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How to Remove Smells from Your Ergonomic Seat

28 July 2022

While it's totally normal for your ergonomic chair to emanate an awful odor, it's pretty embarrassing, especially when you have clients around. Office seat odor is a common office problem, and it's bound to happen whether the chair is new or has been used for quite some time. Brand new office seats have a peculiar smell resulting from off-gassing by the materials, i.e., plastics, leather, etc., preserving chemicals as well as the factory environment.

On the other hand, after they have been used for some time, office chairs tend to get stinky. The strongly acidic or musty smell from your office chair results from the accumulation of sweat, oils, dirt, bacteria, and fungi from your daily seated interaction.

Whether new or old, you need to remove smells from your ergonomic office seat. Contrary to common practices, removing smells from your ergonomic seat is not using a fabric deodorizer to mask the smell. Instead, you should aim at completely removing the smell since masking it only makes the smell worse with time.

Refreshing your ergonomic seat makes it smell nice and provides a healthy and conducive work environment for maximum productivity. From sun drying the chair to using natural cleaning ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda, there are various ways you can remove smells from your office chair. Read on to learn more about cost-effective and functional ways of removing smells from your ergonomic seat.

Identify the Source of the Odor

Before Proceeding: Do This First

Before embarking on removing smells from your ergonomic seat, you need to first proceed with the steps below:

Identify the Source of the Odor

Odors can build up in nearly all office chair parts, including the armrests, backrest, and seat itself. Therefore, a great way to remove odor from your office chair is to identify any strange odor by smelling the office chair and its various components. This way, you'll be able to direct your efforts to a particular component of the seat and achieve great results. If you're still having trouble pinpointing the source of the odor, don't hesitate to ask a coworker for help. Once you've identified the affected area, you can move on to the next step: freshening up your chair!

Check the Tag/Manufacturers Cleaning Instructions

Ergonomic office chairs come with a tag or a set of instructions that detail how each component should be cared for, including cleaning instructions. It's crucial to consider these tags or instructional manuals/brochures to avoid damaging the chair when cleaning to remove odor.

Normally, a tag will consist of a letter code that will tell you how to care for the chair. These codes are:

W: If you see the symbol W on cleaning instructions for seats, it means that you should use a water-based cleaner. Preferably, you should use distilled water since tap water contains impurities that could damage the seat fabric. When using a water-based cleaner, be sure to blot (don't rub) the stain and let the seat dry completely before using it again.
S: Clean using Mild water-free solvents. Do not use water. When using one of these solvents, it is important to first test it in an inconspicuous area to ensure that it does not damage the fabric.
WS or SW: Both solvents and water-based cleaning solutions are allowed.
X: The X cleaning code is typically used to indicate that the item cannot be cleaned using any liquid solution; Vacuum cleaning or light brushing is recommended
C: The chair is fitted with a proprietary fabric called Crypton, which requires special care.

How to Get Rid of Smells from Your Ergonomic Seat?

Below are twelve effective ways you can efficiently remove bad odor from your ergonomic office chair.

Sun Dry

Sun Dry

Sun drying is an age-old practice to eliminate the smell from any fabric or item. The sun’s ultraviolet rays eliminate odor from your office chair by breaking down organic compounds that may be causing the odor. The solar rays in the right intensity also kill bacteria and fungi as well as get rid of unwanted moisture that may be causing the foul smell.

When sun drying your office chair, it's important to avoid placing it under direct sunlight as the UV rays could discolor and damage your chair upholstery, especially if it's leather or plastic. If you're concerned about fading, you can cover your seat with a light cloth to protect it from the sun's rays. Mesh and vinyl office chair upholstery are usually safe to place under direct sunlight but make sure you read the manufacturer's instructions or tag for further direction on the same.

Additionally, you can add a few drops of essential oil to your seat before sun drying it, which will help to freshen the fabric and keep it smelling fresh for longer.

Sun drying is an economical and practical way of eliminating foul smells from your office chair. However, only consider this method as the chair manual recommends it, and be careful not to leave your chair outside in direct sunlight for too long-a few hours will do.

Detergent/Liquid Soap

The best way to easily remove smells from your ergonomic seat is to perform a simple yet thorough cleaning using an effective detergent. Office chairs hold up a substantial amount of sweat as you hassle through the day. The accumulation of sweat and grime causes foul smells. Thorough cleaning using detergent and water can eliminate such odor.

However, before you clean the chair, you’ll want to go through the chair's instructions regarding cleaning materials and supplies to avoid damaging the seat. For a vinyl or mesh office chair, simply mix a small amount of soap with warm water in a spray bottle, and mist the solution onto the affected areas of your chair. Then, use a clean cloth to scrub away any lingering odors. The dish soap will break down the molecules that cause smells, leaving your chair smelling fresh and clean. Allow the soap to soak in for a few minutes before rinsing it off with clean water. You may need to repeat this process a few times to completely remove the smell. Once you're finished, be sure to vacuum the chair again to remove any soap residue.

If your chair is made of leather, start by using a recommended leather cleaning solution. Spray it on the leather parts of the chair, and let it soak for a few minutes. Then wipe it off with a microfiber towel.


Vinegar is another green cleaning tool that can remove odor from your office chair. Owing to its acidic nature, vinegar breaks bacteria and other compounds that cause odors. However, since it's a strong compound, always dilute the vinegar with water to lower the acidity and make it safe for cleaning the office chair.

Put vinegar and water in a spraying bottle in a ratio of 1:2 or 1:1 if the odor is really strong. Then spray the solution onto the office chair to moisten the upholstery. Be careful not to soak the material. Let the chair air dry for the vinegary smell to go away, leaving the chair clean and fresh. When using vinegar, ensure the room is well ventilated as the smell is pretty strong.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a strong odor remover in addition to being a dry cleaning agent. It chemically reacts with odor-causing compounds, breaking them down and eliminating the odor. To remove smells from your office chair using baking soda, lightly sprinkle it evenly onto the chair, ensuring to pay special focus on the seating area. Let the sprinkled baking soda settle for several hours, up to a day or two, since the chemical reaction needs time to occur. Next, vacuum up the baking soda or dust it off outside to remove the powder, which leaves the seat clean and smelling fresh.

Wet Vacuum the Chair

Wet Vacuum the Chair

Wet-vacuuming the chair deep cleans it and gets rid of the odor as well. Start by scrubbing down the chair with detergent meant for the office chair. Make sure you thoroughly clean every part of the chair, including corners, cracks, etc., since there could be large particles, dust, or debris trapped in them.

Once you’ve cleaned every chair corner, switch your vacuum to the wet function and suction off the moisture from the seat. Rinse well and repeat the vacuuming until the chair feels damp. Then, allow the seat to air dry in an open area or under indirect sunlight to allow the chair to completely dry before using it.

Steam Clean

Another option to remove smells from your ergonomic seat is to use a steam cleaner, preferably a handheld steam cleaner.

Steam cleaning uses hot water vapor to clean and sanitize surfaces. It is a great way to remove smells as the heat will kill bacteria and pathogens that are causing the smell. In addition, steam cleaning will also remove any dirt or grime that may be on the surface of your seat.

They then use suction to pull back the water vapor. The suctioned hot moisture comes out with dirt, dust, grime, and odor-causing compounds leaving the seat clean and smell-free. However, before steam cleaning, ensure you've read the manufacturer's instructions to determine whether it's safe to steam it.

Vodka/ Isopropyl Alcohol

Vodka is an effective solution to smelly ergonomic chairs, especially if it has a stronger and longer-lasting odor. The acidic nature of vodka means that it can denature organic compounds and other chemicals that cause odors. Better still, the vodka dissociates, leaving no smell behind. Simply fill a spray bottle with vodka and liberally spray your office chair until saturation. Ensure the chair upholstery doesn’t soak wet in vodka. Then leave the seat to air dry for some hours in an open area.

If you don't want to waste expensive vodka, you can use unscented 70% isopropyl alcohol as an alternative. It will work just like vodka following the above-stated procedure. Vodka and isopropyl alcohol are best for cleaning and removing odor from leather seats as they are not leather damaging. However, for leather chairs, simply wipe the leather surface with vodka or alcohol rather than spraying it to ensure minimal damage.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is a workable solution to remove smells from your office chair. It contains citric acid which helps to eliminate fart and musty odors from office seats. Start by mixing one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice in a cup of water and scour the chair's upholstery as well as the cushion surface. Next, let the solution seep into the seat then leave it in an open space for at least 24 hours to air dry. The seat will smell fresh and clean.

Consider Professional Cleaning Service

Consider Professional Cleaning Service

Some ergonomic offices have an X rating on them meaning that they should be cleaned professionally. As such, you should abide by the manufacturer's instructions and contract the services of a professional cleaner. While they might be pretty costly, professional cleaners are experienced and have the necessary cleaning equipment and supplies to effectively clean your office seat and remove peculiar smells.

Essential Oil

Some essential oils such as Eucalyptus Oil and Tea Tree Oil are very effective in masking odors. These oils have antimicrobial and antifungal properties and hence can eliminate bad odor by killing fungi and bacteria. Just mix a few drops of the essential oil in a spray bottle and strongly mist the chair's upholstery. Then leave the chair to air-dry overnight.

Fabric Deodorizer

You can use a fabric deodorizer to mask smells from your ergonomic office chair. This is however recommended if your chair is new and smells of industrial chemicals used for preservation. The new office chair smell is caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from the materials used to make the chair. VOCs can cause a strong, unpleasant smell but can be masked by Fabric Deodorizer. For used chairs, you'll want to address the root cause of the odors rather than covering them up using a deodorizer.

Get a New Ergonomic Office Chairs

Get a New Ergonomic Office Chairs

If you undertake the above interventions and it still doesn’t remove the smells, why don't you just get a new ergonomic office chair? Musty odors or mildew smell can linger in office chairs for quite some time even with deep cleaning. Additionally, the above interventions to remove smells from ergonomic seats might fail especially in office chairs that have been stored in damp, dusty areas and have been unused for quite some time.

At this point, you might consider buying a new ergonomic office chair to ensure a productive, healthy, and fresh-smelling office space. Flexispot offers a wide range of ergonomic office chairs made with high-quality materials that are more resistant to odors. Highly recommended models are Soutien Ergonomic Office Chair and the Adjustable Ergonomic Leather Office Chair OC8N/OC8B which are currently on offer with great features facilitating a healthy and productive workspace.

How to Keep Your Office Chair Smelling Good

Usually, the smells that we get from office chairs are due to poor or total lack of upkeep or maintenance schedule. There are several actions you can take to keep your office chair smelling good and fresh. Some of these interventions include:

Keep your office chair clean and always dry
Sanitize your office chair daily
Wipe off water or food spills immediately
Avoid smoking in the office as the tobacco smell and cigarette smoke may infiltrate the office chair
Have your office chair cleaned professionally to remove bacteria and fungi that may cause odors
Avoid storing your office chair in damp areas when maybe going for a vacation or closing down the office for some time.
If possible, install a humidifier or dehumidifier to counteract any office smells. You can also keep your windows open to allow the free flow of air and keep out any foul smells.

Closing Words

Ergonomic office chairs become smelly over time, thanks to fungi, bacteria, mold, and other odor-producing agents. These odors are not only embarrassing but also compromise your productivity and health. With these interventions, you can remove smells from ergonomic office seats and enjoy a clean, fresh, and odorless working space.