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Thread: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

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    Default Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Hello
    I purchased a 2006 Mandolin that has been in a humid area of the world for about 6 years. When I received it I noted there is a musty smell in the case and the instrument. To take care of this issue I was thinking of putting an open box of Baking soda in the case for a while. I took the instrument out and put it in a plastic garbage bag. I will put a box in with the instrument also. I read suggestions of putting them out in the sunshine but its -21 degrees here now so putting anything outside is not likely to happen.
    Any other suggestions?
    Colemole

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    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    A couple ideas:

    Coffee grounds (dry ones). I got rid of cat pee smell in a room with this one time years ago.
    Activated charcoal (tied in a cotton sock). I got rid of cigarette smell in a used car with this one time years ago. Come to think of it, the sock idea might be good for the coffee grounds as well.

    My SIL is trying both with musty record jackets currently, and seems to be having moderate success.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    This shouldn't be hard looking at your location. Find a hockey rink that has an ozone machine. They use them to clean hockey pads and such. Have them treat the case but not the instrument. That will kill the mildew that is most likely causing your issue. The instrument may need to be wiped off with a damp, not wet cloth and left in the open air for a while. Most remedies simply mask the smell, it's there because of the conditions it was stored in. Again, do not use the ozone treatment on the instrument.
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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Tea oil works well against mold.

    About 10 years ago, I bought a 1914 Gibson A that had had a distinctly moldy smell. So, I bought a box of the cheapest teabags I could find and slipped 50 of them into the sound hole and let it sit for a week. About half of the smell was gone, so I dumped out the old teabags and put in 50 fresh ones. After another week, all the of the smell was gone.

    But I don't know what to do for a mandolin with f-holes.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    I have my original Gibson case and tried all methods except the ozone machine. I used to start coughing every time I took out the mandolin. The only other real solution would be to tear out and replace the lining. Instead I just bought a new hardshell case.
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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    A couple ideas:

    Coffee grounds (dry ones). I got rid of cat pee smell in a room with this one time years ago.
    Activated charcoal (tied in a cotton sock). I got rid of cigarette smell in a used car with this one time years ago. Come to think of it, the sock idea might be good for the coffee grounds as well.

    My SIL is trying both with musty record jackets currently, and seems to be having moderate success.
    I'm not sure that I'd prefer the smell of coffee grounds to the smell of cat pee.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    This shouldn't be hard looking at your location. Find a hockey rink that has an ozone machine. They use them to clean hockey pads and such. Have them treat the case but not the instrument. That will kill the mildew that is most likely causing your issue. The instrument may need to be wiped off with a damp, not wet cloth and left in the open air for a while. Most remedies simply mask the smell, it's there because of the conditions it was stored in. Again, do not use the ozone treatment on the instrument.
    I've never brought anything to a hockey rink, but I do own a (no doubt less powerful) ozone generator and have used it to try to remove mustiness from (non-musical instrument) cases. I did not have a lot of (lasting) success, ie. the mustiness came back repeatedly, and the ozone had a tendancy to damage and fade some materials. YMMV.

    As for the coffee grounds, as far as I recall, I didn't smell either after awhile.

    If I had a musty instrument, I'd probably try rickbella's teabag method.
    Last edited by Sue Rieter; Dec-07-2022 at 1:59pm. Reason: more info
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    I had not problem with the musty smell in my old Gibson. The problem was in the case lining. Somehow you have to kill all the spores for whatever is growing in there. Unless the mandolin gets wet the mildew or whatever is in the fabric lining.
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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    I have also had good luck with one of the home-gamer type ozone generators, both on a mandolin and case, and several other things. Took several treatments, but nothing else worked. It was maybe $80, but that was years ago.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Again, do not use the ozone treatment on the instrument.
    What problems do you anticipate from treating the instrument? I have done it, but if there are risks I haven't thought of, I wouldn't want to suggest things that may damage an instrument. In my case, the only harm I noticed was maybe some tarnish on the hardware, like tuners - but I don't recall if that was there before. I didn't notice any tarnish on the frets.

    In my case it was Flatiron pancake mandolin, so not collectible. I did the case with ozone first (after trying all of the stuff I could think of, like sunlight, activated charcoal, baking soda, etc.) Case worked great. The instrument itself still smelled, so I did it, too. Didn't work at first. It would seem better, but then when I played it, I could start to smell the funk. I think the vibrations of the strings were moving the body enough to push out the funky air. I concluded the ozone was not getting deep into the body of the mandolin.

    I then rigged up a system where the ozone from the generator went into a perforated vinyl tube which went into the body through the sound hole, and it worked really well. As an overall tip, I found it helpful to put the item in a trash bag, and tape the bag to the output of the generator to concentrate the ozone. It worked better once I figure out to make a small hole on the opposite end of the bag, so there was movement of air/ozone.

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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Thanks for everyone's response. I googled ozone treatment for instruments and they suggested ozone but small concentrations. 1 part per million. The risk is corrosion of the metal parts. I found a person with a small ozone machine and he suggested I try it in a small room, leave the case open and instrument out of the case. Give it some time and see what happens. He has no experience with this type of thing. They do houses, Hockey change rooms etc. with good success. The instrument is pretty funcky as is. He is providing me the machine to try it.
    Colemole

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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Good luck with it. I hope you will report back with the results.

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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Hello all
    I placed some tea bags with the string on them in the F holes. Placed the mandolin in a large plastic bag and had the ozone machine blow into the bag for a few minutes and then sealed the bag. Left it for a few hours and then repeated the process several times including having the ozone blow in the F holes. The mandolin smells of tea at the moment so we will see how it is after some time passes.Tea smell is pleasant to my senses.
    Regarding the case I placed it open in front of the ozone machine in a small bathroom and left it blowing into the case fore several hours. Then let things rest for a few hours and then repeated. The case fabric was very musty and probably where the main issue was. Repeated this for the whole day. At this point the case is much improved but time will tell if it is acceptable. I keep the mandolin in a plastic bag in the case so it will not get recontaminated for the time being. My fingers are crossed in hopes of a acceptable result.
    Colemole

    Big Muddy MM-8 , Silverangel F5, Collings MT
    Red Valley EM, Eastman MD505

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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    I used a $25 ozone generator from Amazon to remove a very strong cigarette odor from a Vega banjo and its case. I put the banjo in the shipping box (without packing) and ran the generator 2 or 3 times a day for 45 minutes each time. I did this for a couple of days and it took 99 percent of the odor away. I had to hold it right up to my nose to even get a hint of the old odor. Before, I could smell it from 10 feet away in my shop I did the same with the case in the box. It worked with that as well. I'd think it would remove musty odors as well.

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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    A company I worked for did some work on using ozone to remove molding outgassing byproducts. People swore that it really helped. However when a controlled study was done, where the gases in the molded containers were sent to a lab and analyzed before and after treatment, it was found that the ozone treatment had no more effect than ventilating with compressed shop air.

    EPA studies have shown the same thing. The ozone is only effective at concentrations that are seriously dangerous to humans. The article below states in its conclusions
    "Available scientific evidence shows that at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards, ozone has little potential to remove indoor air contaminants."
    and
    "There is evidence to show that at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards, ozone is not effective at removing many odor-causing chemicals."
    and
    "If used at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards, ozone applied to indoor air does not effectively remove viruses, bacteria, mold, or other biological pollutants."
    All with sudies and supporting evidence. But people still swear by it.

    https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quali...d-air-cleaners

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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    A company I worked for did some work on using ozone to remove molding outgassing byproducts. People swore that it really helped. However when a controlled study was done, where the gases in the molded containers were sent to a lab and analyzed before and after treatment, it was found that the ozone treatment had no more effect than ventilating with compressed shop air.

    EPA studies have shown the same thing. The ozone is only effective at concentrations that are seriously dangerous to humans. The article below states in its conclusions
    and and

    All with sudies and supporting evidence. But people still swear by it.

    https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quali...d-air-cleaners
    You do realize you're talking about two totally different situations right? One is dealing with a living mold spore and the other is dealing with the smell of a molding process as far as I can see. Using Ozone to treat the bacteria on hockey equipment and cases is totally different that what your study is about. The odor from molding a product isn't caused by a spore or a bacteria, it's off gassing. You're comparing apples to oranges and yes, in the case of the study the air changing would be the answer. In the case of a musty case it works.
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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    You do realize you're talking about two totally different situations right? One is dealing with a living mold spore and the other is dealing with the smell of a molding process as far as I can see. Using Ozone to treat the bacteria on hockey equipment and cases is totally different that what your study is about. The odor from molding a product isn't caused by a spore or a bacteria, it's off gassing. You're comparing apples to oranges and yes, in the case of the study the air changing would be the answer. In the case of a musty case it works.
    The EPA article I linked and gave quotes from refers to a number of studies over several years. It specifically refers to "viruses, bacteria, mold and other biological pollutants"saying straight out it is ineffective in controlling them at safe concentrations. Some of the work came about because some people have presented or considered it as a Covid disinfectant.

    The shop study I mentioned got the same reaction from any number of managers who swore they just knew it worked regardless of any lab results. The engineer who did the work left the company in frustration and went to work elsewhere. Though the company eventually did drop the ozone treatment later as a waste of money and time even after they had pursued a patent for it.

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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Nobody has plugged Natures Miracle yet, so I'll just mention it. Available at pet stores. Several different formulations available, so read the labels. I can't remember which one I used but it worked great on an old Gibson A4 and its case that both reeked of mold / mildew. For the A4 I cut up a cellulose sponge into pea size crumbs, then sprayed the crumbs, then fed them into the A4, covered the sound hole and shook the A4 vigorously, then poured the crumbs back out. Repeated the treatment after a day. I also treated the case a couple of times. Both came out smelling faintly of Natures Miracle but that dissipated in a couple days.

    The stuff is primarily marketed as something to kill pet odors, but it also mentions mold odors on the label. Basically it's loaded with hungry enzymes that somehow targets loose offensive organisms.
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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    ...saying straight out it is ineffective in controlling them at safe concentrations.
    If safe concentrations means in the open air with human beings present I can see that but the commercial units are enclosed and it probably wouldn't be safe for a human being to be inside one while active as I assume the levels wouldn't be safe concentrations. I would expect them to be unsafe concentrations. There's obviously a reason they are enclosed. It's certainly not meant to be a deodorant.
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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Just for reference, the enzyme Nature’s Miracle ingredients as in photo attached. Unspecified bacteria plus detergent/surfactant plus citrus fragrance. Looks ok, at least for case linings. Just don’t use the NM products that are called disinfectant, as these are essentially chlorine and other bleaches on anything you wouldn’t Chlorox.
    About ozone, electrostatic air filters and ozone: Any portable or furnace-mounted filters using electrostatic high voltage or UV lamps will generate ozone in highly variable amounts, and it is generally thought that exposure to abnormal amounts of ozone is not good for people, despite the ancient ideas about healthful mountain air. Guess it’s worth restating that odors can be vapors released from materials or from organic processes, like molds. For one, you only need to inhibit the vapor production, for the other, disinfecting.
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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    I inherited a car with a terrible mold/mildew smell. I tried the ozone route, but didn't find it really worked. However, I used chlorine dioxide and it worked wonders. Search chlorine dioxide odor removal. It was an alka seltzer sized pill that you put in some water. I used the Odor Wrecker Shock Treatment I bought on Amazon. It really got rid of the smell and it didn't come back. Obviously, read the instructions, etc...
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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    It seems like Chlorine Dioxide works kind of the same way as Ozone does, but maybe a much cheaper approach over buying a generator.

    When using the ozone generator, I was trying to concentrate the ozone as much as possible as described above, rather than keeping it to a safe concentration for breathing. In my case I did it in a small bathroom that I sealed up with tape, and after treatment snuck a hand in to vent using the fan. And did several treatments.

    Look forward to a final report from the OP.

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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Quote Originally Posted by HonketyHank View Post
    Nobody has plugged Natures Miracle yet, so I'll just mention it. Available at pet stores. Several different formulations available, so read the labels. I can't remember which one I used but it worked great on an old Gibson A4 and its case that both reeked of mold / mildew. For the A4 I cut up a cellulose sponge into pea size crumbs, then sprayed the crumbs, then fed them into the A4, covered the sound hole and shook the A4 vigorously, then poured the crumbs back out. Repeated the treatment after a day. I also treated the case a couple of times. Both came out smelling faintly of Natures Miracle but that dissipated in a couple days.

    The stuff is primarily marketed as something to kill pet odors, but it also mentions mold odors on the label. Basically it's loaded with hungry enzymes that somehow targets loose offensive organisms.
    I used Nature’s Miracle on the bedroom floors in a house I bought. The previous tenants apparently had incontinent cats and the floors stunk so bad, I used a full-blown respirator to rip out carpets and douse the floor with bleach and then Nature’s Miracle. The bleach didn’t fix the problem, but the Nature’s Miracle did. I’ll have to try it on a musty Gibson and case I have. Thanks for the suggestion, Hank.

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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    For my 2-cents, I can suggest 2 things.

    1. There is a liquid on the market called OdoBan. Using a mist sprayer and several repeated light applications may help quite a bit.

    2. Good old-fashioned dryer sheets. Stick several in the case and let them sit. Again, it may take a few applications, but that has had good results too.

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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    Hello all
    I appreciate everyone's advice. I am now in Texas where the weather is much warmer than at home. The instrument continued to have a bit of a musty odour so I left it out side for a number of hours over a couple of days. I also continued with the tea bags. I am pleased to report the instrument is now odour free to my nose and a pleasure to play. The case has been a more challenging problem. I moved on to Natures Miracle and sprayed the inside of the case down several times and left the case open to air out. The odour has been persistant. I continued with the Natures Miracle spray down and left the case closed for a number of days. I have repeated this process a few times now and I believe the odour is reduced. Hopefully success is around the not too distant corner regarding the case.
    Thanks Again everyone for your suggestions.
    Colemole

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    Default Re: Musty Smell in the case and mandolin.

    I'm glad the tea bags helped.

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