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Maintaining a Cedar Closet

Updated on January 8, 2014

The Cedar Tree

Do you have a cedar closet ?

I just purchased a 100 year old home that included a cedar closet. I had never encountered cedar before and knew nothing about it. Too me it was just a wood closet. The closet didn't smell different and it did look a bit run down. The wood was cracking/splitting and dull looking. I had a choice. I could either paint over the wood, remove it or refurbish it. I chose to refurbish it.

What is Cedar?

According to the University of North Carolina, it is the Eastern Red Cedar's inner bark that is used for cedar chests, closets, and interior wood work. The Eastern Red Cedar is roughly 40 to 50 feet tall and the trunks run around 1 to 2 feet in diameter. The wood is also resistant to decay. ( All of this is a bonus in a 100 year old house.

Eastern Red Cedar
Eastern Red Cedar

Care of the Cedar Closet

Now that we understand what Cedar is and why it is used, how do we take care of it? Over time the Cedar dries out and looses its smell and the scent is what repels bugs.

Not being a person who enjoys bugs, I decided to find out how to repair the damaged closet.

Step 1

Brush, dust, or vacuum the wood to remove any dirt and dust that has accumulated on the walls. You may also want to put a plastic sheet over the door to help confine the mess from step 2.

Step 2

Sand the walls with fine sandpaper. Just a light sanding will do. It is said a light sanding may be all that is needed to revive the natural scent of the wood. I always sand with the grain of the wood instead of against it. This helps prevent splitting and further damage of the wood. The sanding however light, does produce a huge amount of wood dust.

NOTE: Take care to use a mask while sanding. Wood dust can be harmful to your lungs if breathed in. Sweep frequently to help eliminate as much dust as possible.

Step 3

Wipe the walls down with plain water. You will need to change the water frequently due to the amount of wood dust. It will also turn your rag brown so make sure to use an old rag. You will also want to sweep the floor to prevent tracking the wood dust everywhere else you go.

If the scent does not return you will need to proceed to step 4.

Step 4

When sanding is not enough to bring the scent of the wood back, you may need to go back and oil the wood with cedar oil. The cedar oil can be purchased online or at places like Lowes. (see end of the article for links). Find another old rag and put some of the cedar oil on it and wipe the walls, ceiling, and anything else down that is cedar.

The scent of the oil is a strong woodsy smell. Make sure you like the smell before you use the oil as some do not enjoy it as much as others.

Uses of Cedar Oil

Cedar oil can be used for more than just refurbishing cedar wood. In my research, I found cedar oil is used;

  • for soap perfumes
  • household spays
  • floor polishes
  • insecticides
  • as a base for paints
  • aromatherapy
  • anti fungal products
  • embalming

I also found cedar oil to be safe for pets and humans. Another big plus as I have children and pets.

My cedar closet
My cedar closet

Finshed Product

The Finished Product

After 3 days of cleaning, sanding, cleaning, and oiling the wood, I now have a new looking, fresh cedar smelling closet. My shelves were not made of cedar so I painted them white to brighten up the closet a bit. I love the natural colors from the wood too as it adds dimension to the closet.

A simple project anyone can do.


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      elisa 5 months ago

      Thank You, this is the best article I have found about this topic. I just bought a house (1933) and have a cedar closet, and it will be one of my first projects to do.