Musty odors and kitchen cabinets don’t pair well together, especially when dishes and dry goods stored within the cabinets pick up some of that unappetizing aroma. Remove all items from the cabinets so you can give them a thorough cleaning and deodorizing treatment; you may need to wash the dinnerware as well. If musty odors keep cropping up in your kitchen cabinets, there may be a moisture problem in the room as well
Remove everything from the musty cabinets, including any paper or liners coating the shelves and walls, to determine the source of the musty odor. If the cabinets came from a salvage yard or somewhere outside of your own home, it may just be that they’ve been stored in a damp, dark area for a while. Shine a flashlight inside each cabinet, looking for rotten or wet wood. If the cabinets are not from your home and they are waterlogged or rotten, you may want to discard them.
Air Out the Odors
Fresh, dry air helps remove the moisture partially responsible for musty odors. If the cabinets came from outside your home, set them outside in a sunny area during non-humid conditions to completely dry them out; it may take several days. Within your own home, a musty odor may mean it’s too humid indoors. Run a dehumidifier or an air conditioner to remove dampness, or open the windows and turn on fans. Mustiness usually doesn’t happen overnight, so open the kitchen windows or dehumidify the room on a regular basis to keep the air fresh. It’s also possible a leak behind the cabinets caused moisture and mustiness; if you notice wet wood and no potential source of moisture other than pipes, call a professional plumber to assess the situation.
Wash Away Your (Odor) Troubles
If you see any small spots inside the cabinet, these may be mold or mildew. Vacuum the spots away with an upholstery brush attachment on a vacuum cleaner. Wear a dust mask to avoid breathing in the spores, and replace the vacuum cleaner filter afterwards. Wash the entire inside and outside area of each cabinet with a few squirts of a mild dish soap mixed into a bucket of warm water, using a soft cloth or sponge to wipe the cabinets down after wringing out most of the moisture. Wipe the cabinet surfaces down again with a cloth dipped in equal parts vinegar and water to help remove odors and soap residue. Keep the cabinet doors open and run a fan or dehumidifier to help dry them out completely.
Tackle Lingering Odors
If the cabinets still smell a bit after washing them inside and out, place bowls of vinegar inside overnight to help remove the scent. Additional bowls of coffee beans or baking soda also help absorb the odors; these may be left in place for a few weeks. Wash all the items that belong in each cabinet to remove lingering odors from them; dry goods such as food and seasoning packages that smell musty should be discarded.