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mothacid's avatar

How do I remove this ancient vintage thrift shop smell from guitar case?

Asked by mothacid (54points) September 23rd, 2015
7 responses
“Great Question” (6points)

I think we all know this smell. It’s the same smell as going to a thrift shop and opening a super old luggage, or an extremely old leather back that held bowling balls. How do I get rid of this smell in my 1976 guitar case? Interior is the typical run of the mill “soft and furry” linings.

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zenvelo's avatar

Is it musty like some faint mold? Try putting a dish of ammonia in it, close the lid, and let it sit for a few hours. Or put a dish of lysol in it.

If you like the smell of mothballs, try mothballs.

Where’s Ask Heloise when we need her?

SmashTheState's avatar

This has to be done in two steps. First, you need to kill the mold which is creating the musty smell. Mist vinegar over the entire surface, inside and out, until it’s slightly damp. Let it dry, then repeat. You’ll have to do this several times to make sure all the mold and mold spores are dead. (1:4 bleach/water solution would do it in one pass, but that might damage or destroy the material.)

If you’re really worried about the fabric and it’s a valuable, vintage case, sunlight will also work. Position the case so that the entire interior is lit with direct sunlight. The UV radiation will kill any mold or bacteria, but it will take a lot longer, and there may still be mold spores hidden in the material which will spring back to life the first time there’s any damp in the air.

Remember, however, that plastic can’t be disinfected. If there are any plastic (nylon, brylon, etc.) pieces on the guitar case, they will have mold and mold spores impregnated into them. Nothing short of burning it will get rid of the mold. If you want to restore the case and get rid of the musty mold smell permanently, you’ll have to replace all the plastic pieces.

Masking any lingering smell is a lot easier and you have several choices. You can put some (real) vanilla extract in a shallow saucer (for maximum surface area) and leave it in in the closed case overnight. Or you can make some home-made pot pourri solution by simmering orange peel, whole cloves, and cinnamon sticks in a pan of water, then spritzing this liquid into your case. Any arts and crafts store should also stock essential oils in a variety of scents which can be spritzed into your case. Just remember that these scents are masking odours, not eliminating them, and that they will ultimately fail unless you address the source of the smell first by killing the mold and mold spores.

Buttonstc's avatar

Smash is absolutely right about eliminating mold spores or the problem will keep recurring.

However, It would be a whole lot easier to just reline the case yourself. It’s really not that difficult to do, plus, you can choose a much nicer fabric design rather than that cheapo looking fake fur fuzzy stuff. You could also use real velvet if you wish but be aware that it can be difficult to work with.

That’s why I chose a fairly dark poly-cotton blend. But you can use any kind of fabric which appeals to you. And you’ll truly have a unique inside to your case.

The current lining is what’s holding the majority of that old musty smell and mold spores. So, instead of trying to purge it of smell and spores, (which is really difficult) just rip it out and replace it with brand new fresh fabric.

However, just to be sure you get rid of all the mold spores, you really should seal the inside of the case with some shellac or acrylic spray after you rip out all the old fuzzy lining. Just be sure to allow a few days drying time with the case open to be certain all moisture is gone.

Then all you need is some fabric with a snazzy design ( I was lucky enough to find fabric with a musical notes design) get some thin foam batting and some spray fabric glue.

It’s a similar procedure to changing the fabric on the seat panels of dining room chairs (except with much thinner batting). It’s really easy to do. No special skill needed. You just need a few hours of time.

I’m on my old iPhone and can’t post links. But just Google “relining guitar case” for several step by step tutorials.

I think the one posted by Darkling Designs as well as the one on the E-how site will give you all the info you need.

I did mine many years ago before easy access to the web so just used the same method I used to change fabric on chair seats.

Strauss's avatar

A lot of good suggestions above. If you live in a relative humid environment, a good way to prevent this in the first place is to keep a dessicant pack in the case. These usually contain something like silica gel, and are good at absorbing moisture. This can be good for the guitar as well.

jul_ras's avatar

I would go with perfume – If you can’t get rid of the smell, override it =)

Buttonstc's avatar

Perfumes contain oils and/or alcohol. If you spray it on the lining, it then transfers to your guitar and can ruin the finish.

Refinishing a guitar is not typically a DIY project the same way that relining the case is. Refinishing can be mucho expensive since it requires a professional.

Plus, it doesn’t get rid of the mold which is the root cause of the problem to begin with.


Great idea about the dessicant pack. It will prevent the problem from returning.

Coloma's avatar

Spray Lysol in the case. Rub lightly to work the product into the lining, let the open case dry and repeat if needed.

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