How to Clean and Refresh Your Antique Cedar Chest?

refreshing a cedar chest from inside and outside

Cedar is one of the more desirable woods that are used in creating chests, jewelry boxes, and cabinets.

The wood material itself is quite durable, warp-resistant, and unlikely to rot under normal conditions.

But like any wood, a cedar trunk will have to be maintained, especially if you want to keep the smell of cedar alive.  

To do so means obtaining the right products that will restore the shine, luster, and scent of the old cedar chest.

Step 1- Clean Cedar Chest

Before the restoration process can begin, you will need to clean your antique cedar chest nicely from the inside.

The easiest way to get started is by using your vacuum with the brush attachment.

Of course, you will need to empty the cedar chest first of all items.

When emptied, run the vacuum inside the cedar chest until all the dust and other particles are removed.

Step 2- Sand and Vacuum

Now sand the interior of the chest gently with fine-textured sandpaper.

Vacuum out the sand particles as well and close the chest for about a half-hour.

When you open it again, you may discover that the unique scent of the cedar is back.

But this will depend on the age of the chest as it is possible that all the scent is gone.

Step 3- Use Natural Cedar Oil Inside

If your chest needs some more maintenance and additional scent revival, then using 100% natural cedar oil may do the job.

It’s somewhat expensive, so you may only want to purchase a small amount depending on the size of the chest.

When applied after the sanding and vacuuming process, it should restore the cedar scent of the wood very fast.

If that does not work, try some dry odor absorbers, cedar discs, or blocks. That should restore the natural scent.

There are those who believe that if you put old coffee grounds in a bowl and leave it in the chest for a few days, it will help restore the scent as well.

Although it might smell like coffee instead, which may not be a bad thing.

Step 4- Refinish the Chest from Outside

Start by cleaning the exterior of the chest with white vinegar using a lint-free cloth.

Then using furniture polish (thinned varnish or lacquer sanding sealer), buff lightly with a polishing rag in the direction of the grain.

Also, keep in mind that by addressing scratches and imperfections early, you can properly maintain the appearance of the cedar chest.

So, if there are any scuff marks or abrasions seen, fix them as soon as possible.

To remove minor scratches and imperfections on the exteriors, a combination of powdered pumice mixed with mineral oil will create a paste that can be applied to the affected area.

Dab the prepared paste onto the spot with an extra-fine grade steel wool pad. Then wipe it off and buff it with a dry, clean cloth.

You may also try some dried tea powder as well if you can match the color.

Tips for Caring & Maintaining the Smell of a Cedar Chest

Once cleaned and restored, your vintage cedar chest should be adequately maintained at least once every 2-3 months.

To maintain the scent and beauty of the cedar chest, you can simply use a microfiber cloth for regular cleaning.

Run the cloth all around the inside, especially the corners where dust, mold, or mildew might gather.

Cotton swabs work well for areas that the cloth cannot reach.

Once the cleaning is complete, set the chest outside on a sunny day with the lid open.

That should remove any organisms that might be remaining inside the chest. But if it is raining or humid, then leave the chest indoors.

Final Thoughts

In addition to its remarkable color, the scent given off by the cedar actually drives away moths and other pests.

This is why cedar is an excellent choice for making chests and cabinets.

However, to enjoy all the benefits of the wood, proper care and maintenance of your cedar chest from (inside and outside) is essential.

Ensure you follow all the above guidelines correctly; that will help it last longer than you expect.

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