Do chess boards smell? Here are the important facts

Ever had the experience of unrolling a chessboard and the smell just hits you? Perhaps it is an old chessboard you put in a secluded corner or maybe it’s the smell that accompanies your brand new chessboard?

The smell can be so strong that your nose can feel it even a dozen meters away, so knowing why a chessboard would smell and how you could remove it is important. In this article, I will try to help you with your problems regarding smelly chess boards.

As a chess player here is what I know:

Brand new wooden and vinyl chessboards usually smell because of the chemicals used in their finishing but are normally faint. Other types of chessboards made from glass, metal, or marble do not smell at all. The smell is caused by exposure to moisture or sunlight.

Regardless, a bad odor can sometimes appear and it can ruin your experience on the board. In fact, the smell alone can embarrass you enough that you hesitate to play with friends and strangers on the street.

Ordinary chess boards do not smell bad

The natural smell of a chessboard is quite faint, almost odorless. Your run-of-the-mill chess board usually doesn’t smell bad, so if it does smell it is usually caused by either bacteria or leftover chemicals. There might be a smell of chemicals from the finish of the wood (if it is a wooden chessboard) but it shouldn’t be too much of a concern.

In cases where the smell of the chemicals concerns you, just unfold it and expose it to fresh air. You can even use a fan if you want to. See if the bad smell will go away as the volatile chemicals evaporate.

Try not to expose it to direct sunlight when you are air drying it as it can fade its colors. If possible place it behind glass as the glass will block the ultraviolet sunlight.

Chessboard smell depending on its material

Depending on the type of chessboard the smell might be different. Chess sets made from plastic, marble, glass, and metal typically don’t smell at all. Wooden and vinyl chess boards on the other hand may smell faint but it usually shouldn’t be enough to be noticeable.

Just like other wooden items wooden chess boards can be targets of wood-eating insects. These insects can make your chess boards smell bad even after you remove them so make sure to prevent an infestation from happening in the first place.

Just make sure not to store wooden chess boards in places with direct sunlight, extreme temperatures, or humidity and you should be fine. Occasional maintenance will prevent infestations too if you haven’t used your chess boards for quite a while.

Reliable vendors take care of the chessboard’s smell

If you are planning to buy a new chess board make sure you buy from trustworthy vendors. If you stick with reliable vendors such as with chesshouse.com (there are other reliable vendors, this is just what I recommend) then the smell should be minimal.

You can buy chess boards online and check the reviews to see what other customers have to say about their orders. A quick research about your vendors can save you a lot of potential trouble, so you should do it if you have the opportunity to do so.

A good manufacturer not only makes sure that the smell is bearable, but you should also get a better quality chess board and pieces to use for your enjoyment.

Unreliable vendors do not take care of the chessboard’s smell

If you have bought the chessboard from a shady manufacturer that doesn’t ensure the quality of their product then the smell is likely due to improper maintenance. 

Those smells can even be dangerous if the cause of which is due to chemicals lingering on the chess boards after manufacture. Consulting with a few friends or asking on the internet can be helpful in such situations.

Buying second-hand chess boards too can smell even if they might cost cheaper. Old second-hand chess boards can smell as without proper maintenance years of storage would give room for bacteria to grow.

Cause of the smelly chessboards

Smelly chessboards might be because of the excessive presence of bacteria that produce unwanted smelly acids (the thing that makes sweat smell bad). This is probably because of extended exposure to moisture or the sun.

You should store your chess boards in dry-covered places to prevent the buildup of bacteria, to prevent bad odors from appearing on your chess boards.

Brand new chess boards can also smell bad because of chemicals lingering in them. These chemicals can be harmful to you if you have bought your chessboard sets from shady manufacturers.

Odor eliminators and smell on chessboards

You can also eliminate bad odors if they are unpleasant enough. Mix in a baking soda and warm water solution, soak a sponge in the baking soda solution and wipe it down the chessboard. The solution will clean and deodorize the chessboard. 

After that allow the chessboard to air-dry. If the chessboard still smells, wipe it down with the baking soda solution again until it no longer remains.

For marble chess sets though you would need a different approach. Marble chess sets can be damaged if they come in contact with something acidic so a baking soda solution can damage it instead.

You can also just use the most famous odor eliminator brand in your country (Febreze, a fabric refresher spray for U.S. households for example) to try to eliminate the smell. Spray it a couple of times a day and in a few days, the smell should be gone.

Limit water when trying to remove smell on a chessboard

You might be tempted to use soap and water to remove the bad odors but you should be careful as it can damage your chessboard. Try not to expose your chessboard to too much water when trying to remove bad smells since it will damage the board and tamper with its colors. 

Be careful with using strong detergents too as they can potentially damage or alter the color of your chessboard while trying to get rid of its bad smell.

You can try dampening it with a cloth but don’t go too far. Scrub lightly to prevent marks from appearing since those marks will be hard to remove once they are there.

Getting a new chessboard because of the rotten smell

If the smell still persists then you can consider just buying a brand new chessboard. If the smell is so rotten and you feel that the chessboard cannot be saved even with the famous odor eliminators, then it is time to give up on the chessboard and buy something new.

You might think it would be a waste to buy a new one but in my opinion, it is much better to play using an inexpensive odorless chessboard than a beautiful expensive chessboard that has a horrible smell.

Even if you don’t mind a particularly bad smell that doesn’t mean your opponent won’t mind it. Your opponent can very well accuse you of ruining their concentration, a potentially game-ruining experience.

Some chess boards naturally smell something

There are certain types of chess boards that naturally smell even in the presence of strong odor eliminators. Vinyl, silicone, and wooden chess boards can smell even if they are brand new. Though this is true, the smell should just be faint and is not something that should ruin your day.

So if you notice that some chess boards made from certain types of materials tend to smell something, know that it is normal.

Chess boards from different materials can have smells that are different from one another so it is up to you if a particular smell is bearable or not.

The odor of chessboard should be pleasant

Even if some of the chessboards smell it is faint, yes, but it’s also somewhat reportedly pleasant. It’s something that will remind you of childhood (like the smell of well-finished wood!) and it shouldn’t be particularly undesirable.

In the end, what matters is how the smell affects you. If the smell of a brand new chess board is pleasant then there is no reason to be too concerned about it. 

In fact, it may even enhance your playing experience, allowing you to enjoy your games better.

Final Thoughts

Smelly chess boards can prevent you from playing and enjoying chess. That is why it is important to know how to prevent chess boards from having bad odors.

Can you imagine playing with your friends and them thinking that it is you who smell bad? Playing with chess hustlers for fun only for them to complain about the bad smell?

Even storing them might not be enough since the smell can spread through your house, which means that taking action is necessary. In the worst case, it can even force you to throw away a chess board if the smell is too unbearable.

Lastly, make sure that you buy brand new chess boards from trustworthy vendors to make sure that you don’t buy smelly chess boards. You wouldn’t want to throw away your newly bought chessboard after finding out that you can’t actually use it because of the unpleasant smell.

That is all for today, sleep well and play chess.

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