The Ultimate Guide to Removing Cardboard Odor – A Must-Read for Homeowners

get rid of smell cardboard

Are you tired of the musty smell coming from your cardboard boxes? It’s not only unpleasant, but it can also be irritating to those with allergies. But worry not; there are several methods to eliminate that smell.

In this blog post, we’ll share practical ways to clean your cardboard boxes, so you can start using them again without worry.

Bar Keepers Friend is one of the best cleaning products out there. It can effectively clean various surfaces, including cardboard boxes. Mix the powder with water to create a paste, then apply and wipe it off after a brief period.

But wait, there’s more! We’ll also discuss other options like vinegar or bleach solution, melamine foam, Murphy’s Oil Soap, and baking soda. With these options, you’ll surely find the best solution for you.

In the next section, we’ll delve deeper into the different methods you can try and the step-by-step process of how to use them. So read on and say goodbye to that cardboard box smell!

Why Do Cardboard Boxes Smell?

Cardboard boxes are made from recycled materials, which can lead to an odor. The smell can be strong, musty, or even a little sour.

One of my personal experiences with cardboard boxes is when I received a shipment of clothes that smelled like mildew. It was not pleasant, and I had to throw away some items.

Several factors can cause the smell of cardboard boxes. Here are some subheadings to dive into this topic:

Recycled materials

Cardboard boxes are made from recycled materials, such as old newspapers, magazines, and cardboard boxes. These materials can contain bacteria and mold, which produce an odor.

Chemical odors

Many cardboard boxes are treated with chemicals to make them stronger and more durable. These chemicals can produce a strong smell that can harm some people.

Storage conditions

Cardboard boxes stored in damp or humid conditions can develop a musty smell.

Type of product packed

The type of product packed in the box can sometimes cause a smell. For example, the box can absorb the smell if the product is food or has a strong odor.

How to Clean Cardboard Boxes with Bar Keepers Friend

The answer to how to clean cardboard boxes with Bar Keepers Friend is simple – with ease! I’ve had personal experience with this product, and it’s a lifesaver.

Having moved several times, I’ve had to deal with smelly cardboard boxes that have been in storage for a while. Bar Keepers Friend has helped me eliminate those smells and refresh the cardboard boxes.

Here’s a guide on how you can do the same.


  • Bar Keepers Friend Cleaning Powder
  • Warm water
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Disposable gloves (optional)


  1. Put on your disposable gloves (optional).
  2. Mix the Bar Keepers Friend with warm water to create a paste.
  3. Apply the paste to the cardboard box surface you want to clean.
  4. Let the paste sit on the surface for a minute or two.
  5. Use the soft-bristled brush to scrub the surface gently.
  6. Rinse off the paste with water and let the surface dry.

Why choose Bar Keepers Friend to clean cardboard boxes?

  • It works wonders on stains and odors.
  • The cleaning powder is non-abrasive so that it won’t damage the cardboard.
  • Mixing and applying to the surface you want to clean is easy.
  • It’s cost-effective compared to other cleaning products.

Using Vinegar or Bleach Solution to Clean Cardboard Boxes

Yes, vinegar or bleach solution can effectively clean and remove the unpleasant smell from cardboard boxes. I once had a stack of cardboard boxes in my garage that smelled musty and damp.

However, with a simple vinegar and water solution, the smell disappeared and the boxes were left smelling fresh and clean.

To use vinegar or bleach solution to clean cardboard boxes, follow these steps:

  1. Mix a solution of either vinegar or bleach with water in a spray bottle or bucket.
  2. Spray or apply the solution to the cardboard box, covering all areas.
  3. Allow the solution to sit briefly before wiping it off with a damp cloth or sponge.
  4. Let the boxes air dry completely before using them again.

It’s important to note that while vinegar is a natural and safer option, bleach can harm your skin and should be used cautiously. Always wear gloves and follow proper safety precautions when using bleach.

Cleaning Cardboard Boxes with Melamine Foam

Melamine foam is a type of sponge that is highly effective in cleaning and removing stains and odors. It’s perfect for cleaning tough stains like ink, grease, and dirt and also great at removing odors.

The foam is made of melamine resin, which has exceptional cleaning properties. It can easily remove odors and dirt when used on cardboard boxes, leaving the box looking and smelling fresh.

How to Clean Cardboard Boxes with Melamine Foam:

Cleaning cardboard boxes with melamine foam is easy. Here are the steps:

  1. Wet the melamine foam.
  2. Gently rub the foam onto the cardboard box.
  3. Rinse the foam with water as needed.
  4. Repeat until the odor and dirt are removed.

Tips for Using Melamine Foam:

  • Melamine foam can be cut into smaller pieces for more precise cleaning.
  • Use the foam gently to avoid damaging the cardboard.
  • Always wet the foam before use.
  • Rinse the foam regularly to avoid depositing dirt back onto the cardboard.

How to Clean Cardboard Boxes with Murphy’s Oil Soap

Murphy’s Oil Soap is the perfect solution to eliminate the smell of cardboard. Simply dilute the soap in water and use a cloth to wipe down the inside and outside of the boxes.

I’ve had to clean out numerous cardboard boxes after moving, and using Murphy’s Oil Soap has been a lifesaver for me.

First, make sure to gather the necessary materials. You’ll need a bucket, Murphy’s Oil Soap, water, and a cloth or sponge.

Steps to Clean Cardboard Boxes:

  1. Fill the bucket with warm water and add the recommended amount of Murphy’s Oil Soap.
  2. Dip the cloth or sponge in the solution and wring it out.
  3. Use a damp cloth to wipe down the inside and outside of the cardboard box.
  4. Repeat until the entire box is cleaned.
  5. Allow the box to air dry completely before using it again.


  • For especially dirty boxes, sprinkle baking soda inside the box and let it sit for a few hours before cleaning it with Murphy’s Oil Soap.
  • Always allow the box to dry completely before storing anything inside to prevent mold or mildew growth.

Using Baking Soda to Clean Cardboard Boxes

I remember when I moved to a new apartment and unpacked some old cardboard boxes. The smell was terrible, but they smelled clean and fresh after using baking soda.

Here’s how you can use baking soda to clean cardboard boxes:

  1. Gather your supplies – you only need baking soda, a damp cloth, and some cardboard boxes.
  2. Place the cardboard boxes on a flat surface and sprinkle baking soda generously inside each box.
  3. Using the damp cloth, spread the baking soda evenly around the box. Make sure to get all the corners and crevices.
  4. Leave the baking soda to sit for a few hours or overnight. The longer you leave it, the better the results.
  5. After the baking soda has had time to work its magic, remove the excess using the damp cloth.
  6. Let the boxes air dry before using them.

Tips for using baking soda to clean cardboard boxes:

  • Please don’t use too much water as it can damage the box.
  • You may need to repeat the process if the odor is particularly strong.
  • Adding a few drops of essential oils to the baking soda can add a nice fragrance.
  • Make sure the cardboard boxes are completely dry before storing anything inside.

Preventing Cardboard Boxes from Smelling

One effective way to prevent cardboard boxes from smelling is by keeping them dry. Moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria, which can create unpleasant odors. I once stored some damp cardboard boxes in my garage, and before I knew it, the whole place reeked of mold.

To avoid a similar situation, here are some tips on how to keep your cardboard boxes odor-free:

  • Store them dry: Keep cardboard boxes in a cool, dry place, away from any moisture or humidity.
  • Don’t store them near anything with a strong odor: Avoid storing cardboard boxes near anything with a strong smell, such as cleaning products or food.
  • Air them out: If you notice a smell when you unpack your cardboard boxes, try airing them out. Leave them in a well-ventilated area with good air circulation for a few days.
  • Avoid using scented products: While it may be tempting to use scented products to mask odors, they can make the smell worse.

By following these simple steps, you can prevent cardboard boxes from smelling and keep them in good condition for longer.

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