I had a question about the longevity of the cedar smell when building with it. We have an armoire at our river cabin, it's 30+ years old and while you don't really smell anything when it's closed, opening it drowns you in a good cedar smell.

I don't know if it's eastern red cedar or not, because it was purchased, but I do have access to a lot of raw eastern red cedar. I want to know how long that smell will last under normal use of indoor items and if there is anything you can do to preserve it or bring it out if it fades.

I think the outside of the armoire is polyurethaned to prevent wear. I think they left the inside untreated so you'd have that smell. While it's 30 years old, it doesn't see normal use. It's bedroom storage for things you don't use very often, but need to keep semi-protected. I'm sure that is the reason it still smells so strongly of cedar. If I were to build a piece from it, leaving some of it raw, how long would you reasonably think the smell would last? I'm sure it fades at some point, but would a light sanding expose more of the "smelling" surface? By normal use, I mean something you'd use regularly in your house, such as a dresser, a mens valet, a liquor cabinet, etc... Thanks for the help.

1 Answer 1


The smell comes from the oils in the wood. If you want it to last longer it should remain closed as with your chest.

Direct sunlight, moisture and large temperature changes will dry the wood out faster and avoiding those things will keep it smelling like cedar longer.

Sealing the external surfaces of whatever you make will help the wood keep its smell longer as well. (The piece you mention is about the best case scenario for keeping the smell really)

Light sanding can certainly bring the smell out but its not a total reset and it won't last as long as the smell did when the piece was originally created.

How long is hard to say, depends on the wood, the climate, usage and all that but again your chest tells us it can last a really long time.

And if all else fails and the smell is gone you can always buy cedar chips and put them in an inconspicuous place in the piece to keep it nice and cedar-y for a long long time.

  • Put those cedar chips (don't buy 'em, collect 'em as you make another project!:) in a sachet to keep them from snagging fabrics or being in the way when setting down stemware.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 10, 2015 at 13:14
  • 1
    you can also buy cedar oil, which you might apply to discrete places and would not take up space like cedar chips.
    – aaron
    Jul 20, 2015 at 16:58

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