Steamer Trunk

I have this old trunk that I think of as a steamer trunk because it came over on the boat with John’s many great grandfather. I volunteered to take it when John’s mom recently moved into her apartment from her house. I didn’t really want it but could see it bothered her that no one was going to take it when it had such a family history to it. I’ve always wanted a hope chest but since I’d given up on the idea I thought okay I’ll take the trunk.

Many greats-grandfather Waldie's trunk

Many greats-grandfather Waldie's trunk

I figured I could store my craft supplies or quilts in it. There are two problems with this trunk. One is that it’s “huge”. You don’t quite get a perspective of it when it’s off by itself in grandma’s basement but having it up in the sewing room well…let’s just say it doesn’t fit.

The other problem is that grandma stored her quilts in it. You might wonder how storing quilts in a trunk is a problem but grandma’s quilts were older utility quilts that were made of any scraps there were and they were constructed to be heavy and warm. Well…wool keeps you warm and I guess my mother-in-law came from an era where wool meant little wool moths that ate the fabric. So now you see my problem, this trunk reeks of mothball odor. I’ve tried airing it out in the garage but it still smells.

Inside of trunk.

Inside of trunk.

The trunk seems to be made of canvas covered wood/pressboard? The interior is lined with plastic shelving paper, which John’s mom probably added later. I don’t know what would take the smell out and I’m kind of hesitant to store stuff in there that is going to reek of mothballs later. The only thing I can think of is to use cedar balls to mask the odor but I guess then everything would smell of cedar.

I do have my yarn in plastic zip bags (the kind that come with comforters or duvets) so I might just dump the whole lot in there to free up some room and take my chances. I guess I’ll find out but any suggestions are welcome.


6 responses to “Steamer Trunk

  1. My first message was obliterated so here I am again–my suggestion is for you to place a lawyer of crumpled newspaper pages at the bottom of the trunk, followed by a layer of UNTREATED charcoal briquettes. Between those two, in a couple of weeks, most if not all of the nasty odor should be absorbed from the trunk and you could then just dispose of the newspaper and the briquettes. Hope this makes it to you …

    Fulvia, Fiber Art at

  2. This is fantastic, thanks so much for the idea.


  3. I was going to say use charcoal too. DH bought an old trailer for duck camp and it had a bad musty smell to it, he dumped charcoal in a little aluminum pan and set them out through the house and the smell is not nearly as bad as it was,,hoping soon it will be completely gone. Also good to use in your freezer if something got ruined in it,,you know if your freezer somehow got unplugged and things ruined in it,,,works great!

  4. Thanks Thelma, charcoal it is then. Seems what everyone is telling me so you all can’t be wrong. I’ll pick some up tomorrow.


  5. After you have done the charcoal thing and gotten rid of most of the odor, put an open box of baking soda in the trunk with your items. They sell special boxes that open part way and don’t spill.

    • Thanks Rita for the suggestion. The charcoal didn’t work and I don’t think anything would have. The inside of the trunk was lined with a flannel blanket and then papered over. It’s my belief that the mothball smell was imbedded in the flannel whether by design or by storing mothballs in the trunk but I believe the paper lining holds the smell in there. I tried scrubbing the trunk with baking soda as well but that didn’t work either. I didn’t have any room for all the old blankets so just ended up putting them back into the trunk. I guess if I need to use them I can always wash them.

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