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annpendleton

Removing mildew smell

7 posts in this topic

Does anyone have experience removing the smell of mildew

from a fiddle? I bought a fiddle that sat in a basement

for 25 years. The luthier who set it up for me cleaned

it with rice, etc. as best he could without taking off

the top, but it still smells strongly of mildew. Any

advice?

Penny

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No real solutions, but some things you might try if you're brave.

First, it may be that the smell is coming from gunk still inside the box. Some folks advocate putting rice into the fiddle and shaking it around for a while, then dumping it out. It works best if you do not cook the rice first.

Second, I bought an expensive reference book that had the lingering too long in the basement smell. The guy I bought it from suggested letting it sit on a pile of cat litter, which would draw some of the mositure out. Best to use it pre-pussy, of course.

You might consider combining the two approacehes; the drawback I see is that the clay cat litter is dusty. Might be tricky getting the litter dust out of the fiddle. Of course you could use canned air, but that could still cause some abrading inside. You'd be well advised to wear eye protection too; you don't need to powerrscrub your corneas.

Best of all, wait until someone knowledgeable comes along with the real goods.

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What I like to do is to put baking soda in the violin, leave it for a day, take it out. Then I would get a small, long piece of cloth and put a couple drops of aromatic cedar oil on the tip, wait till it dries, and put it into the f-hole. Leave it in for 2 days or so, and this leaves a very faint but sweet scent of wood. I think this also works with cedar air freshener.

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Besides making straight baking soda, Arm and Hammer also has a baking soda based product called "Carpet & Room Allergen Reducer and Odor Eliminator." It's a little bit more granular than baking soda, that is, not as powdery and dusty as baking soda, and it is lightly scented. Because it's not as powdery as straight baking soda, it might be easier to get out of all the crevasses inside the fiddle. I've used it with satisfactory results on a moldy smelling fiddle case.

Is there a danger in inserting baking soda or a baking soda based product into the violin because of baking soda's vigorous reaction in water? Would baking soda trapped in the violin's internal seams possibly react with any moisture that enters the fiddle to loosen the seams? I think there's a real danger there. Maybe the chemists out there can calm that fear.

If you do decide to go the baking soda or Arm & Hammer Allergen Reducer route, you might want the top taken off, so that you can thoroughly vacuum out the inside after leaving the powder in there for a while.

In trying to get rid of the odor, here are the steps I'd follow, for what it's worth: (I'm NOT talking from experience, here, other than the use of the A&H Allergen Reducer in making a case smell better)

1. Do nothing to the instrument (Don't have top taken off) but leave it hanging in a room, out of its case, for a few weeks to see if smell diminishes.

2. During those two or three weeks, occasionally (maybe once a day) hold a weak fan (a hair dryer on NO heat and low power, perhaps) near each of the f-holes for a few minutes.

3. If after 3 weeks there's no improvement, play the instrument enough to know that you really like it and want to keep trying to reduce the smell.

4. If, after steps 1 and 2, and if you really like the fiddle and you want still less smell, have the top taken off, and let the fiddle sit out topless for a couple more weeks.

5. If smell is still unpleasant after step 4, fill the topless fiddle with Arm & Hammer Allergen Reducer and Odor Eliminator. Lay the top of the fiddle somewhere with inside facing up and cover the violin top plate, inside facing up, with the same Arm & Hammer stuff. Leave for a couple of hours, somewhere away from moisture. (Make sure you don't object to the scent of the Allergen Reducer. If you do, then use straight baking soda.) After a couple of hours, vacuum out the fiddle and vacuum off the powder from the inside of the top. Leave for another week without the top on so that it can air out thoroughly.

6. If smell persists, repeat step 5, leaving powder in place for a few days.

PS: Actually I have had one experience with a violin that smelled slightly of mildew from sitting in a mildew smelling case. I did steps 1 and 2 above, hanging the fiddle out in a room and using, as a weak fan, the battery powered blower that comes with a blow up air mattress. The smell disappeared completely. So, don't be in any hurry to go beyond steps 1 and 2. Lengthen the time in those steps, if need be.

I've had no experience with steps 5, and 6 on violins, just on a violin case. So, if you're having the top taken off, you might as well consult with the repairer to see what they think about steps 5 & 6.

PSS: I personally would not have any powder that's as reactive in water as baking soda or a baking soda based product is inserted into a fiddle with the top on. I'd want the top off to make sure I could remove all the powder (by vacuuming and blowing it out) from all crevasses of the instrument.

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Quality joss/incense sticks through the f-holes...then waft the instrument around a bit to distribute the smoke...works very well, quick and simple....may need a couple of applications though

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My first post.

Thought I would share my experience with a similar situation. I understand you are looking for a less invasive fix.

A friend gave me a similar smelling fiddle,(Antonius Stradiuarius Made in Germany label) found on garbage day, the nut and fingerboard were off, the belly seam was 60% loose and the back about 25% loose. The neck joint seems to be intact, at least I haven't broken it yet. The instrument smelled very bad. I came across this site and have been reading away here and decided I would attempt to build an instrument believing this one would make a good test bed for many operations. So I removed the belly, wiped it out with a mild disinfectant and put it in the sun for about 8 hours total. No luck. I then mixed an ounce of bleach with three ounces of water. I sprayed this solution on heavy shop type paper towels and scrubbed the inside of the instrument, then wiped again with warm water. It has been four weeks since I did this and the instrument seems to be odor free. I have had three other people smell it and they did smell an odor. So if I can manage to reassemble it and set it up it shouldn't be offensive ...smelling anyhow.

I have blocks glued on a mold and continue to practice sharpening.

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