How to Remove Musty Smells from a Safe


Kathy asked: How do I get the musty smell out of a safe? Our home safe seems to absorb moisture. Anything stored in it gets musty smelling. I have put in the moisture absorbing packets, and it does not seem to help. How do I eliminate this odor?

If moisture is entering your safe, it first needs to be checked by a professional for any damage. Once you are sure there are no leaks or areas of weakness, you can tackle the moisture and odors inside. There are products designed to absorb moisture in sealed spaces, such as a safe. There are also a variety of things that can be used to absorb and remove the odors.

Removing the Moisture

You Will Need:

Steps to Remove the Moisture:

If the source of the moisture is not cannot be found, you try to absorb it.

There are several options available. The easiest is a can of silica gel (This is the same product that is found in the small packets used to keep moisture out of boxes and purses/bags.) There are a variety of merchants who sell dessicant or silica gel. Ensure that you have a large enough canister for the space you are trying to protect. Dessicant can be purchased online or from many craft stores.

Many of them come with indicators that change color as the product absorbs moisture. Once the color has changed, simply place it in a low-heat oven for a couple of hours to dry it out again. It can be reused again and again. Another option is DampRid. There are a variety of products in this line as well. Find the one best suited for your situation. DampRid can be purchased online or at hardware and home improvement stores.

Removing the Musty Smell

You Will Need:

  • Coffee grounds
  • Vinegar
  • Small dish(es)

Steps to Remove the Musty Smell:

First, remove the moisture with one of the steps in the previous section, then you can effectively remove the odor without it returning.

  1. Fill a small bowl with fresh coffee grounds. Coffee grounds are excellent at removing odors.
  2. Place it in the safe and close the door.
  3. Keep it there until the odors are removed, longer if desired.
  4. Replace the coffee grounds as necessary.
  5. Other odor removers include vinegar, baking soda and oranges. Again, place them in a small dish (baking soda can be left in the box, opened) and set it in the safe. Remove and replace as needed.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If papers are damp or show any signs of mildew, place them in direct sunlight for several hours until they are dry again. Do not leave them in the sun once they are dry or the print may fade.
  • Air purifiers that put out ozone are also helpful in removing odors. Treating the papers with ozone is an effective way to remove odors as well.
  • If the moisture is not removed from the safe, the smell will persist, no matter how many odor absorbers are present. It is important to treat the source of the problem first.
  • Musty safes are not uncommon and moisture is not a definite sign of a problem with the safe. However, if excessive moisture is accumulating, it should be checked out by a professional.
  • A common mistake is using too little of a moisture absorbing product which does not allow it to effectively remove the moisture. Ensure the size of the product is adequate for the size of your safe.
  • These same moisture removal techniques can be used in closets, storage rooms, attics, etc


  1. Peter says:

    I am searching for a safe way to clean old collectible currency that has a mildew odor. These bills and notes look good for their age, but have this mold and mildew odor. Please help.
    Best Regards,

  2. Melanie says:

    An easy way to remove an odor from something is to put it in an enclosed area (like a shoe box or plastic container) with an odor absorber. Baking soda works well at absorbing odors and will not leave any smell on the currency like coffee grounds would. It is best not to let the powder touch the currency since it would then need to be cleaned off and it is a very fine powder.
    Instead, sprinkle a think layer of it on the bottom of the box, place a baking rack over the powder and spread the currency out on the rack. If that’s not an option, you can just remove the top of the box of baking soda and set it in the shoe box or plastic container with the currency. It could take just a few hours enclosed with the baking soda for the odor to be removed, or it could take several days. If you have a lot of currency, you may want to rearrange it repeatedly until the odor is removed.
    Source: Book Think – How to Remove Odors from Books

  3. Christina says:

    How do you remove the odour off of things in general that you have left downstairs in the cellar because there wasn’t enough space when we moved in? Most things in the cellar are in plastic storage boxes.
    Also, I have lots of books that are stored in a plastic container. Should I throw them or pop an odor absorber in the container and see what happens?
    I have asked a handyman that works for my landlord from time to time about the smell he said “the walls are old,” he did mutter something you could get, but I never heard from him again. I don’t want to upset the landlord as my partner is very ill at the moment and I need to keep my home a stress-free as possible. Would bake soda work if I distributed a few opened packets around the cellar?

    Check it out! We’ve answered your question! Yay!

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