FIX IT: Try vinegar to rid wood of smoke odor

Solutions for problems around the house:

Q. We've just inherited some beautiful mahogany furniture. Unfortunately, our relative was a heavy smoker. How do we clean the furniture and get some of the horrible smell out of the wood? Is it a lost cause?

A. Although smoke odor that has penetrated wood furniture can be difficult to remove, don't give up. Try one or more of the following:

-Wipe the entire finished outer area of each piece with a solution of half vinegar and half warm water, suggests Debbi Soeffker, an expert in removing odors from home furnishings. Dry the furniture with white terry toweling. That should break down the nicotine, causing a yellowish-brown film to appear on the cloth. Also clean the inside of the frame and the bottom of the piece and let it dry in a well-ventilated area. Or, lightly sand the unfinished surfaces. Then clean the wood with a commercial wood-cleaning product or Murphy's Oil Soap following label instructions.

-Treat the wood with a fragrance-free odor eliminator. (Don't confuse these with air fresheners or sanitizers that cover up rather than eliminate odors.) One choice is the pump-spray Atmosklear, which is sold at many Ace hardware stores, Wal-Marts and food co-ops. Be sure to read and follow label directions.

-If you have an air purifier, Soeffker suggests running it on high for a while with the furniture under a cloth "tent" to concentrate its effectiveness.

-As a last resort, talk to a furniture restorer. It may be that a new finish will solve the problem, at least on simpler pieces.

Send your questions to Fixit in care of the Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, or call 612-673-9033, or e-mail Sorry, Fixit cannot supply individual replies.