Cabinets smell??

10 Replies

My tenant is complaining that the cabinets smell bad. The home was well cleaned when they moved in... I never noticed a smell? Anyone ever heard of this?

What do they say it smells like?  There could definitely be a smell from any unfinished (unsealed) parts of the cabinets. Smoke can easily get to those areas that can hold odors.

Yes. If the cabinets are old, it is not uncommon. Aromas can permeate the surface and be hard to remove. Turnover cleaning does not always do the trick. Try to identify the smell... grease, pungent food odor, mold/moisture, tobacco/other smoke, plastic off-gassing, paint off-gassing, pet smell, rodent odor, etc. Then use a clean product or method targeted for that type of odor.

We clean all hard surfaces with a cleanser/degreaser, then a vinegar wash, and finish off with a disinfectant. Clean all crevasses and cabinet hardware too. Some surfaces may need to be covered or sealed. For kitchen cabinets, we provide shelf liners...a good quality type. This helps seal the surface and also makes any new spills easier to clean. Changing out shelf liner is easy to do when necessary. We also give tenants a canister of disinfectant wipes with their move-in gifts, so they can tend to matters on their own.

Hi Amanda,

When my family moved into our rental, we had the same problem.  The cabinets smelled bad despite being cleaned and my countless attempts to clean them also.  There had only been one previous occupant prior to us and the house was only 3 years old.  I really think the odor was from the previous occupant's animals (as it was problematic with the lower cabinets and not really the uppers)- and because we didn't have animals I was more sensitive to the smell.  Honestly, four years later and the smell is faint, but still present.  I'm sorry- I wasn't able to find a way to rid the odor entirely... and I used several cleaners (baking soda, Mr. Clean, cleaners with essential oil, and others).  I'm interested to hear if anyone has found a solution, and I wish you the best of luck on this one!

@Amanda Hoening I smell a high-maintenance tenant in your future :-)

You see, if this was you or me, we'd get something and deal with it ourselves.  Tenants that come to you over every little thing like a smelly cabinet that they can deal with themselves - will be coming to you on a regular basis for silly things they should just deal with.

I had one such tenant who actually talked the owner into buying her room-darkening shades because the street light outside was keeping her awake at night.  I told him don't do this, it will be one thing after another if you do - and it was.

What I'd do is ask them what they would like you to do.  Say it in a friendly way.  What usually happened when I did this was there would be this pause, as if they're in shock you're willing to help as opposed to fight them on it.

Then, if it's reasonable, go ahead and do it.  I'd guess it would mean cleaning them.  Ask them if they're okay with the smell of the orange natural cleaner (odds are these guys will also be afraid of chemicals).  That stuff smells really good, and it's a good cleaner, too.  Then you could give them a few boxes of Arm & Hammer baking soda to put in the cupboards, too.

You could even just offer to give them the cleaner to do themselves.  See what they say.  And if they get obnoxious, you may want to bring up the fact that they approved the condition when they moved in.  Was there anything on the move-in checklist about smells in the cupboards?  Probably not.

So, with this type of tenant, I'd be nice and offer the above, but if they pushed it, I'd say, I'm sorry but that's the best I can do.  If they go crazy about it, I'd offer to let them out of the lease - but in a sympathetic, gee, I'm so sorry you aren't happy here and that I can't make the place the way you want it, so what I can do is offer to let you just move back out, but since you did accept it in the condition it was in, that's really the best I can do.

Odds are they'll stay, but you will probably have to draw a line in the sand that shows you are nice, but can't be pushed around.  And if they ask for a rent abatement, the answer is no.

I feel for you.  Been there.  Today it will be smelly cabinets, tomorrow something else weird.  Good luck.

Have you been there recently and does it smell?  Sometimes  leaks with collecting water will smell and sometimes if there is something dead in the wall.  if it is just the cabinets I would go with what everyone else says in terms of cleaning but check if there is a change.

I have had older cabinets that smelled but were in good shape so I wasn't going to trash them.  I used drawer liners (with baking soda) until I had time to sand and paint them.

Old truck driver trick to get rid of the smell in a trailer that had been used to haul something nasty was to throw some coffee around inside the trailer. Of course that made the trailer smell like coffee. but most people perceived the coffee smell as being good.

She said its a musty smell

Is it the cabinet under the sink? If so there might be a water issue. Humid + Closed = musty. Just a thought.

Well, I ended up asking her what she wanted me to do. Never responded , then she asked again today. I told her that I would not be replacing them but if she wanted out of the lease id be willing to do that

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