Bought an old GH & S five string banjo at an antique fair on Monday, it was dirt cheap and looks in very good condition for its age. Obviously been loved and played as the first 3/4 frets show heavy wear and may need to be replaced. The only two problems are firstly the fret markers have fallen out and been touched in with paint - easy to fix;and secondly the smell of tobacco. I've looked through suggestions on the net but nothing conclusive, so if anyone out there has any suggestions I'd love to hear them. 



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If it's the case that smells, spray it with Febreze and let it air out for a while. May take several treatments. For the instrument, a really good cleaning should do the trick, although the head may need to be replaced.

Naptha would be my first choice then a polish.

OdorBan is a good product. I buy it at WalMart in the pet section. I got it to use when carpet cleaning failed to remove the odor of puppy accidents. I also spray garbage cans that are dry and clean but have a residual smell. I don't think there is any residual after evaporation that would affect a guitar finish, but then you could always spray it on a towel and leave it in the case.

Hi Steve, Alberto from Italy, easy: half a lemon, and then stick in pulp 15/20 clove seeds, put the lemon inside the instrument , rap it up that plastik you use for food, for 10 days.

Soory abaut mi english.




I've never heard of that method but it sounds very logical....and all-natural.

I'll try it next time the need arises.

Bella Fortuna,

Paul :)

I suggest that you send it to me....I just love tobacco smell ;-)

An old camper's recipe: wrap up some old coffee grounds in a panty-hose. You can probably shove this thru whatever openings are available ( ƒ-hole, or whatever in the case of a mandolin or guitar). Leave in a closed garbage bag for a while.

If it doesn't work 100%, at least the coffee and cigarette smells work together!!


Hi every body, can anyone send me the email address of Mr. Fred Carlson?

(the Q's not really linked to the topic, but....) Fred's website is

Thankyou Mike, I  tryed to contact him thorugh his web site were hi says "contact me" but no connection,thats way i was inquiryng with one of you all.

I was living above a restaurant that caught fire a few years back.  I had many, many smelly instruments after.

The first acoustic guitar I ever built wasn't hurt by flames, but suffered severe smoke and heat damage.  I probably could have built a new one faster, but I really wanted to get at least that one cleaned up. The finished areas cleaned up pretty nice, but the bare wood on the inside still smelled like a campfire even after cleaning with naphtha and lightly abrading with fine sandpaper.  What worked for me was to clean it with a "soot sponge" sold for fireplace cleaning.  It is a dry chemical sponge that cleans and absorbs odors at the same time. Next I put a few handfuls of uncooked rice inside, closing it up and vigorously shaking it (a suggestion from Tim Thelen).  This abraded it a bit and helped clean some of the hard to reach areas.  After I got the rice cleaned out I put some charcoal inside, sealed it up and waited (an idea from Mitch Kohanek).  Charcoal is very absorbent and worked very well.  I can't smell it at all anymore.   

Not quite the same thing, but I bet charcoal would help if it still stinks after naphtha.  The coffee idea has got me curious, but I hope I never have need for this sort of thing again!


Naptha, and lots of rags. Also Orange Glo furniture polish oil on the fretboard seemed to help. Store it in the case with a box of baking soda too, should help. I like that Idea about the cloves in a lemon. We used to do that at Christmas with an orange just for the smell... Also the charcoal idea sounds good, and non reactive/staining.


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