How to Get Rid of Varnish Smell From Furniture

Updated February 21, 2017

Varnish is a clear, protective coating that is applied primarily to wooden surfaces such as furniture. Varnish often produces an unpleasant chemical odour that can linger on the varnished object. Environmental aspects like temperature and humidity can affect how varnish cures and the resulting odour. The composition of varnish can also affect odour, with oil-based varnishes having a longer-lasting scent than water based varnishes. Oily woods like ebony and teak might also cause a varnish to retain odours for a longer period of time.

Allow the varnish to cure completely. Varnish that has not fully cured will continue to produce an unpleasant odour.

Place the varnished furniture in an area that is warm and dry, with good ventilation. Humidity and cold air will not allow the varnish to cure. Good ventilation will help the varnish to cure and also dissipate any odours.

Open any doors or drawers of the furniture while airing it out. Make sure that any varnished area is exposed to warm, dry air and good ventilation.

Fill shallow bowls with vinegar and place them around the furniture with the odour. Vinegar will help to absorb the smell of the varnish.

Sand the varnished surfaces to remove the varnish if the smell persists. Removing varnish might be the only way to remove stubborn odour, especially when an oil-based varnish or oily wood has been used.

Coat the surfaces in a shellac to seal the furniture. Use water-based finishes to reduce unpleasant odours.


When choosing a varnish for furniture, choose a water-based application rather than an oil-based varnish to reduce odours from the start.


Always use a well-ventilated work area when sanding or applying varnish and shellac. Varnish and shellac are highly flammable.

Things You'll Need

  • Ventilation
  • Warm, dry area
  • Shallow bowl
  • Vinegar
  • Sandpaper
  • Shellac
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About the Author

Sarah Thomas has been a freelance writer for more than five years. She has ghostwritten e-books and articles on weddings and other topics. Her work has also been published on various websites. Thomas graduated from Daemen College with a degree in psychology.