Solutions & Substitutions by Reena: Getting Out the Smell

By Reena Nerbas

Stains on Leather Jacket

Dear Reena,

You helped me with a problem several years ago when my car trunk was drenched in gasoline. You told me to stuff the trunk with crumpled up newspaper which I did and the smell was gone. You also helped my daughter fix scratched C.D.’s using peanut butter; she is a library tech. student at a college and now the class keeps a jar of peanut butter in the classroom at all times for scratched C.D. emergencies. Now I have another question: What is the best way to clean stains on leather and suede fabric? I have a leather jacket and know it’s expensive to clean, so any tips would be appreciated. Always a fan, Barbara

Dear Barb,

In terms of leather, it is difficult to explain how to remove stains on leather without knowing what caused the stain. One solution to try (if you don’t know what caused the stain) is to apply boiled linseed oil and a clean cloth. For regular leather cleaning; mix one quarter cup vinegar and half cup water; use a cloth to wipe off wax build-up. To restore the shine use a circular motion and apply saddle soap or Urad to leather. Never use furniture polish or varnish on leather because they may contain solvents that cause leather to become sticky. As for suede fabric, my favorite solution is to make a paste of baking soda and water. Leave it on the area for 10 minutes and then swipe the spot back and forth with a stiff brush until the area is clean.

Sofa Bed with Musty Odor

Dear Reena,

In my last apartment my sofa bed was against an outer wall and I did notice that as the weather warmed there was a musty odor. I chalked this up to the fact that the upholsterer had made the skirt too long and air was not circulating underneath. I changed the fabric-covered mattress for a plastic covered one and sprayed the entire sofa with Febreeze and eventually Nil Odor. The item has been on an inner wall for almost five years and I notice the same odor when the outside temperature rises. The bed has only been pulled out for use on less than 20 occasions during the many years I have had it, I air it out every summer when the specific aroma reminds me to do so. I hope you can give me a quick response before my wool carpet is also affected. Thank-you, Max

Dear Max,

Airing the sofa out is a good idea because it sounds as though mold grew or is growing somewhere inside of the sofa bed, perhaps in the mattress. In my opinion commercial air freshener sprays mask odors for a while but don’t actually clean. Have the bed professionally steam cleaned or rent a steam cleaner. With regards to the skirt not allowing air to travel underneath the sofa; this seems unlikely because most textiles are at least somewhat breathable and air should be able to travel in and out.

You may want to consider storing thin piles of newspaper inside of the sofa when the bed is closed, doing this helps absorb odors and moisture. Replace newspapers once a month. If you notice other areas in your home being affected by high humidity, consider purchasing a dehumidifier.

Smelly Cupboards 

Dear Reena,

Let me start by giving you an update on my last problem: The bleach and TSP solution worked on my egg stained stucco! I had to scrub and rinse a couple of times, but the stain is barely visible, thanks so much. I have another question. My son recently moved into an apartment with older wooden kitchen cupboards. Some of these have quite a strong odor. For example, the cupboard where he keeps his glasses smells strongly of some spice. Not really offensive, but not what he wants to smell when he gets his juice in the morning. When he moved in, we washed the cupboards out with a cleaner, hoping to remove the smell, but it is still very noticeable. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks, Kate

Dear Kate,

There are several options for cleaning cupboards both inside and out! Begin with the easiest and work your way up to more aggressive solutions. Combine Dawn dish soap and water, use a non-scratching abrasive cloth to scrub wood along the grain. Or clean cupboards with Murphy’s Oil Soap, scrub and rinse. Or use the following ‘Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard Cleaner’ recipe: Combine 1-2 cups vinegar, 1 cup ammonia (optional), half cup baking soda and 2 gallons water. Cover hands with rubber gloves and draw a small amount onto a sponge, wipe each cupboard (along the grain to prevent streaking). Apply olive oil once a month to protect wood. Apply car wax every six months, let dry and buff; test all solutions on an inconspicuous area first. If the smell persists, lightly sand and then clean with ‘Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard Cleaner’ recipe. More serious options are to paint or stain inside cupboards or apply MACtac as shelf liners but you will likely not need to resort to these.

Wise Reader Shares!

·        The best way to remove smells without using any toxic stuff. Wash fabrics as usual, leave wet, put in plastic bag and place in freezer. It takes about two weeks to remove smells from stuff. I have done this for years, works like a charm. Dom

Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first.

I enjoy your questions and tips, keep them coming. Need a Presenter on the topic: Effective Speaking or The Power of Words? Check out: