by Kathy Adams, Demand Media
Unpleasant chemical odors are common with new furniture; upholstery may have been treated with flame retardants or other chemicals designed to protect the material, while painted or varnished furniture's odors stem from its finish. In either case, the odor can be off-putting. Reducing or removing the chemical smell is often a matter of giving the furniture time to air out, but you can take several other measures to hasten the process.
Airing out new furniture, whether it's upholstered, varnished or painted, offers a natural way for the chemical fumes to dissipate on their own. Nearly every kind of fabric or furniture finish has an odor that is most evident while the furniture is new. Place the new pieces outdoors on a warm, non-humid day to allow the furniture to air out. Sunshine, low humidity and a bit of a breeze all work in your favor to freshen the furniture. If you're unable to keep the pieces outdoors for a day, place them on a porch or balcony, or in a room away from your main household activities, opening the windows and turning on fans near the furniture to help reduce odors.
Damp or humid conditions sometimes contribute to the levels of chemical odor emitted from furniture. Chemicals that off-gas or turn into fumes, such as formaldehyde, do so more readily when the surrounding air is humid. Run a dehumidifier or air conditioner in the room containing the furniture during humid conditions to help cut down on off-gassing.
Baking soda sprinkled over upholstery fabric absorbs some of the odor when left to sit for an hour or so. Set any removable cushions aside and sprinkle both the cushions and the areas underneath, as well as all the fabric on an upholstered item. Vacuum the baking soda away to clean it off the furniture. For non-upholstered furniture with drawers, place a bowl of coffee beans or used, dry coffee grounds in the drawer and close the drawer. Discard the grounds after a few days.
A mixture of equal parts vinegar and water serves as a liquid deodorizer for fabrics, or you can use it to wipe down finished furniture to help cut down on odors. Spray the mixture over upholstery, then wipe it away with a dry cloth. Apply the mixture directly to a soft cloth or sponge to wipe down hard furniture surfaces, followed by a dry cloth to remove excess moisture. In either case, first test the vinegar on an inconspicuous area to ensure the furniture is color-safe. A bowl of vinegar left in the room near the furniture also helps remove airborne chemical odors emitted from the furniture.