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How to Get Rid of a Creosote Smell

Updated February 21, 2017

Creosote originally came from the creosote bush that grows throughout the western deserts; it was used to soak sleepers so that they would not rot. Nowadays, to keep up with the demand, creosote is made by refining coal tar into a liquid preservative and is only available for commercial use. Unfortunately, creosote has an aroma that is very persistent, so use of creosote is limited to a few outdoor sites. If by chance you have creosote-coated wood in a place where the smell or the creosote itself is a problem, you may prefer to resolve the problem without removing the wood.

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  1. Scrape the creosote-soaked wood free of loose debris with a wire brush. Place a dust sheet around your work area so that the loose debris falls on the tarp. When you clean the wood, there is no need to be meticulous; just remove the material that comes free easily.

  2. Purchase a gallon of aluminium paint and have the store clerk shake the can thoroughly on the paint mixing machine. Take the can to your work area and cover the creosote with aluminium paint. After you are finished, clean the brush out as best as you can so that you can use it again to apply more aluminium paint.

  3. Let the paint dry for at least 24 hours.

  4. Add a second coat of aluminium paint. Make sure you stir the paint thoroughly right before you use the paint, because the metal material in this paint settles very quickly.

  5. Let the paint dry. Once the paint is dry, you should be finished with the aluminium paint, though it is possible that in some cases a third coat might be necessary. You can leave the wood as is, as this type of paint will cover the creosote. If you want to cover the aluminium paint with a latex or oil finish, it will take two coats of a heavy-duty primer-sealer and two coats of a finish paint to achieve a solid colour.

  6. Tip

    Use an old brush to apply the aluminium paint, because it might not be usable after you have completed the task.


    Aluminium paint should only be applied in a well-ventilated place. Consider using an exhaust fan while working with the paint.

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Things You'll Need

  • Wire brush
  • Dust sheet
  • Aluminium paint
  • Old bristle paint brush
  • Paint thinner (optional)

About the Author

Henri Bauholz is a professional writer covering a variety of topics, including hiking, camping, foreign travel and nature. He has written travel articles for several online publications and his travels have taken him all over the world, from Mexico to Latin America and across the Atlantic to Europe.

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