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Brad Dorsey

Need Treatment for Moldy Smelling Violin

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In searching this forum, I've found rice, Cavicide, Microban, kitty litter, Lysol, vinegar, salt, sulfur, cloves, Australian tea tree oil, borax and titanium dioxide recommended to treat a violin with a moldy smell.  I'm not particularly bothered by moldy smells; to me it seems common and normal in old violins.  But now I have a  customer who likes a violin and says she will buy it if I can eliminate the smell.  Now I have a real incentive.  Does anyone here know what really works?

Edit -- Add to the list:  crumpled newspaper, baking soda, ozone and UV light.

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Microban succesfully removed the moldy smell from a wooden drawer in our kitchen.  Where would you put it on a violin?  I'd guess you would want to treat the inside of the box, but would that affect the sound?  Wiping the outside with a sponge dampened with microban might work.

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Storing it for a while in crinkled/crumpled newspaper draws out some odours.  Don't know how long it would take, or how often you'd need to change the newspaper.

Sunlight will kill mold and having it outside for a while will help air it out. How long?  I'd try leaving it in the sun for 15-30 minutes (which shouldn't bleach it, I'd hope), and then move it into the shade to keep airing it out.  Then, put it in newspaper for the night.

Repeat if necessary.

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I wouldn't apply baking soda.  It is an abrasive.  When used in the refridgerator to absorb odours, it does it passively.

You could try putting the violin in a tight fitting plastic box with an opened, fresh box of baking soda.  Check daily.  See what happens.

You could try baking soda and newspaper.  And sun and outdoors...none will hurt the violin.

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11 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

Marty,  Has baking soda worked for you.?  How do you apply it?

I used it for taking the smell out of a freezer which had lost its power and the food had spoiled.  I just put a few opened boxes  Arm & Hammer baking soda in the freezer and left them there for a week.

I think you could do something similar for a violin placed in a box of some sort.  

If it was a viola you could soak it in tomato juice.

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...just brainstorming...

You could also (after the above have failed :ph34r: ) try 'replacing' the odour of mold with the odour of something more pleasant.

If you put the violin a tight-fitting plastic box, along with a cotton ball soaked in an essential oil, the wood should absorb that odour.  Hopefully it would cover the less-pleasant odour.

Just make sure none of the essential oil comes in contact with the violin itself.  Direct contact might damage the finish (put the cotton ball in a shallow glass cup or container).

I don't use essential oils...but if I did, it might be worth doing a test run, with some spare bits of maple and spruce.  See what happens.  Again, it can't hurt...

*** edit...lemongrass, a citrus - would all be better than one that was 'too strong'.  I can't handle lavender or cinnamon (that I've encountered while out and about).  Not sure about rosehip...

Tea tree oil might also work...I'd have to look it up...

***double edit.  Tea tree oil IS used as a deodorizer...I'd probably start with it.  It's the least 'smelly', at least I find it be...

https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/8-uses-for-tea-tree-oil-at-home-207191

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8 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

Marty,  Has baking soda worked for you.?  How do you apply it?

I used it for taking the smell out of a freezer which had lost its power and the food had spoiled.  I just put a few boxes of it 

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2 cups baking soda, 3 Tsp sugar, 2 egg yolks, beaten, sprinkle some vanilla, add cloves to taste. Mix until frothy, pour in F-holes. Viola! No more "mold smell".*

*Individual results may vary... :p

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I have no clue whether this would work for a violin but I had to think of ozone generators. I believe they are used to eliminate odors in cars for example. Maybe something to look into.

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I wipe mine down with light application of lemongrass oil every once in a while to get rid of prints and light scratches, it also makes it smell good.

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2 hours ago, avandesande said:

I wipe mine down with light application of lemongrass oil every once in a while to get rid of prints and light scratches, it also makes it smell good.

I'd suggest wiping it down with catnip oil instead, in order to put together an ensemble, (which can otherwise be very difficult in these times). ;)

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3 hours ago, Geigenbauer said:

I have no clue whether this would work for a violin but I had to think of ozone generators. I believe they are used to eliminate odors in cars for example. Maybe something to look into.

Absolutely. May be able to rent one some place. I have one for tanning wood. They are used  by auto rental and real estate people for eliminating tobacco stink.

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7 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

I used it for taking the smell out of a freezer which had lost its power and the food had spoiled.  I just put a few opened boxes  Arm & Hammer baking soda in the freezer and left them there for a week.

I think you could do something similar for a violin placed in a box of some sort.  

If it was a viola you could soak it in tomato juice.

Or just leave the viola in the closet where it was.

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try getting some advice from people in the fire and flood restoration business... they have many solutions for many circumstances... Good luck ...Mat

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13 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

If it was a viola you could soak it in tomato juice.

Like. :o:ph34r::D

Seriously, a UV-C wand that could fit inside the f holes would likely work.  I would guess the moldy smell would not come from outside, and I would not want to use UV-C on the outside unless  Iwanted to lighten the varnish.

Alternatively, how about an ozone (gas) generator? Shouldn't need more than a few hours, once the inside was cleaned out of any mold. (via rice, maybe baking soda?, but you'd likely have to vacuum that out)

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this patient of yours isn't going to buy and will come up with another excuse when it quits stinking.  you're smart enough to know that, but you're in denial

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Baking soda worked great in my musty basement. If the violin isn't incredibly valuable, I don't see any down side in just pouring a box full inside and shaking it a couple of times a day for a week or two, then pouring it out, and maybe blowing out the residue inside with a vacuum or air compressor (NO SUCTIION--I know stories!)

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6 hours ago, l33tplaya said:

Like. :o:ph34r::D

Seriously, a UV-C wand that could fit inside the f holes would likely work.  I would guess the moldy smell would not come from outside, and I would not want to use UV-C on the outside unless  Iwanted to lighten the varnish.

Alternatively, how about an ozone (gas) generator? Shouldn't need more than a few hours, once the inside was cleaned out of any mold. (via rice, maybe baking soda?, but you'd likely have to vacuum that out)

I thought of the UV treatment too, it's used for so many things. The mold is essentially eating/consuming the wood, albeit slowly. It never stops, just increases and decreases based on the ambient humidity...unless it's a viola, of course.

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Isn't using an ozone generator first kinda like using a Bush Hog to trim the grass around the patio? 

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They come in various sizes. I have a very small unit that sends the produced ozone through a small hose into a water glas (for example). I tried to use it for wood staining (running the hose into a plastic bag with wood) but it didn’t really work for me. I think the unit was just too small. Or I didn’t wait long enough...

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6 hours ago, Rue said:

Isn't using an ozone generator first kinda like using a Bush Hog to trim the grass around the patio? 

If it doesn't say bush hog ozone, it jus won't cut it.  I had to bing bush hog.  That must be a Canadien prarie thing. 

How big is your patio?

If this mold is in the wood, then you need something strong - UV-C and/or ozone, to kill the spores, so that when humidity rises, there's no new mold.

If it's a viola, though, I would suggest autoclaving: 3X 20 minutes at 15 lbs pressure gauge (actually, double atmospheric pressure), Can't be too careful with the violas, they are so precious. lulz.

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