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May have used too much cedar oil in my cedar chest

Old 06-27-21, 09:44 PM
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May have used too much cedar oil in my cedar chest

Hello everyone,

I've been working on an old cedar chest. Been wanting one for awhile, and found one at a local antique store. It was made by Cavalier, which is a company that was founded in my city around 1865. They started out as a sawmill, then started making furniture, and then started making vending machines for Coca-Cola. They went through several rounds of being bought and sold, and after a period of employee ownership and bankruptcy, shut their doors for good around 20 years ago. But I know where the plant used to be, and there's something to be said for owning something that was made in your hometown.

Anyhow, there's no telling what all the chest had been through, including sitting open on display for an extended period of time. So, one order of business is to bring back the cedar scent of its interior. I started out by sanding the inside with 80 and then 120 grit sandpaper. After being shut overnight, I still couldn't smell anything. So, I got a small bottle of cedar oil. No dyes, preservatives, petroleum distillates etc. Just the oil. So, I start putting it on with a rag and the wood, which was previously a sort of pink with gray undertones, starts taking on a deep red color. This is probably the way it's supposed to be.

There's just one problem. The scent of this oil is rather strong and pungent. I like the scent of cedar. Musgrave Red Cedar pencils are some of my favorite things in part due to their scent. But this is a different scent. Almost like a bit of cedar mixed with some patchouli that's being used to cover up BO. I'm thinking of how a little citronella goes a long way, and once a certain boundary is crossed, it makes me want to throw up. I was almost to that point earlier today.

I bought the chest hoping it could do double duty as a coffee table and storage for a couple of woolen blankets that I have, and in order to deter the pests who enjoy wool blankets, the cedar scent has to be present. But I'm afraid I've ruined it. It's been sitting open all day, and it still has that powerful scent. I hate to call it a stench because it's not that exactly, but it's not far off either.

Anyone else ever done anything like this before?

Thank you,
-William
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Old 06-28-21, 06:13 AM
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You mean cedar essential oil? And you rubbed it all over the interior?? Essential oils are very concentrated... that was waaaaaaay too much. A few drops would have done fine.... Essential oils aren't "oils" in the traditional sense, and you wouldn't use them to oil wood. If you wanted that effect, you would have done better to take something like almond oil, add a few drops of the cedar essential oil, and rub it down with that...
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Old 06-28-21, 06:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Kat12 View Post
You mean cedar essential oil? And you rubbed it all over the interior?? Essential oils are very concentrated... that was waaaaaaay too much. A few drops would have done fine.... Essential oils aren't "oils" in the traditional sense, and you wouldn't use them to oil wood. If you wanted that effect, you would have done better to take something like almond oil, add a few drops of the cedar essential oil, and rub it down with that...
When I think of "essential oil," I think of something you get at the health food store. The oil I bought wasn't that. It came from Home Depot:
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Giles-an...L008/203522859

According to the package, its purpose is to rejuvenate the aromatic and protective properties of cedar lined closets, armoires, and cedar chests. Made of 100% Eastern Red Cedar Oil with no added scents, diluents etc. One thing about essential oils is that they often have additional perfumes added to them. This is just straight-up cedar oil. There's a picture of someone putting it on with a rag very much like what I did, and the wood is changing, though mine seems to have taken on a more red color. The instructions pretty much say to do what I did, though my application may have been heavier. Some of the reviewers state that the scent can be rather overwhelming at first, so maybe that's what I've experienced, and it will "calm down" soon.

Thank you,
-William
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Old 06-28-21, 09:00 AM
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Take it outside. Let it air out for a week or more in the sun... Obviously with the top open.
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Old 06-28-21, 08:36 PM
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there are 100% pure essential oils without perfumes. i sell them where i work. one thing about oils...any oils...particularly volatile oils like essential or the cedar variety you used, is the propensity to go rancid. they can smell as the way you describe at that point. if letting it air out doesn't take away the "stale" smell you're perceiving, it may be rancid. if that's the case, washing it out with dawn blue dish soap and starting over might be the ticket. NOW brand has a pure oil that's not priced out the roof. dilute it with coconut oil, would be my suggestion. not the virgin oil, but the expeller pressed. it has no coconut aroma and has a long stable shelf life
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Old 06-28-21, 10:49 PM
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Often the essential oils with added perfumes are the ones of the more expensive variety... the perfume "extends" the oil to make it less expensive (or sometimes it's diluted). (I've had both.) There may also be nonreputable companies diluting their oils. Aside from the couple I've had that had added perfume or was diluted (which was clearly stated on the label, besides the dead giveaway of the price), every essential oil I've ever bought (and there have been many. You should open my fridge even right now) has been 100% pure with no additives.


Originally Posted by WilliamK1974 View Post
When I think of "essential oil," I think of something you get at the health food store. The oil I bought wasn't that. It came from Home Depot:
https://www.homedepot.com/p/Giles-an...L008/203522859

According to the package, its purpose is to rejuvenate the aromatic and protective properties of cedar lined closets, armoires, and cedar chests. Made of 100% Eastern Red Cedar Oil with no added scents, diluents etc. One thing about essential oils is that they often have additional perfumes added to them. This is just straight-up cedar oil. There's a picture of someone putting it on with a rag very much like what I did, and the wood is changing, though mine seems to have taken on a more red color. The instructions pretty much say to do what I did, though my application may have been heavier. Some of the reviewers state that the scent can be rather overwhelming at first, so maybe that's what I've experienced, and it will "calm down" soon.

Thank you,
-William
Hm. I've never heard of that before. How much did you use?

I'm not sure what they're calling "Eastern Red Cedar oil" that's 100% pure and not diluted, yet it's not an essential oil...

(Eastern Red Cedar is technically a juniper, not a cedar, but it's still nice. I have a "Texas Cedarwood" essential oil that is also made from a species of juniper, and it smells lovely.)
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Old 06-29-21, 05:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Kat12 View Post
Often the essential oils with added perfumes are the ones of the more expensive variety... the perfume "extends" the oil to make it less expensive (or sometimes it's diluted). (I've had both.) There may also be nonreputable companies diluting their oils. Aside from the couple I've had that had added perfume or was diluted (which was clearly stated on the label, besides the dead giveaway of the price), every essential oil I've ever bought (and there have been many. You should open my fridge even right now) has been 100% pure with no additives.



Hm. I've never heard of that before. How much did you use?

I'm not sure what they're calling "Eastern Red Cedar oil" that's 100% pure and not diluted, yet it's not an essential oil...

(Eastern Red Cedar is technically a juniper, not a cedar, but it's still nice. I have a "Texas Cedarwood" essential oil that is also made from a species of juniper, and it smells lovely.)
I probably used just slightly less than half of the can. The can said to apply sparingly, but my attempts at trying to be stingy didn't seem to be going anywhere. It's starting to smell more like cedar now, but I have to wonder since you brought up the different types of juniper, do you think part of why I didn't think it smelled right is because the woods I've smelled before might have had a different scent than this oil? If I remember correctly, Cavalier used to advertise that they used Tennessee Red Cedar in the construction of their cedar chests. I've only been around a couple of other chests. One was a vintage Lane from the period following WW2 and the other is my mother's hope chest, which may have been made by Murphy in Alabama. She told me I could have it as well. So, my nose might not be as familiar with this as I thought.
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Old 06-29-21, 09:20 PM
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Originally Posted by WilliamK1974 View Post
I probably used just slightly less than half of the can. The can said to apply sparingly, but my attempts at trying to be stingy didn't seem to be going anywhere. It's starting to smell more like cedar now, but I have to wonder since you brought up the different types of juniper, do you think part of why I didn't think it smelled right is because the woods I've smelled before might have had a different scent than this oil? If I remember correctly, Cavalier used to advertise that they used Tennessee Red Cedar in the construction of their cedar chests. I've only been around a couple of other chests. One was a vintage Lane from the period following WW2 and the other is my mother's hope chest, which may have been made by Murphy in Alabama. She told me I could have it as well. So, my nose might not be as familiar with this as I thought.
I had to look up Tennessee Red Cedar. It's also a juniper.

I imagine there could be a different in scents between different species of woods, woods sourced from different areas, woods from different time periods, etc. Now I'm curious to wonder how many "cedar" woods sold in the U.S. are true cedar, or a juniper species. (I think they smell nice anyway, but for all I know, I've never encountered true cedar.)

And, of course we don't know how the manufacturing process for your oil might differ from other oils or products, either. This is pure speculation on my part, but I wonder if your oil is a more-industrial version of a regular essential oil (now I'm intrigued as I've not heard of the product before).

I suspect half a can was probably too much, lol. OTOH, you probably won't have moths for about the next thousand years! (If you have pets, take care as well-- I'm sure the scents can be very strong to their noses, and essential oils are toxic to cats especially.) To stretch it further, it might be possible to dilute it with another oil (you'd want to make sure it's one good for wood that won't go rancid), or perhaps an unscented wax preparation-- I know my mom used to buy a bottle of a mixture of lemon oil and beeswax (or maybe it was paraffin?) for wood, and I wonder if an unscented version is available that you could mix your cedar oil into...
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Old 06-30-21, 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Kat12 View Post
I had to look up Tennessee Red Cedar. It's also a juniper.

I imagine there could be a different in scents between different species of woods, woods sourced from different areas, woods from different time periods, etc. Now I'm curious to wonder how many "cedar" woods sold in the U.S. are true cedar, or a juniper species. (I think they smell nice anyway, but for all I know, I've never encountered true cedar.)

And, of course we don't know how the manufacturing process for your oil might differ from other oils or products, either. This is pure speculation on my part, but I wonder if your oil is a more-industrial version of a regular essential oil (now I'm intrigued as I've not heard of the product before).

I suspect half a can was probably too much, lol. OTOH, you probably won't have moths for about the next thousand years! (If you have pets, take care as well-- I'm sure the scents can be very strong to their noses, and essential oils are toxic to cats especially.) To stretch it further, it might be possible to dilute it with another oil (you'd want to make sure it's one good for wood that won't go rancid), or perhaps an unscented wax preparation-- I know my mom used to buy a bottle of a mixture of lemon oil and beeswax (or maybe it was paraffin?) for wood, and I wonder if an unscented version is available that you could mix your cedar oil into...
The other issue may be whether the color of the oil used can leech into the blankets that were to be stored in the chest. That 1/2 can of oil is gonna have to soak in for a bit and dry completely. I still suggest leaving the chest open, outside, for at least a week... and then, before blankets are put in, perhaps line the chest with a couple layers of butcher paper first... or some other neutral heavy paper. (not newspaper)

Interesting comment regarding cedar that may actually be juniper... I wonder if that IS the case for modern furniture. I see cedar available at Home Depot in the home shelving area, I now wonder if it is real cedar. https://www.homedepot.com/p/CedarSaf...3550/100124551
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Old 06-30-21, 08:27 AM
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Botanically, most of the cedar stuff you find these days are not "true cedars," only nominally cedar. It's a Juniper as you said. Eastern Red Cedar, Red cedar, both actually Juniper.
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Old 06-30-21, 10:24 AM
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Captain hindsight here, but I just buy a bag of cedar discs and blocks for in the closet. The discs go around the hangers and the blocks just lay around on the shelves. A box with pencil 'sharpnel' works too.
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Old 06-30-21, 12:31 PM
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Do those cedar blocks work? I always wondered if there was enough oil/scent in them to do the job.
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Old 06-30-21, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
The other issue may be whether the color of the oil used can leech into the blankets that were to be stored in the chest. That 1/2 can of oil is gonna have to soak in for a bit and dry completely. I still suggest leaving the chest open, outside, for at least a week... and then, before blankets are put in, perhaps line the chest with a couple layers of butcher paper first... or some other neutral heavy paper. (not newspaper)
Oh, good point. Or, the oil itself and it may leave spots.


Originally Posted by himespau View Post
Do those cedar blocks work? I always wondered if there was enough oil/scent in them to do the job.
I've been known to take my cedar blocks and add a few drops of lavender and patchouli essential oil (both also bug-repellant). Periodically you may also need to sand them to release more scent, or so I've read and it seems they do lose a bit of scent after some time.

I've also sometimes taken an old handkerchief and added a few drops of my essential oils of choice (again, usually some combination of cedar, lavender, and patchouli) and put that in with my wool goods.

I don't know if any of it works, though. I've not had moth issues, but I also haven't just with having wool hanging in the closet, so I don't know. (Okay, I might just do it because I like the smell of those oils.)
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Old 07-01-21, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by himespau View Post
Do those cedar blocks work? I always wondered if there was enough oil/scent in them to do the job.
I reason that if I smell them the moths will too. I don't know how long they will work, but alltogether they have quite a bit of surface. I've always understood that a cedar tie rack would do the trick for a whole closet and those aren't that big either.
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Old 07-01-21, 08:03 PM
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I went to visit my folks this evening, and while there, had a look at the hope chest my mother said I could have. I wasn't able to see any brand names or anything, but I did open it up and take a whiff. Its scent was quite light as though it had dissipated over the years. It may have had a slightly sweeter note that what I've been smelling in my chest at home, but I'm not a professional nose. The two scents seem to be at least in the same ballpark, though I'll know more when I get my mother's chest home.

Also, they have another chest that my grandfather made either as a high school wood shop project or for a Boy Scout merit badge. It is also made of cedar. I took a look at it while I was there. Where most cedar chests tend to measure around 4' long and about 18" high, this one was shorter and taller with a boxier appearance. I didn't open it, though I've seen inside of it before. I didn't know that my grandfather made it until last week. I thought it was just another chest that had somehow made it into the family. The quality of the joinery was quite good. Mama said that it was unfortunate that grandaddy put mothballs in it at some point because he stored some of his uniform items from his time in the USN, and most of those things were wool. I told her that I might be able to get the scent out if she ever wanted me to have a go at it, and she said maybe, but that cleaning that particular chest out would be more complicated since the items within would have to be relocated.

I feel pretty confident that I could make it happen given that I have a good track record so far of being able to imbue a wooden chest with a very strong cedar scent...
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Old 07-02-21, 06:12 PM
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LOL! For the mothball chest, I'd probably start with a good sanding, in case much of that scent was only on the surface.
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