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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The offending odor is caused by chemicals, including nicotine, in the smoke condensing and collecting over time (years?) on all surfaces of that banjo that are exposed to the air.

You could have a step wise approach using first, wiping it thoroughly with a lightly water dampened clean rag. If that didn't work, dampen the rag with dishwater having your favorite dish soap in it at the concentration you'd use to wash dishes. The soap would dissolve the chemicals that weren't soluble in water alone.You're removing the cigarette chemicals by dissolving them to a degree and physically removing them with light abrasion. Of course you'd be careful to only use a damp rag that wouldn't drip soap solution where you don't want it. Naphtha is another liquid you could moisten a dry clean cloth with, and it has different solubility properties than water or soapy water. It evaporates very readily but only use with lots of ventilation and NO SPARK SOURCE nearby. Baking soda or charcoal could work absorbing the odor causing chemicals from the air over a period of weeks or months if baking soda or charcoal were stored in trash bag with the banjo and duct taped shut.

Some of the other suggestions here are drowning out the offending odor with a more pleasant or acceptable odor. That may be effective. You don't necessarily have to remove the condensed cigarette smoke chemical. They aren't hazardous where they are.

You probably shouldn't use cleaners using enzymes designed for biological odors and eating up animal waste products that contain proteins, amino acids, etc. that are decomposed by microbes. The enzymes would probably just collect on the banjo surfaces forming a light white crust. Not good.

The ultimate deodorizer is ozone. Borrow an ozone generator from a friend, put the banjo in a big heavy gauge trash bag, pump up the bag w/ozone in your garage and duct tape the inflated bag shut overnight. Go out to the garage in the morning to smell remarkably fresh air in you garage and probably a nicely deodorized banjo. I should tell you that I've never done this personally.

Ozone is a powerful oxidant and is used to sanitize, deodorize, and bleach buildings, rooms, duct work, basements. I've seen ozone generators used in a house whose roof had leaked a good while to eliminate mildew. It is harmful to the eyes and respiratory system even a relatively low levels and so is considered a pollutant.

Since it bleaches, oxidizes metals and breaks down some polymers, I'd be careful using it around guitars. On the other hand, if you're trying to age a finish or metal parts it might be useful if it can be kept away from people and pets. 

Hi all of you, Alberto from Italy, can anyone help me: I whont to put on a acoustic guitar some fine tuning similar to violin,

Can somebody suggest a firm or artisan that's got them?

Thank you


Hi Alberto,

 You should start a new thread for this question. This thread is focused on a different topic.

Dry rice is great for getting rid of odours, and it's cheap too.-) just keep on pouring rice into the body till it's full, leave 24 hrs, and pour it out again. If you can't get it all out by turning the instrument upside down, the rest can be vacumed out.

and a banjo joke to finish...

Q: what have a banjo and a handgrenade in common?

A: if you can hear it, it's already too late      :-)


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