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10 Ways to Remove Musty Smell From Board Games

remove musty smells from board games

Maybe you stumbled on your favorite childhood game of Candyland in the attic. Or your great aunt left some classic board games from Old Maid to Clue. You can’t wait for a fun family game night. But when you pull out the game, you’re disappointed to find it smells musty. You might also collect vintage board games and want to know how to safely restore a game. 

Don’t toss out any board games just yet. Mold or mildew count among the main causes for musty odor and stains. You can easily remove musty smells from board games by sprinkling them with baking soda, tossing a scented dryer sheet into the game box, or wiping cards and boards down with soapy water or isopropyl alcohol.  

Here’s how to remove musty smell from cardboard board games, card games or chess sets so that you can enjoy a round of Monopoly without worrying about smells or health issues.

Why Do Cardboard Boxes Stink?

Cardboard game boxes stink and smell musty because they are old, stored in an unventilated or damp environment, or exposed to mold or mildew. Mold can cause a multitude of health problems, so if your cardboard box stinks, it’s best to clean it properly right away.

How Do You Clean Old Board Games?

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You can clean off old board games by vacuuming off surfaces. Next, open the box, remove pieces, and vacuum out the interior with a brush attachment. This will get rid of any loose debris or mold.

These 10 methods will help clean board games and remove a musty smell.

  1. Air it out.
  2. Absorb it. Take a new newspaper. Tear it into small pieces. Place the game into an airtight container. You can use a plastic bag. Let it sit for two weeks. If the newspaper has not neutralized the musty smell, repeat the process until the odor is gone.
  3. Freeze it. Seal the game in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer for a few days. The cold will remove the musty smell. You can use a soft baby hairbrush to brush off any flakes of mold.
  4. Use soap and water.
  5. Wipe down surfaces with distilled white vinegar. Vinegar is an effective way to clean moldy surfaces and eliminate musty smells.
  6. Sprinkle baking soda on the game’s surface and leave it to air out. You can also place the game and baking soda in an airtight plastic container for several days.
  7.  Spritz the game with a 70% isopropyl alcohol solution.
  8.  Clean the game with Lysol or Clorox wipes.
  9. A Mr. Clean pad is a gentle way to clean games without fading lettering or ruining boxes.
  10. Wipe the game with scented dryer sheets.

To check the current price and availability of Lysol and Clorox wipes, click here to view the listings on Amazon.

Here’s What You’ll Need to Get Started

  • Soap
  • Warm water
  • A sponge
  • A clean cloth or a cotton pad

Wash your hands first to avoid transferring dirt or grease onto the box.

Take care not to get the game too wet since it can ruin the finish and cause blistering from water damage.

Never use bleach on a game since this will discolor it, bleach off ink, and eat away the finish.

How Do You Clean Mildew off a Board Game?

You can use warm water and mild dish soap, vinegar, alcohol, or cleaning wipes to clean mildew off a board game. Whether your game is plastic or laminated paper makes a difference in how to clean it. You will need to use different types of cleaning solutions depending on the material.

Board games are typically covered in coated paper or plastic. It’s easier to clean mildew from games with a plastic surface since you don’t run the risk of ruining the finish.  

Paper Coated Board Games

A little soap and water are the best option. Lightly wipe down paper cards or board games with a slightly damp cloth. Dry all surfaces immediately afterward to avoid water damage.

You can also use vinegar spray. 

For Plastic or Laminated Board Games

One of the top ways to remove stubborn musty smells from tougher board games is with denatured alcohol. Wipe down the playing cards, board games, or chess pieces with a little alcohol.

You can also use Lysol or Clorox wipes.

Cleaning the Game

To remove musty smells and clean board games, start with the outside of the box. You can test a small area to check that the solution does not affect the finish.

After cleaning the box, now it’s time to tackle the board and pieces.

Always do a test patch on an underside of a piece or board to ensure that decorations, numbers, or letters do not disappear while cleaning. If you see any markings on the piece start to fade during cleaning, stop immediately and pat the game dry.

Use gentle circular motions to scrub off stubborn stains.  

Be careful not to scrub the game too aggressively. This is particularly important if the board or card game has a waxy-coated paper surface. Using too much water or an abrasive sponge can wear off the coating. 

If the game has wooden pieces, like a chess set, do not scrub against the grain. If the wood is unfinished, take extra care to avoid swelling from water damage.

A gentle way to remove musty marks and stains is to rub them off with a pencil eraser.

How to Care for Your Restored Board Games 

Wipe the game dry with a cloth or paper towel. Set the game out to air dry. Use yarn rather than rubber bands to carefully tie game boxes shut to reduce humidity exposure and discourage mold growth. 

  • Store board games in a cool and odorless place out of direct sunlight.
  • Keep board games dry to avoid mildew.
  • Toss in some dryer sheets or place a few drops of essential oil on a cloth and put it in the box to counteract musty smells.

By following these cleaning and storage steps, you can restore your game, eradicate musty smells, and banish mildew for good so that you can focus on enjoying the game. 

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