DIY Dud…This Sink Stinks!

Recently, I starting working on an old, large, quite heavy solid pine Ethan Allen dry sink that had Coach picked up at a flea market for $20 (sorry about the pic-typically Coach takes them at the scene and sends them to me for pre-approval prior to purchase-he’s the buyer, I’m the DIY’er- then I take my own pic for the blog…whoops, missed that step.) It is dark and quite massive, as dry sinks go, so the original muddy brown stain just had to be updated to something a bit lighter and more DIY Dud Dry Sink Beforemodern. Searching for inspiration, somewhere online I had seen these awesome arrow drawer pulls…

Hobby Lobby Arrow Drawer Pullsand I instantly knew the direction this DIY transformation would take. First step, order the drawer pulls from Hobby Lobby (they were on sale : ) Second step, apply General Finishes Heritage Blue Stain

General Finished Hertiage Blue Water Based Stainto the main frame of the piece. Love the finish it produces!

Dry Sink Heritage Blue General Finishes StainThird step...insert the sound of screeching tires…because I missed a VERY IMPORTANT STEP…which as a result has now produced my DIY Dud…this sink stinks! Before I put that first coat of stain all over the wood, I should have scratched and sniffed it…because this dry sink now smells like a giant ashtray! The thing about the stench of nicotine is that it permeates the surface finish and becomes one with the wood. Why, you ask, did you not clean it more thoroughly before you started?  Why did you not scrub it and sand it and seal it and air it out to remove all the nicotine odors?? Why?? You’ve been DIY’ing forever-you know better! Well, my excuse is that I couldn’t get it outdoors because of the giant snowbanks surrounding my house.

Snow Barn Country Design HomeTypically, I take a piece like this onto the driveway and literally scrub it down with a bucket of soapy water and a hose, allow it to dry in the sun for days, spray it with smoke remover, sand it and then clean it again until the lovely scent of vintage Lucky Strikes

Lucky Strike Poster via JVoyage Etsyis gone. But, alas, that just couldn’t happen…thanks Mother Nature for the 10 foot it simply got a wipe down with some spray cleaner and a damp rag. Again, I KNOW BETTER!!! OK, so back to the DIY part of the story. Once the pretty blue stain was applied, I noticed the nicotine scent had intensified, but I figured perhaps if I just added more paint and finishes, it would somehow diminish the odor. (Now, Coach says he really can’t smell it. But I have a freakishly keen-some say distorted- sense of smell when it comes to certain odors, like nicotine and gasoline and mildew-I can ID them a mile away. But ask me if there’s a tray of cookies…or dish towels…burning in the oven…well, can’t help you there.)

kitchen burningSo, I kept going and added more layers of paints, dry brushing complementary coastal colors until I had this cool finish…which seemed like it might work until I started sanding down the edges to distress it…that smell was back. With a vengeance. Now the only thing that is distressed is me…

DIY Dud Dry Sink Painting LayersBut, silly me, I kept going! Remember the time when you were driving alone at night and hit something in the road and then you heard the thump, thump of a tire starting to go flat but instead of pulling over you turned up the radio to make it go away? No? Well, I do, and that’s what was happening with this project! Denial is a powerful thing... For the top, I painted the inside wainscoting with white chalk paint, then added planking to the sink area for some contrast.

DIY Dud Dry Sink PlankingWhen I noticed the smell wafting through the glued down boards, I figured staining them would help. Pretty, right?

DIY Dud Dry Sink Stained PlanksWell, beauty is in the eye (and the nose) of the beholder. With each layer, I kept my fingers crossed and hoped for the best, but alas, nothing changed…the odor remained and intensified as the moisture in the products caused a leeching effect and brought the nicotine odor to the surface. Being frustrated with the sink, and hoping that somehow the smell would go away if I left it alone for a bit, I decided to concentrate on the old pine doors.

DIY Dud Dry Sink DoorI used some vintage coastal maps of Massachusetts harbors and applied them to the front panels with WundaSize

Wunda Size(if you haven’t tried this stuff in place of other decoupage glues, you must-it’s awesome-no buckles or wrinkles!)

DIY Dud Dry Sink Doors with MapsThen I painted and distressed the frames and edges with chalk paint and finished them with a new matte polyurethane varnish from Varathane.

DIY Dud Map Framed on DoorIt’s called Soft Touch and it mimics the look of waxing but gives a nice poly finish…which I was hoping against hope would finally seal in that obnoxious odor.

Varathan Soft Touch Matte Finish PolyurethaneBut alas, it was not to be, so I halted this amazing dry sink DIY project. It is now sitting on the porch awaiting some spring weather. Yeah, right…

DIY Dud Dry Sink PaintedNot wasting another minute on this until I can take it outside, sand it and scrub it and shellac the s**t out of it until the odor is gone, baby gone. Moral of this story? Always, always, always sniff the pieces you are about to purchase at flea markets and estate sales. I know, it looks a little strange to be hanging around sniffing other people’s junk, but better safe than sorry! You know a LOT of folks were smokers back in the day and that smell just permeates wood like nobodies business (can you only imagine what it was doing to people’s lungs…). In the meantime, its back to globe painting for me,

Global LOVE Painted Globe by Country Design Homeuntil I find another three- door project where I can use those awesome arrow drawer pulls. It’s Tuesday everyone…I hope it doesn’t stink for you!! Susan

PS: If anyone has any great ideas or solutions for my smelly dry sink, please share!


  1. Sunshine! When you finally get some just stick it out on the sunniest day you have… it cures a world of ills… best thing I have found so far to kill off that smell. scrub it down with 50/50 warm water and vinegar and add a few drops of blue dawn to the mix…. let it dry in the sum and you should be good to go. It’s funny how easy it can be (if you have the right day)though still inconvenient.. because it’s time… Good luck! I know it will be adorable when you’re finally done with it!


  2. chris aka monkey says:

    well sweetie i can think of only one solution, send it to me i still smoke so the smell won’t bother me and i love this piece xx


  3. Marie@The Interior Frugalista says:

    Gosh I love your writing style Susan – thanks for an informative and entertaining post! Sorry, can’t help you with the stench removal. Had a piece that smelled like a horse stable and no matter what I did, along with letting it air outdoors, that smell would not leave. I hope the shellac trick works for you – that stuff is magic in a can!
    Thanks for the Wunda Size and Varathane Matte Poly tip – definitely adding these to my Shopping List!


    • Hi Marie- I actually like the aroma of horse stable…perhaps we could trade pieces-lol! Wunda Size really is awesome- you just paint it on, leave it for 10-15 min until its super sticky, then lay down the paper on it-you have a small window of time to reposition it as well. You have to smooth it out really well to get all the air pockets out. Fantastic!


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