perfume.
    But I digress…. please let me know what u suggest for my musty smelling home.

    • Karen says:

      Yikes. That’s probably a bit too large of a job for kitty litter, LOL. However people say they’ve had success with lump charcoal. Buckets of bins of lump charcoal will help absorb smells. Lime over the dirt floor can help absorb moisture (which is causing the musty smell). Vapour barriers bring out different opinions in different people. Some say they’re great and a vapour barrier over your floor will help with the musty smell, other people will say all it does is trap all the moisture. I tend to agree with the later. My last suggestion is one I don’t really know about (even though I’ve recently done it myself) but think you should look into. Check into the option of pouring a cement floor. Those are my ideas for now. Good luck. ~ karen!

  99. eliana says:

    I bought and old suitcase last week and have been trying to remove the musty odor. I tried baking soda,vinegar and dryer sheets, to know avail!

  100. sidney says:

    I’m 66 and think “old” people are getting a bad rap here. Although every time I walk into my office/sewing room i wonder what “old person” has been in my there.
    Love your wit, humor and advice…keep’um both up. Us old folk just need a good hug every now and then (just hold your breath and squeeze like ya mean it).
    Hugs, sidney

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