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Cleaning the cigarette smoke smell on a concertina


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Hi

Does anyone have tips on what to use to clean the cigarette smell off a concertina?

 

I am mainly aiming for the  bellows. What would be effective and not harmful to the leather and/or other parts.

 

Does this odor diminish much over time?

 

Thanks,

 

Richard

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This came up earlier this year: 

 

 

That thread offers some potential solutions, but in my experience, there really is no cure for significant exposure to cigarette smoke. One trip to a smokey bar is fixable, but ten years in the house of a heavy smoker isn't. Tobacco products have an incredibly penetrating and tenacious odor. Once it's set in, some of the proposed solutions may reduce the smell a bit, but it will never really go away.

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All I can say….

so far no luck.

 

I tried a bunch of stuff and nothing has really worked.

 

There is probably some secret miracle cure. But I don’t know what it is.

 

 

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I will actually amend this.

 

smell is, of course, an immediate experience. And it is really not possible to quantitatively compare what it was like when I picked this up a few months ago to now. 
 

I will say that NOW the smell is definitely still there. But, the more I play it, there does seem to be some improvement. Again, it is tough to say in terms of x%.
 

it would seem that just working the bellows and playing IS helping to get rid of the smell.  
 

The conundrum is that in an enclosed room after not too long it is not pleasant. So, you don’t play it that much, so the smell does not dissipate. 
 

but I do think that just playing it, over time will/ would sort it out. But it’s also possible that I am become used to it and there has really been no actual improvement.

 

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3 minutes ago, seanc said:

but I do think that just playing it, over time will/ would sort it out. But it’s also possible that I am become used to it and there has really been no actual improvement.

 

I would expect time to sort it out. After all, if you can smell it every time you play it, then the cause of the odour must be coming out and eventually there will be a negligible amount left. So keep playing it! I suspect little and often would be most effective in removing the stink.

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With all respect, I think you're all being unrealistically optimistic. Tobacco is incredibly potent stuff, and the smell of cigarettes can persist for years, even after thorough cleaning. It's been my painful experience that once something is sufficiently contaminated by cigarette smoke, the only people who will ever fully enjoy it again are smokers (barring extreme measures, see below).

 

To really cleanse a smokey concertina, I would clean the metal parts and seal or replace basically everything else. Anything made of leather or fabric gets replaced (bellows, pads, valves, gaskets, etc). Wood gets cleaned and sealed with shellac wherever possible. Even then I wouldn't be surprised if there was still some detectable odor.

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I would agree withe Steve Schulteis. Though my experience is not with concertinas I still think it is valid.

I bought a car 4 years ago which had been owned by a smoker. The garage cleaned the car thoughly but even now, I occasionally get the smell of tobacco smoke when I get in the car.

So I think the smell may reduce with use, but never fully go away.

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I think that you guys are being too pessimistic.

 

It is hard to imagine that many vintage concertinas have not lived with a smoker for at least part of their lives in which case they would pretty much all stink of tobacco.  Clearly they do not so the passage of time and air must have worked its magic to reduce or remove the smell.

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5 hours ago, Steve Schulteis said:

With all respect, I think you're all being unrealistically optimistic. Tobacco is incredibly potent stuff, and the smell of cigarettes can persist for years, even after thorough cleaning. It's been my painful experience that once something is sufficiently contaminated by cigarette smoke, the only people who will ever fully enjoy it again are smokers (barring extreme measures, see below).

 

To really cleanse a smokey concertina, I would clean the metal parts and seal or replace basically everything else. Anything made of leather or fabric gets replaced (bellows, pads, valves, gaskets, etc). Wood gets cleaned and sealed with shellac wherever possible. Even then I wouldn't be surprised if there was still some detectable odor.

I also have to think that many of these instruments probably spent most of their nights and weekends playing in smoke filled bars and pubs for much of their lives. In many cases 100 yes and they don’t all smell like smoke 

 

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3 hours ago, Don Taylor said:

I think that you guys are being too pessimistic.

 

It is hard to imagine that many vintage concertinas have not lived with a smoker for at least part of their lives in which case they would pretty much all stink of tobacco.  Clearly they do not so the passage of time and air must have worked its magic to reduce or remove the smell.

 

3 hours ago, seanc said:

I also have to think that many of these instruments probably spent most of their nights and weekends playing in smoke filled bars and pubs for much of their lives. In many cases 100 yes and they don’t all smell like smoke 

 

Those are fair points. There's still the question of how long it takes to reach a tolerable level, and I'd wager that for heavy exposure it's a time measured in years. Either way, I've had poor luck trying to clean smokey items, so I'll leave them for the rest of you. 😉

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7 hours ago, seanc said:

I also have to think that many of these instruments probably spent most of their nights and weekends playing in smoke filled bars and pubs ...

 

Smoking was banned in pubs in England 14 years ago (very much to my relief as a non-smoker). I haven't noticed any of them retaining the stink of tobacco smoke, despite many of them being essentially unchanged in all that time. Keep the instrument somewhere ventilated and open the bellows frequently. I'm sure the odour will significantly diminish over time. But then, I'm an optimist ...

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There are a few basic steps that can help, but not guaranteed to eliminate the smell:

 

1 thoroughly clean the whole instrument inside and out.   Remove dust from external bellows folds, action box, reed pans, internal bellows folds.  My usual tools for this are a variety of paintbrushes, used dry, and a blow out with low pressure compressed air.

 

2 wipe over external surfaces with a soft rag moistened with household detergent. Bathroom cleaners are quite good for this because they are designed to remove residues of perspiration among other things.   Follow with a wipe over with a clean rag dampened with clean water to remove any detergent.

 

3 wax polish external wood and leather

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In the meantime, there is a mental trick that you might try. 

 

When you start to smell tobacco smoke try to think of a smell that is similar to tobacco but that you find pleasant - maybe leather polish.

 

We have skunks in our neighbourhood which have a really strong, pungent smell intended to ward off predators,  When I smell skunk then I think of coffee and, most of the time, this works quite well.  It is almost like flipping a switch in your brain.

 

OTOH.  Thinking about skunks while drinking coffee is a very bad idea ...

Edited by Don Taylor
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On 8/1/2021 at 7:24 AM, Theo said:

There are a few basic steps that can help, but not guaranteed to eliminate the smell:

 

1 thoroughly clean the whole instrument inside and out.   Remove dust from external bellows folds, action box, reed pans, internal bellows folds.  My usual tools for this are a variety of paintbrushes, used dry, and a blow out with low pressure compressed air.

 

2 wipe over external surfaces with a soft rag moistened with household detergent. Bathroom cleaners are quite good for this because they are designed to remove residues of perspiration among other things.   Follow with a wipe over with a clean rag dampened with clean water to remove any detergent.

 

3 wax polish external wood and leather

Theo. Is there a suggestion to specific wax to use?

 

also, is the a recommended procedure to clean the inside of the bellows?

 

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I came across an original Wheatstone that smelled terribly of cigarettes but also made the player gasp and cough. It was as if they were infected somehow. We tried deodorising, airing and so on, but eventually new bellows were required. This completely fixed the problem.

I put old bellows in my draughty garage for some reason, and after a week it was stinking the space so much that they had to go in the bin.

The bellows appeared to be “nicotine stained” inside but a few of the cards had started to soften, which could have been another source of the stink.

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