Any suggestions on removing smoke smell from guitars

I play in some very smokey and smelly places,and all my guitars(and cases)smell terrible.Anybody got any great ideas on how to kill the smoke smell without hurting the finish?It's a '74 Les Paul,'85 Strat,'99 tele,2000 Dot,and my Taylor.The cases smell just as bad as the guitars,and I'm a non-smoker.
Thanks for any help.

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The smell is only going to be on the surface so a good guitar polish will get rid of it on the solid body guitars, but the Dot and Taylor might be a bit more difficult, maybe a lot of the problem is in the cases? do you keep the lids closed when the guitars are being played?

The smell of cigaret smoke is contained in an oil that is carried in the air and deposited on surfaces. Once it gets inside any cavity, it's going to be there for a long time. Also, it soaks into any little crevice. Believe it or not, it's on your wound strings, and the only way to really get it out is to change strings.

A solution of alcohol (isopropyl) will get a lot of it out, and since the alcohol evaporates fast, you'll smell the smoke really strongly for a few minutes.

Febreze may kill it in your case, but it WILL come back, probably.

mrblanche wrote:
The smell of cigaret smoke is contained in an oil that is carried in the air and deposited on surfaces. Once it gets inside any cavity, it's going to be there for a long time. Also, it soaks into any little crevice. Believe it or not, it's on your wound strings, and the only way to really get it out is to change strings.

A solution of alcohol (isopropyl) will get a lot of it out, and since the alcohol evaporates fast, you'll smell the smoke really strongly for a few minutes.

Febreze may kill it in your case, but it WILL come back, probably.


I've used lemon oil with some moderate success,I'll try alcohol on the strings and see if it helps,maybe I'll use the alcohol and then wipe the strings and fretboard with the lemon oil.

lee_UK wrote:
The smell is only going to be on the surface so a good guitar polish will get rid of it on the solid body guitars, but the Dot and Taylor might be a bit more difficult, maybe a lot of the problem is in the cases? do you keep the lids closed when the guitars are being played?

The cases are closed,so they must pick it up from the guitars.The Les Paul seems to be the worst,I wonder if the finish material makes a difference.

Further to my reply to someone with a sticky neck, I'd be a bit careful using isopropyl alcohol on a Gibson or any other nitrocellulose coated wood. Although n/c is not particularly soluble in IPA, it might not do it any favours, particularly if there is grease, tar and oil present. The resultant amalgam may be enough to soften up the n/c finish.

What might be worth a try is having a bag that's porous enough to let air in and out, but fine enough to keep fine powder (1 micrometer) in. A nice linen handkerchief can be tied up or sealed with an elastic band. Fill it with cat litter, otherwise known as Fuller's Earth or Vermiculite and keep the bag in your case. As long as the humidity's high enough, it'll trap in a lot of the smoke. Another possibility is to use activated charcoal. The sheets used for cooker hood extractor fans would be ideal. Cut them to size and leave them in the case. Finally, you could go to a pet store and ask them if they sell ozone spray. After a gig, give the guitar a wipe down and a little polish and put it on a stand. Spray the inside of your case with the ozone and leave it open overnight (a well ventilated area is best for this).

Somewhere in those three suggestions you might find the answer.

I actually sprayed nc lacquer for five years, many years ago, so I'm pretty confident rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol) would not damage it, especially if you don't go crazy with rubbing it. I would try it on a hidden spot, probably, but I've never know alcohol to hurt it. For that matter, neither would mineral spirits (what we commonly call paint thinner or turpentine). Lacquer is pretty impervious to that. I would shy away from denatured alcohol, lacquer thinner, and sunlight.

I sprayed all that time without a mask, and I've expected to die young from it for a long time. I'd say it's getting well past young, and middle age is on the downhill run, so maybe the stuff isn't all that bad, after all. I DO love the smell of lacquer, and I can put a piano finish on anything.

By the way, you know the big advantage of lacquer? You can get a great finish with it, even using really lousy equipment, because you have to rub it out no matter what. Also, any subsequent coat actually dissolves into the previous coats, so it builds up a thick "build." You could get a good finish using a windex bottle for a sprayer...if the lacquer didn't dissolve the bottle!

Thanks for that. I'd advised IPA (to clean up a neck) on another thread before I realized it was n/c coated. IPA on polyurethane would be no problem at all, but I couldn't be sure with n/c. Technically, n/c isn't directly soluble in IPA but it can be used as an assist. Knowing how fragile n/c gets with time, I didn't like to suggest something that might speed up the process.

I quite like the smell of alcohol, but I draw the line at solvent abuse :lol:

I wouldn't use ANYTHING, not even water, on a finish that had any cracks or crazing. You don't want to get anything under that finish.

And yes, I really WOULD rather watch paint dry than...oh, say, watch golf or basketball on TV, for example.

:shock: I had a gig doin lounges for a hotel chain 2 nights a week, the cig smoke was a major problem, when I would get home I had to leave most of my cloths on the back porch to air out ! I bought a ozone machine for my studio, about 200 USD and I would open the cases and put the guitars on a stand and that took out the smell in about 24hr.

I knew the Delta man would have some real-life exp of this :D . British bars are bad, too, but I smoke a heckuva lot more often than I gig so 601's a better bet.

Ozone is the biz for cig smoke but dropping $200 might seem a bit steep for your own occasional problem. If so, try looking out for that ozone spray intended to get that whiffy dog's butt aroma off the sofa. Just as effective for the cancer-sticks, too.

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