Some of the food stored in my kitchen's particle board cabinets have a chemical taste. I suspect it is offgassing. What can I do?

Asked by L. Gilbert
Cincinnati, OH

The cabinets look like they're from the eighties. Peanut butter and saltine crackers that have been stored for a couple of months taste like shellac. Is this formaldehyde? I can't afford to move. Is there testing available and is there anything short of replacing the cabinets that can be done? Is this something that my landlord is required by law to take care of?


Most particle board cabinets are covered with either a veneer of wood or vinyl.

You mentioned that this is an apartment, which could mean that the cabinets were painted prior to you moving in to make them look fresh and clean.

  • The taste of shellac that you are experiencing may be off gassing from the paint which was applied.
  • This paint could be an oil based or alcohol based stain kill to cover over stains and spills from the previous owner. These types of paints take time to off gas.

According the US EPA website, formaldehyde is a colorless gas with a pungent, suffocating odor at room temperature.

I would start by keeping the doors on the cabinets open for a week if they were painted and, if possible, keep the windows of the apartment open too. This will allow them to air out as the cure.

If this doesn't work it would be in your rights to notify the landlord and request he looks into it.



For more information:

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