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Cigarette stink Part II


ksdaddy

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The cigarette smell lingers on the Telecaster, 2+ years after I quit. Over the past few months I've tried the standard recipies, baking soda, coffee, charcoal, even placing a half dozen dryer sheets inside the case. Nothing. Once I even washed it. Yes, I washed it. it's a Telecaster, you can't hurt it.

 

I've taken a sick pride in the way the face of the headstock has darkened over the years. It darkened to the point where the serial number was almost illegible. The face of the headstock was also very rough textured and sticky. Some Fender headstocks react differently to aging because of the combination of lacquer and polyester on the faces...apparently they had a problem with the decals sticking using just polyester so they'd spray some lacquer on it. I don't know the sequence but the face of the headstock has gotten progressively darker over the years while the rest of the neck stayed fairly clear.

 

I pulled it out of the case tonight and the stench of old cigarettes smacked me in the face like a good swing from a coal shovel. I about puked.

 

Except this time it smelled like old smoke and overpowering dryer sheets. I felt like I brought home an inexpensive escort who just took a perfume bath at the gas station.

 

*sigh*

 

Something's gotta give.

 

Sprayed the whole thing down with some Spic n Span or something, and began washing it again. I know, I know. Trust me, I wouldn't hurt this guitar for the world and I know what it can handle.

 

I accidentally brushed the soapy washcloth along the edge of the headstock and the brown water ran off it. The face of the headstock where I had brushed, revealed much lighter wood underneath. I stared at it for a good long minute. Suppose the chemical makeup of that outer layer was what has been holding the odor all along?

 

I cringed at the thought of removing all that patina, which I thought was so cool looking....then it dawned on me.... it's not patina. It's dirt.

 

I've tried, with zero success, to determine WHERE the smell has been coming from. I took a whiff of the headstock after just swiping a little soapy water over it with my finger and seeing the brown crap run off... I can't say for sure but the cigarette smell seemed more intense there.

 

I went ahead and spritzed the headstock and hit it with a soft brush. I was more than a little sad to see the wood lighten up and it lose it's "patina" (in quotes). It looks patchy so maybe tomorrow night I'll remove the tuners and give it a good polish.

 

I've got close to 100 guitars here (big Applause purge coming up, which is another story) and there are some I've had for 15, 20, 30+ years. None as long as the Tele, 38+ years, but I smoked around ALL of them. Yet the Tele is the only one who retained that rancid sweet stench. If it's something as simple as the nicotine sticking to an "ideal" (or LESS than ideal) surface, I'm going to wear out three sets of kneecaps kicking myself in the butt.

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In my experience, there is nothing worse than a Guitar or amp that stinks of cigarettes. I've bought and sold a lot of second hand guitars over the years and I am not a smoker. I will not buy a piece of gear now that has been exposed to cigarette smoke. I bought a Fender Stratocaster from a heavy smoker a couple of years ago. I should have seen/smelt the signs when I picked it up at his house and the smell there nearly made me sick. I tried just about everything over a four month period to get the stink off the Guitar. Nothing worked. The best result was furniture polish which just about masked the smell however the Guitar also smelt strongly of furniture polish. I sold it shortly after.

 

Now, when I am selling a Guitar and make a point of calling it out in the ad that the Guitar has been stored in a smoke free environment. Amps that have been exposed to smoke are even worse as they have fabric and other materials that you cannot wash in the same way. At least a smelly Guitar can go into a case, an amp will stink out the whole room where it's stored. It's disgusting. #-o

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Imagine what that stuff does to our lungs over the years!! yikes!

 

when we were rehearsing at our bass players house (till he moved back to New Brunswick 2 or so years ago) his cellar was like 5 bar rooms, I can still catch a whiff once in a while coming from one of my amps..

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While I was getting ready for work this morning I picked the Tele up and noodled around for a minute. I didn't get the wafting of smoke smell off it like I have in the past. Not saying it's gone, just that it wasn't as apparent. I sniffed the headstock and there was definitely a lingering cigarette odor but not like it was. There are still areas on the face of the headstock where there is a film. I think of it as deteriorating finish and it looks (and feels) like the finger grunge you'd find on a steering wheel.

 

That guitar has always been weird. The body has what was known in the 70s as a Thick Skin (insert trademark sign here) finish. It's always been plasticky and in the past few years it has been highly intolerant of any type of polish. If any polish hits it, it hazes over for several days. In light of recent findings about the headstock face, I may end up polishing my way through the deteriorated finish, further destroying any patina. Makes me wonder how much of that old smoke is embedded right in the finish itself.

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While I was getting ready for work this morning I picked the Tele up and noodled around for a minute. I didn't get the wafting of smoke smell off it like I have in the past. Not saying it's gone, just that it wasn't as apparent. I sniffed the headstock and there was definitely a lingering cigarette odor but not like it was. There are still areas on the face of the headstock where there is a film. I think of it as deteriorating finish and it looks (and feels) like the finger grunge you'd find on a steering wheel.

 

That guitar has always been weird. The body has what was known in the 70s as a Thick Skin (insert trademark sign here) finish. It's always been plasticky and in the past few years it has been highly intolerant of any type of polish. If any polish hits it, it hazes over for several days. In light of recent findings about the headstock face, I may end up polishing my way through the deteriorated finish, further destroying any patina. Makes me wonder how much of that old smoke is embedded right in the finish itself.

 

Yes, that finish can be a problem, the smoke is probably under it. The haze is caused by separation of the finish from the wood, so down there where they should be bonded they aren't. When you polish it you warm it which condenses the vapor in the air down there. Soon, it will lift off and stay hazed all the time, at which point you can literally razor knife all the way around the middle of the guitar and pull the back piece off whole. Cool parlor trick, bad guitar paint.

 

rct

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The case stunk too, but I was able to clean and deodorize it fairly well with a brisk rubbing with a washcloth dampened with some kind of general purpose household cleaner. The smoke might have gotten into the strands of "fur" but didn't permeate any deeper.

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Imagine what that stuff does to our lungs over the years!! yikes!

 

when we were rehearsing at our bass players house (till he moved back to New Brunswick 2 or so years ago) his cellar was like 5 bar rooms, I can still catch a whiff once in a while coming from one of my amps..

 

Yep. My lungs use to smell awful.

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Something I've never tried with a guitar, but it's 100% free, natural and might work -

 

The Sun's ultra-violet rays.

 

I mention this because it's how I clean sponges and dishrags that get smelly or mildewed - a couple of days out on the deck in direct sunlight, and they are odor-free. I understand it's because the rays kill the bacteria present.

 

Now, as far as your guitar's nicotine odor being bacteria-based, I really wouldn't know - another thing to consider is if the sun's direct rays would affect your Tele's finish, and I don't know that, either... maybe someone who's already tried this can chime in.

 

I'm thinking direct sunlight would be effective for odors in cases - think about it, given enough time, the sun will bleach bones clean! And have you ever come across a stinky rock outside?!

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I purchased a used LP a few years back from a smoker. I put some patchouli oil on some old pieces of cloth and placed them in the guitar case. I kept them there for a month and now there is no smoke smell just a faint smell of the patchouli oil which I happen to like.

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Something I've never tried with a guitar, but it's 100% free, natural and might work -

 

The Sun's ultra-violet rays.

 

I mention this because it's how I clean sponges and dishrags that get smelly or mildewed - a couple of days out on the deck in direct sunlight, and they are odor-free. I understand it's because the rays kill the bacteria present.

 

Now, as far as your guitar's nicotine odor being bacteria-based, I really wouldn't know - another thing to consider is if the sun's direct rays would affect your Tele's finish, and I don't know that, either... maybe someone who's already tried this can chime in.

 

I'm thinking direct sunlight would be effective for odors in cases - think about it, given enough time, the sun will bleach bones clean! And have you ever come across a stinky rock outside?!

 

The sunlight does work, but it wrecks nearly all guitar paints if too much. These recent decades of enlightenment have seen guitar shops no longer keep guitars in the front window for long, we all learned long ago that it'll wreck the paint on the front. Well, not wreck it maybe so much as be noticeably different from the back.

 

rct

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The sunlight does work, but it wrecks nearly all guitar paints if too much. These recent decades of enlightenment have seen guitar shops no longer keep guitars in the front window for long, we all learned long ago that it'll wreck the paint on the front. Well, not wreck it maybe so much as be noticeably different from the back.

 

rct

 

Ah! Now we now the secret to Gibson's 'Faded' finishes! [flapper]

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That would irritate me to no end. Never could stand the smell and if around smokers it makes me cough bad. I read using Baking Soda works with time but you tried that. Put the guitar in its case and sprinkle the baking soda all over the guitar. After several days or a week vacuum the baking soda off and wipe down the guitar. Baking Soda is really good at drawing out orders. That's what I found, if that doesn't work I'd strip off the paint and refinish it. Lol. Or maybe you can play a gig and at the end, smash the guitar and get a standing ovation!msp_flapper.gif

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That would irritate me to no end. Never could stand the smell and if around smokers it makes me cough bad. I read using Baking Soda works with time but you tried that. Put the guitar in its case and sprinkle the baking soda all over the guitar. After several days or a week vacuum the baking soda off and wipe down the guitar. Baking Soda is really good at drawing out orders. That's what I found, if that doesn't work I'd strip off the paint and refinish it. Lol. Or maybe you can play a gig and at the end, smash the guitar and get a standing ovation!msp_flapper.gif

 

 

Chuckle~

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I've learned a little about the finish on this particular guitar. Apparently it's Fullerplast with several top coats of nitro lacquer. Fender began using Fullerplast in 1963 (so much for the argument that pre-CBS instruments were made by God himself). Over the years, or at least up until maybe 10 years ago, I used regular furniture polish on it... Lemon Pledge, whatever. I know NOW that is a no-no, but I did not THEN. I've read some forum posts that state the silicone in the polish softened the lacquer and is keeping it soft. I can attest the finish being soft. Seems like it's been soft and sticky since the late 80s or so.

 

I'm wondering if the cigarette smoke permeated the soft finish...?

 

Truth, dudes, no other guitar in the arsenal smells. I haven't smoked since July of 2014 and I haven't smoked around this guitar since before I bought this house in April of 2012. 4-1/2 years, no smoking around the guitar and yet here we are.

 

Back to the soft finish...I read that naphtha will soften silicone and if wiped down immediately with a clean cloth, some may go away. This may take repeated applications, maybe once a week for a year, I have no clue....but bottom line is that IF the silicone is removed then MAYBE the nitro will harden up.

 

IFs and MAYBEs.

 

At this point I'll take them.

 

If the stickiness eventually abates to 'whatever' degree and the finish becomes somewhere near normal, maybe it can be buffed and maybe the smell will be reduced.

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I think you may have great difficulity ever getting rid of the smell, ks. Not good. Cigarette smoke seems just to permeate everything. You can always tell if a previous car owner was a smoker no matter how much they try and clean up the car before they sell it. Same with houses I reckon.

 

I may be a matter of stripping the guitar clean completely and re-coating it. Radical I know but if you spend days and a fair amount of cash and it doesn't work you may need to balance that against getting a new paint job. Depends on whether you reckon the guitar is worth it, which does seem to be the case.

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Well I think I had suggested in another post using charcoal wrapped in newspaper and store for a few days in the case. However, I think you said you tried that. Have you tried ammonia? I recently burned something in my house, and my cousin told me that ammonia can be used to remove all kinds of nasty smells from inside homes. Maybe put it in a small bottle with the top open in the case and sit the case upright so it won't spill, and close the case?

 

For what it's worth, I wouldn't want to refinish that guitar either, I think it looks great like that.

 

 

 

 

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True but I hate the thought of refinishing it and losing all those years of yellowing...

 

See what I mean about the finish? When have you ever seen a 70s Fender go THAT dark?

 

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WoW ! I never would have believed it... Now that's what I call a tobacco burst. Its incredible.

 

surfsup said something that occurred to me also

I've had good luck with Febreeze in the cases as well.

 

Before I gave up smoking, my partner allowed me to smoke in her flat, but I did my best to remove the smell afterwards.

Febreze (the air care aerosol sort. Not the fabric spray) killed the smell totally. Every other product merely masked the smell, but that stuff just made the room seem as if tobacco had never been present.

 

I'm not sure how you would go about using it on a guitar, but checking out the active ingredients might be an avenue to look into.

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