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Old 04-11-2013, 17:19   #1
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Help trying to save smelly cushions.

Okay I hope someone can help us here in a last ditch effort before blowing our budget on foam.
Sorry for all the details below but there's no point in getting recommendations if someone does not have all the facts or history so here we go. (Maybe Peggy is in the house?)


Here's the deal, when we bought our boat it came with a brand new engine yeah! Because the other one blew and spit a mountain of oil in the bilge which subsequently got behind all the inbuilt moulded liners and furnishings etc. Boooooooo! So we have been cleaning hard for well over a year getting everything we can get to including cutting access, building storage and being able to clean most of those spots. Yeah! The old cushions smelt and although They feel firm and comfy they were removed.

I believe the foam is dura foam or other high quality foam. They are discolored possibly from the treatments below but they were discolored when first removed but I can't recall how much. My guess is that they are 8-10yrs old but again resilient firm and comfy still.

This took place 15months ago, Coverings were removed and laundered successfully.

We then went to town cleaning and freshening the foam.
We have washed thoroughly with non detergent neutral cleaner
Then they were liberally treated with vinegar.
They have also been treated with a dose of clove oil (we hate mould and mildew). Squeezed of all water and left to air with a bit of sun but not too much.
After they were thoroughly dried they still had that old boat smell. So in our spare room they were given an ozone treatment, done overnight. (I now know it should have been short treatments of higher concentrations.)
I am confident that the foam reached saturation of ozone and the environment totally shocked. But maybe it was too much?

The foam was then aired out and dehumidified to 55% it still had a little old boat smell so was treated with an odor neutralizer for pets. then left to air at 55% another day. They seemed ok.

Since we live in a very small place and we were not ready to deal with upholstery they were bagged, taped and shrink wrapped air tight and put into dry storage. Fast forward 15months.

We brought them out 2 days ago and they stink! Same smell. Booooooo! I am starting to sew all new upholstery coverings. Yeahhhhh.

We placed them outside for some fresh air its helping a little but they still smell. Maybe its the smell of foam that's breaking down and not old boat but old foam smell all this time?

Is their any hope here? I'm thinking another wash then maybe making a vacuum bag, insert cushions pull all air out then as air re enters add atomized treatment of maybe clove oil and vinegar or Fabreeze or similar. Am I flogging a dead horse? I would not bother except they are so comfy firm and even. They feel like new foam to sit on but they are clearly not.


There is no way I am going to put new sewn covers on them if they are going to smell. But getting new foam will effect our budget a lot and push us back from our goal a while so if there's anyway I can save these I'd like to try.

Wow that's probably as painful to read as it was for me to do ;-)
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Old 04-11-2013, 17:26   #2
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Re: Help trying to save smelly cushions.

Try mixing up a batch of strong oxyclean and taking them into the shower. They are probably open cell foam... Hot water, soap suds and a lot of squeezing and ringing should help get the oil out of them.

Getting them dry after that is a bit more difficult... They need to be stomped and squashed until all the water that is in them comes out, then stood upright so the remaining water works its way out. Do this away from salt breezes, otherwise they will never dry.

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Old 04-11-2013, 17:28   #3
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Re: Help trying to save smelly cushions.

Hate to say this after all your work, but you need new foam.
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Old 04-11-2013, 17:28   #4
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I had a simular situation when I had a port leak and mildew formed. Nothing I tried would completely get rid of it. What I did find was I could replace them with foam from a local military surplus store. Yes....it was more money than I would hope to spend on the process....but I sleep on those! Shop around...you just might find a place locally that will offer something in your budget. Maybe someone will have an option you haven't tried......either way.....good luck!
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Old 04-11-2013, 17:30   #5
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Re: Help trying to save smelly cushions.

Bleach. Soak them in it. Maybe buy a cheap kiddy pool, fill it with bleach and soak away overnight. Set them upright and let most run out. Rinse with water, set upright and let run out. Squeeze as much out as you can then use a shop vac to suck water out of it. Then let air dry until dry.

See if that helps. If not, then it will be new foam.

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Old 04-11-2013, 17:46   #6
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Re: Help trying to save smelly cushions.

Why not just bag them in plastic the way you did to store them, and the recover with new fabric?
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Old 04-11-2013, 19:08   #7
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I should mention I'm in Australia and foam is ridiculously overpriced here. Compared
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Old 04-11-2013, 19:13   #8
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I should mention I'm in Australia and so far have found foam to be ridiculously overpriced compared to what I could have bought in Canada.

I had thought of bagging and covering but I know too well that plastic is not impermeable and that eventually the smell will come through.

Will strong bleach deteriorate the foam further? I have not tried a full overnight soak in some sort of solution as suggested. So this could be an option. I wonder what solution would work best.
I'm really worried the foam is smelling because its breaking down in which case I'm led to believe there is no cure? The smell is quite strong now to the point we can't have them in our apartment.
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Old 04-11-2013, 19:21   #9
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Re: Help trying to save smelly cushions.

Bleach wont' hurt the foam. In fact, this was the exact advice I was given by our upholstery shop when getting new upholstery even though our foam doesn't stink. They suggested it as a way to bring the foam to "like new" condition in terms of fit and size.

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Old 04-11-2013, 19:21   #10
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Re: Help trying to save smelly cushions.

The acid in vinegar will destroy some foam. Possibly the vinegar you used is causing the foam to breakdown and that is why it stinks.
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Old 04-11-2013, 19:38   #11
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Re: Help trying to save smelly cushions.

Can you get Raritan K.O.? K.O. Is actually a holding tank treatment, but it eats mold and mildew and has a nice smell( to me).
I'm in the process of fighting what you are fighting. I get the K.O. this weekend, I'll let you know how it goes. Till then, I'm giving the cushions as much sunshine and fresh air as I can. I will also replace the batting material before putting the old covers back on, and making slip covers for everything. We are trying to get a few more years out of our cushions before full replacement.

They say to spray the diluted KO till the core is damp, not saturated, then bake in sun and you are good to go hopefully.
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Old 04-11-2013, 20:45   #12
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Re: Help trying to save smelly cushions.

It is open cell foam, so once anything saturates it, it can be hell to get stuff OUT of it.

I would suggest looking for a commercial carpet cleaning business. They put the carpet through rollers with hot water and steam, and that's going to push out whatever is in your foam way better than any kind of manual, spot, or washing machine cleaning. If that doesn't do it...trash time.

Open cell foam really should only be used indoors in dry places. (Just one man's opinion.)
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Old 04-11-2013, 20:50   #13
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Re: Help trying to save smelly cushions.

I have just been in love with Kanberra Tee Tree Oil recently.
Kanberra Gel - Nature's Activated Protection

It's damn near saved my marriage and live aboard boat!
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Old 04-11-2013, 21:08   #14
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Re: Help trying to save smelly cushions.

Try leaving them out in the sun, what have you got top lose?
Best Way to Get Rid of Rotten Sponge Smell

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Old 04-11-2013, 21:23   #15
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I don't have experience with foam, but I'm a big fan of Borax. It seems to clean without the negative effects of chlorine.
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