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Question from Audrey


My dining room chairs (upholstered seat) are very musty smelling.   I put baking soda on one (experimenting with just one seat) overnight and vacuumed it up in the morning – no help.  I have read that a mixture of vinegar and water and wiping it on the seat and then blow drying it- should help.  Before I do that, I would like any suggestions to help with the musty smell.  I don’t want to have them reupholstered – they are very old – if I have to get rid of the chairs I will – they are not used, but would prefer to keep them. I have mcs, so I have to be especially careful.  Any suggestions?

Lisa’s Answer

I understand that your question is about getting rid of the smell but I’d also like to address the question of is the chair free of toxins.

First, regarding the smell, musty odor is due to mold or mildew.  To get mold or mildew there must be a source of moisture.  Is the humidity high in your home?  If so, you may want to look into a dehumidifier.  If not and you do not live in a humid climate, opening your windows and using a fan can help.  You could also try leaving the chairs in the sun for a period of time.  You can try to apply the vinegar which may help neutralize the odor.  I can’t tell you whether or not that will damage your fabric.

Regarding the potential toxicity, I am concerned about two things.  First, there could be mold in the cushions.  You could open them up to check.  If you cannot confirm that there is not any mold, I would not keep them.  Also, if the cushion is made with foam it could be a source of many chemicals of concern such as formaldehyde and fire retardants.  As foam gets older it breaks down and gets into household dust.  Even if it doesn’t smell it can still be exposing you to chemicals.  I don’t recommend upholstered furniture unless it is made with non-toxic fillers such as natural latex, wool or cotton.


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