Firewood Odor

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Firewood odor can depend on several different factors.  

The type of firewood you're burning, the moisture content of the wood and whether or not the firewood is moldy will all change the way your woodpile smells.

Thomas, a visitor to our website, had this question regarding some firewood he recently purchased that had a distinct smell.....

"Does rotten wood have an odor like old perfume?

The wood I bought is not burning.  It's making a hissing sound and does not burn very long.  

Is this wood bad?"

I have a few thoughts regarding the concerns.  

First, the smell described is probably related to the species of wood purchased and doesn't necessary mean the firewood is rotten.

Sometimes rotten firewood will stink, but it usually has a musty smell similar to a damp basement.  

The smell is related to the mold spores growing on the wood.  

Plus, rotten wood will be spongy and it generally has sections that crumble apart when you move or stack the wood.

From our visitors experience so far with the wood, I believe he has a load of oak firewood that's not fully seasoned.

Why The Wood Smells And Won't Burn

Oak firewood has a very distinct odor.  

I've always thought the wood has a sweet smell similar to the old perfume described above, however, many people say the smell is similar to vinegar, urine or even pickles.

I've always noticed the distinct smell is stronger when the wood is still wet.  

Usually, the smell decreases a little as the wood dries and eventually goes away.  

Also, oak firewood takes at least one full year to season......usually two years.

Oak is a great firewood choice, however, it does take longer to season than a lot of other firewood choices.  

For best results oak really needs two full years to completely dry out.  

If not, the wood will sizzle, hiss and it will not burn very long just as Thomas described.

I commonly use oak to cook with over a campfire.  

The wood produces nice coals which work great for a campfire meal.  

I know from experience wet oak simply won't burn.  

Even though the wood may appear dry, a lot of times it's not.  It's a frustrating experience to say the least.  

Firewood Odor - What Can Be Done?

To solve the issue of firewood odor bought from a dealer, you have a couple options.  

First, you could contact the supplier and maybe they will exchange the wood or refund your purchase. 

Depending on the quantity of firewood that needs to be moved and the hauling distance, this may or may not be a reasonable option.

The second option is to season the firewood for a year and burn it next year.  

Stack the firewood off the ground and let it dry out over the summer when the sun and summer winds will reduce the moisture content of the wood.

If the pieces of wood are large, it will be beneficial to split the wood into smaller pieces which will help it dry out a lot faster.

Although this does not help solve the problem now, you can still use the wood next year and it will burn a lot better.

The Best Smelling Wood To Burn

Now that we've determined what causes a piece of wood to smell bad, let's look at a few types of firewood that smell amazing when they burn, assuming they're fully seasoned.

Cherry Firewood

Cherry firewood has a beautiful grain that not only looks amazing sitting in a log rack on your hearth, but it also smells great when you burn it.

Cherry is a very sweet smelling wood

Cherry Firewood

A freshly cut piece of cherry has an abundant aroma that will fade as the wood dries, but burning dry cherry firewood releases the smell into the air.

Apple Firewood

Apple firewood is a little harder to find since most people would rather enjoy the apples off the tree as opposed to cutting it up for firewood, but if you happen to have a dead apple tree that needs to be removed, the wood is awesome to burn.

With a heating value of 27.0 million BTUs per cord, it's a top rated firewood choice for heating with wood.

It's also perfect for cooking with because of its sweet smell which gives your food excellent flavoring.

This is why a lot of people use apple inside of a smoker.

Cedar Firewood

Cedar firewood contains natural oils that give off a very distinct but pleasant smell.  

This is why a lot of closets are lined with cedar, which causes them to smell great, but cedar also deters moths and other insects.

Salmon Grilled On Cedar Planks

Generally, cedar is used as kindling because it lights easily and create a fast, hot fire.  

For cooking purposes, I love to use cedar planks when cooking salmon or chicken.  

It adds a lot of flavor to the food and it smells great when you're cooking it!

Hickory Firewood

If you're looking for a classic firewood odor that's both sweet but not overpowering, hickory firewood is a great choice.

It's great to use in a campfire because it burns hot and long, creating good coals and it also gives you a pleasant campfire smell. 

Hickory is hard to beat for both cooking and home heating.

Firewood Odor - Overall

Firewood odor can take on many different forms.  

From the sweet smell of cherry to the more unpleasant smell of wet red oak, allowing your firewood to properly season will solve a lot of issues with an overpowering smell.

Dry firewood is always the best choice for any application, so plan ahead and give your wood plenty of time to dry and you'll love the end result.


About the Author

Nick Greenway

Obsessed with firewood, Nick is behind over 350+ of Firewood For Life's articles, as well as countless reviews, guides and YouTube videos to help readers like you reduce heating costs and create the perfect fire.