PDA

View Full Version : bought smelling ukulele - safe to keep it near my other ukuleles?



zivilars
09-16-2016, 04:35 AM
Hi everybody,

I bought a used KoAloha Soprano a few days ago and made the terrible mistake to not ask if it comes from a smoker – the ukulele smells extremely of cold smoke, cigarettes or cigars, I honestly don't know. Maybe even a house burning, I can't rule out anything ... It hurts my heart as the instrument itself looks wonderfully and the playability is top notch.

As I probably have no other chance to keep the KoAloha: It is at least safe to place it besides my other ukuleles – or is there a risk that it will "contaminate" those, too? They are not touching each other, of course, but there only a few centimeters between them. Couldn't forgive myself if this happens, so I better want to be safe than sorry, even if this fear sounds a little bit paranoid ...

I already have tried to put the ukulele in its case with fresh coffee pulver which is said to neutralize smoke smell. No success. I think I am stuck with this smell, so my main concern now is that at least my other ukuleles definitely won't absorb it through the air, too.

Thanks in advance for any input!

wayfarer75
09-16-2016, 04:42 AM
I don't think it's that likely your KoAloha will infect the other ukes. I would try to air it out as much as you can. Get it a new case, if you haven't already. Also try cleaning it with whatever polish won't harm a KoAloha's finish, including the fretboard.

Picker Jon
09-16-2016, 04:45 AM
A trick with books that smell of stale smoke is to seal them in bag with sodium bicarbonate for a few days. I've tried it and it works OK, gets rid of most of the smell. Not sure if it would work with a uke, you'd need a big bag and lots of bicarb.

zivilars
09-16-2016, 04:53 AM
Thanks wayfarer75 and Picker Jon for the answers and suggestions. Already cleaned the ukulele with a polisher and the fretboard with my guitar oil two times - unfortunately it didn't help. The nicotine probably also is INSIDE of the ukulele, I guess ... Will inform myself about sodium bicarbonate.

UkerDanno
09-16-2016, 04:58 AM
Will inform myself about sodium bicarbonate.

sodium bicarbonate = baking soda...buy a couple big boxes, pour it inside and let it sit, shaking it around occasionally, after a couple days put fresh in and repeat. Good luck!

Also, try putting it in a sealed container with a bowl of white vinegar.

Booli
09-16-2016, 05:01 AM
You could also take an old sock and put about 8-12 oz of kitty litter in the sock (but make sure it will fit in the soundhole) and tie it closed well with a rubber band or baggie tie, and then put the sock in thru the soundhole, and then leave the uke in the case for at least a week and the litter should absorb most of the smell.

I'd go for a small bag of the Arm & Hammer ODOR CONTROL cat litter...

If all the smell dont come out the first time, repeat the process. Worked for me.

Also, once you get the smell out, if some still lingers, you can get some citrus potpourri and put that in a sack, or another sock (the mate from the pair that used for the cat litter?) and leave that inside the sound hole for a few days to a week to infuse the wood with NEW and DIFFERENT smell from the smoke smell....

Hope this helps...:)

zivilars
09-16-2016, 05:04 AM
Thanks UkerDanno and Booli for the additional suggestions. Have a lot to try out now. :) Hopefully it helps! At least there is hope ...

johnson430
09-16-2016, 05:05 AM
I would pour the baking soda into a knee-high hose to keep it together and then place that inside the soundhole and leave it for a few days.
I would also not use the case it came in, perhaps put the uke in a plastic trash bag while you are doing the baking soda thing.
Sorry this happened to you.
Good luck.

zivilars
09-16-2016, 05:09 AM
Hi Johnson430 - already bought a knee-high hose for another coffee powder test. Will try soda and cat littler first now. Thanks!

Kayak Jim
09-16-2016, 05:22 AM
I'd give it longer than a few days with any deodorizer you try, like maybe a few weeks. The odor compounds take a while to migrate out of the wood.

Booli
09-16-2016, 05:23 AM
Yes, the trash bag is a good idea.

Also, certain brands of cat litter has a sort of 'dust' that comes off the sand granules, you want to see if you can get litter that is 'dust free' and also UNSCENTED since I do not think you want to replace the smoke smell with some funky anti-cat-pee smell which could end up being worse, and/or even harm the wood -

at this stage you want to remove smells, not add to them or mask them yet, not until you can draw out as much as possible first....

mikelz777
09-16-2016, 05:25 AM
If it were me, I'd try filling the cavity of the body with cedar shavings, the kind they sell for pet gerbils, mice, etc. I'd leave it in there for at least a week if not longer and shake it around in there several times a day so that the cedar shavings are, in effect, "scrubbing" the inside surfaces of the body. Maybe the absorbency of the chips coupled with their aromatic scent will do the trick.

DownUpDave
09-16-2016, 05:29 AM
All great ideas. Definitley, definitley, definitley throw out the old case. No sense (pun intended:p) going through all the trouble of removing the smell from the uke then "restinkifying" it when it goes back into the smokey smelling case.

zivilars
09-16-2016, 05:42 AM
Thanks for the replies Kayak Jim, mikelz777 and DownUpDave. Great tips, I'll definitely try everything out. I don't mind if it takes weeks or even months to get the smell out of the wood, if it goes away someday, I'll be a happy man. The only thing I am afraid of that it will be sitting in there forever..

Tudorp
09-16-2016, 05:48 AM
Being a pipe smoker, my grand kids love to smell my pipes when they come over. I smoke "aromatic" pipe tobacco and it actually has a very pleasant, vanilla odor to it. I put a small pouch of un-burned aromatic tobacco in my ukes. My grand kids always want me to bring out a uke and play for them, but first, they find the need to bury their noses in my ukes. They love the smell of Grandpa's pipes, and tobacco, and the smell of the ukes because "they smell like Grandpa!!". I think it is cool, and will always be nice aromatic memories for them long after I'm gone. I have awesome memories of my Grandpa's and my father's pipes. It keeps them with me. Not sure if I am any help, but it does relate as smells are either a good, or bad memory for people. The sense of smell is very long lasting.

zivilars
09-16-2016, 06:02 AM
Hi Tudorp,

I can understand liking "pipe smell" – I somehow do, too, but only temporarily if somebody is smoking a "real" one in front of me ... :) Although even that smell makes me feel sick (as a natural reaction of my body, not willingly hating it).

The smell in this ukulele however is hard to take (at least for my nose). As already mentioned, I don't even know if it were cigarettes, cigars or pipes which made it smelling so bad – I wouldn't even rule out a burnt down house, with the ukulele as the only thing saved from it ... :)

I'll try my best to get the smell out of it. Otherwise, I'll just live with it – just have to be sure that it won't "infect" my other ukuleles.

lakesideglenn
09-16-2016, 06:04 AM
I second the idea of filling it with cedar shavings...worked pretty well on a mandolin i had

cml
09-16-2016, 06:05 AM
If the humidity allows for it dont put it into a case for a while, you're trapping the air.

zivilars
09-16-2016, 06:12 AM
I second the idea of filling it with cedar shavings...worked pretty well on a mandolin i had

Do you directly fill the inside of the body with cedar shaving or do you put them in a knee-high hose or similar to get them out more easily later?


If the humidity allows for it dont put it into a case for a while, you're trapping the air.

Agreed – however: While trying to get the "main" smell absorbed by coffee, baking soda, cedar shaving or similar in the first step, it's better to leave it air-trapped while doing so for full effect, isn't it?

mikelz777
09-16-2016, 06:29 AM
I would recommend putting the shavings in there directly so there is wood to shavings contact. My thinking is that the cedar chips would absorb the smoke scent on the surface of the ukulele interior and perhaps deposit some of the cedar scent to the interior wood. The shavings wouldn't be so fine that they wouldn't be relatively easy to shake out of the uke when you were refreshing with clean shavings or done with the process.

zivilars
09-16-2016, 06:33 AM
Thanks mikelz, I'll order a bag of cedar chips and try the method out. I believe that the nicotine (or whatever) INSIDE of the body is a main problem - the smell gets worse when hitting the strings (at least my subjective impression), probably because the air is "pushed" out then.

mikelz777
09-16-2016, 06:41 AM
Cedar chips should be readily available in pet supply stores if you have one available to you.

johnson430
09-16-2016, 06:50 AM
Thanks mikelz, I'll order a bag of cedar chips and try the method out. I believe that the nicotine (or whatever) INSIDE of the body is a main problem - the smell gets worse when hitting the strings (at least my subjective impression), probably because the air is "pushed" out then.

That makes sense. Be careful not to try and "hide the smell". I would do my best to neutralize the smell with some non-odor producing product. Once the initial smell has been quelled then you might think of adding the cedar as an aromatic. TBH, the smell of old cigs and cedar might make you nauseous.

pointpergame
09-16-2016, 06:57 AM
I had the same misfortune buying a ukulele. In my experience none of the passive measures was able to eliminate all the odor. The nicotine smoke is infused into the wood. Scrubbing the outside in various way sand exposing it to moving air did a pretty good job there. But the inside where there's no finish was a different matter. The odor seemed to diminish by half every few weeks, but that means there's always going to be some smell. That has led me to believe that the residue has to be scrubbed off. So. B-b's, Cedar chips, sawdust, and other creative agitators seem like a good idea. I'm leery of Sodium Bicarbonate just because it's a powerful base and who knows what the effect is has on raw wood.

Along these lines, I chose to hang my soprano from a clothes line ( ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY in the shade! ). It has helped tremendously, reducing the odor just below my smelling threshold. I wonder if compressed air might also help blast the nicotine out off the (relatively) rough wood surface? It is amazing how persistent and intense this smoke residue can be! The ceiling of The Grand Central Terminal comes to mind.

zivilars
09-16-2016, 07:30 AM
@pointpergame: I'll definitely not pour out baking soda directly onto the wood, will use it in knee high hose or similar.

Thanks for the additional input, being a companion in misfortune. If I get at least MOST of the smell out of it, I'll be fine with it, I hope.

Mivo
09-16-2016, 07:45 AM
Returning it is not an option? I don't mind smokers (everyone in my family smoked when I grew up, but I never got into it), but if I bought something used and the seller had omitted that it was heavily exposed to cigarette smoke, I'd have looked into getting it reversed. Both of the ukes I bought used (one from Walker78 and one from YorkSteve on here) luckily came smelling as if recently washed in a washing machine!

I'd have offered you my KoAloha LN soprano pineapple if I had known you were looking.

zivilars
09-16-2016, 07:56 AM
I contacted the seller, but he doesn't want to take it back. He was second owner of the ukulele and claims he is non-smoker. If this is true (and the previous owner was the heavy smoker), I have no idea how he didn't smell it himself. Anyway, I don't want any more trouble, it is his perfect good right to not take it back – therefore I'll keep the KoAloha for now and maybe, if I can't get used to the smell at all, sell it again later. (Explicitly mentioning the smell to any potential buyer of course.)

Pueo
09-16-2016, 09:08 AM
One other thing to try is uncooked rice. You can just pour a bunch in and shake it around, it will gently "scrub" the inside of the ukulele without damaging it, as well as possibly absorbing any dirt or physical particulates on the wood surface.

Good luck!

zivilars
09-16-2016, 09:21 AM
Thanks for the tip, Pueo – will try that, too!

cml
09-16-2016, 09:31 AM
Thanks for the tip, Pueo – will try that, too!
I think you'll get the smell out from some of these suggestions.

Failing everything else here, do you have an air ionizer? That kills smell pretty good. A small one is cheap (20euro or so) and will possibly help. Note: An ionizer can cause ozone build up which isnt very healthy for small pets etc.

Iulia
09-16-2016, 09:33 AM
I would only add - the smell will go, in the end ....... both my parents were heavy smokers, and I hated it. Many many things in my house came from theirs, and they retained the smell when I got them, but in the end, the smell dissipated ......

I agree to ditch the case, and air the instrument as much as possible, if safe to do so where you live.

zivilars
09-16-2016, 09:49 AM
I think you'll get the smell out from some of these suggestions.

Failing everything else here, do you have an air ionizer? That kills smell pretty good. A small one is cheap (20euro or so) and will possibly help. Note: An ionizer can cause ozone build up which isnt very healthy for small pets etc.

@cml: Don't have one of those – thanks for the hint! Can it harm the wood of my ukulele? If not, I'll probably buy one of those and try it out if the other methods fail. Do I directly "spray" my ukulele with ozon (produced within the little machine), do I keep both in the same closed room or a plastic bag for a night or so, the ionizer doing its job or how does it work? I know that in the car industry, they successfully use ozon to neutralize bad smells, too ... Relevant user photo, by the way! :)


I would only add - the smell will go, in the end ....... both my parents were heavy smokers, and I hated it. Many many things in my house came from theirs, and they retained the smell when I got them, but in the end, the smell dissipated .......


@Iulia: Thanks for cheering me up - that's what I hope, too!

cml
09-16-2016, 10:02 AM
Oh it's nothing that dangerous, many people use them all the time, and most ionizers produce extremely little ozone, well below legal thresholds. I only mention it because I have parrots and they are VERY sensitive to almost everything, hah. I'd just keep it pretty close to the ionizer in a smaller room.

cml
09-16-2016, 10:06 AM
This is the exact model I had, it worked pretty good:https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B0027MCFKW/ref=mp_s_a_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1474056314&sr=8-6&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_FMwebp_QL65&keywords=ioniser&dpPl=1&dpID=41jyUVuJoIL&ref=plSrch

zivilars
09-16-2016, 10:10 AM
Thanks for the link, cml! I'll keep this baby in mind if everything else fails!

Nickie
09-16-2016, 11:31 AM
Uh, sorry to hear this! I'm allergic to tobacco, so I won't let any of my ukes hang out with a smoker.....

zivilars
09-16-2016, 11:42 AM
I surely won't do this, too. Can't understand people who harm those beautiful instruments with their cigarette smoke – especially now that I realize for the first time the reason behind the "from non-smoking home" info in many offers ...

Nickie
09-16-2016, 12:04 PM
Yep, I'm so allergic to it I can't even work in a smoker's home if he/she USED to smoke. I won't buy a smoker's car either. Plus, it's just about the nastiest smell I know of. And nurses catch whiffs of some nasty stuff....

kypfer
09-16-2016, 12:12 PM
I was given an old guitar a few weeks ago that reeked of tobacco smoke ... turned out there was an old roll-up butt actually inside the instrument, presumably lodged somewhere in a corner because it wasn't immediately obvious. Once that was removed the problem dissipated in a few days ... YMMV

Good luck :)

Doc_J
09-16-2016, 01:42 PM
You may find other solutions in several old threads on this topic.

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/search.php?searchid=8225483

zivilars
09-16-2016, 02:20 PM
I was given an old guitar a few weeks ago that reeked of tobacco smoke ... turned out there was an old roll-up butt actually inside the instrument, presumably lodged somewhere in a corner because it wasn't immediately obvious.

Jesus ... :) Pretty sure that is not the case here, but amazing to hear about what is possible when it comes tobacco smell.


You may find other solutions in several old threads on this topic.

http://forum.ukuleleunderground.com/search.php?searchid=8225483

Thanks, Doc_J!

buganeal
09-16-2016, 03:48 PM
You can try Charcoal... It absorbs odours and is still wood at the end of the day. It might be rather dehumidifying thou....

Here is a link to odour removing hacks:
http://lifehacker.com/top-10-ways-to-banish-bad-smells-from-your-home-and-you-1642168353

Specifically related to removing smoke smells:
http://lifehacker.com/how-can-i-get-the-smoke-smell-out-of-things-1633743079

Goodluck!

zivilars
09-16-2016, 03:58 PM
Thanks for the tip, buganeal - so much to try out now. Really having hope that one of the suggestions here (or a combination of several) will work!

Teek
09-16-2016, 10:00 PM
I've been doing this with an entire townhouse and everything that was in it that I kept. It's purely disgusting! The only thing worse would be cat pee. I mean really every little thing has to be cleaned of yellow brown grunge or it stinks up my house. I'm just grateful that the violins didn't get ruined.

I got a little laminate Kala way back that I used rice and a couple of boxes of baking soda and shook it up good, then left for a week or more and that got the stink down to manageable, and I made it a wall hanger so it aired out until it was barely there.

I also had a guitar that was more of a pipe tobacco smell, thankfully, and that one I just used canned air to blow all the dust etc out first. Then I actually used a damp cloth with a dab of a degreasing dish soap diluted into the cloth and did a quick wipe down of the exterior, then followed with a damp clean cloth, then immediately dried it. After it sat for a bit I used a polish cleaner. Getting the dust out of the guitar helped a lot, cleaning the entire surface got the sticky grime and cooties off. Then I dabbed a little cedar essential oil inside the soundhole onto a brace on each side. It came in a soft case and I also laundered the case. It's been fine since but it wasn't excruciatingly noxious.

I would do the white rice scrub first as it is an old luthier trick for cleaning the inside of guitars, then the baking soda in the sock.

zivilars
09-17-2016, 02:20 AM
Thanks for the reply, Teek – will definitely try the rice and baking soda tricks next as they are both very easy to execute. Wish me luck!

kkimura
09-17-2016, 02:55 AM
Use compressed air to blow out the inside of the body and be sure to thoroughly clean the outside of the uke paying attention to the fret board. Removing the strings recommended for cleaning the fret board. Then activated charcoal to remove odor from the inside following up with cedar chips to mask any residual smell. A couple of weeks for each.

Oops, that's pretty much what Teek said. Sorry for not reading first.

Calmb4tehpwn
09-19-2016, 06:28 AM
My goodness, I am happy to have stumbled on this thread. I got an old Koa Mele Uke signed by Paula Fuga. I was stupid excited for it, but when I got it, the whole thing reeked of stale pot and rotting peanut butter. I found that the most overwhelming part of the smell was coming from the case (which may have had stuff sewn into it, to hide it from the authorities or something) but some lingered in the uke.

I have it off for repairs at the Luthier currently, but I'll have to try some of these tricks when I get it back.

zivilars
09-19-2016, 08:24 AM
@Calmb4tehpwn: Good luck, I feel for you! I'm sure we'll both succeed in getting our ukuleles smell-free again! :)

stevejfc
09-19-2016, 10:10 AM
Place like Bed Bath and Beyond sell cedar in pre-sewn cloth pouches made to absorb and kill odors. Put one in the sound hole. I think the case is a tougher issue, and may not be saved.

stevepetergal
09-19-2016, 10:18 AM
As to your original question, it will not make your other ukuleles stink. But beware, if you leave it in a case, the case will surely pick up the aroma , and it can, in turn, stink up any instrument you put in it. So, do what you can to rid the Koaloha of the smokey smell, but do not let your other ukuleles share its case.

zivilars
09-19-2016, 10:41 AM
Thanks for the hint, stevepetergal. I'll be very careful with the old case and not put my other ukuleles inside of it, that's for sure.

cml
09-19-2016, 05:38 PM
Thanks for the hint, stevepetergal. I'll be very careful with the old case and not put my other ukuleles inside of it, that's for sure.
Throw it away imo.