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Violin has stinky odor!

Instruments: I bought a violin from a third party that had been put away for a while and has a very bad odor to it. I'd like help on what I could do to eliminate it.

From Tammy Pawelczak
Posted June 11, 2008 at 07:48 PM

Hey everyone -

Because I was robbed recently and my violin was stolen, I have been forced to buy a cheap one from another party - had it re-strung and a new tail piece put on it - but it has one BIG problem that I have no idea how to solve! IT STINKS! Seriously, it smells really bad - almost like cat urine (I have had cats all my life)... I'm not sure if it's because it was sitting in a case for a long time and got musty or what... but when I play it I can't get past the smell. Anyone out there have any ideas? I don't know what to do to get rid of it.
Thanks!!

From Tom Holzman
Posted on June 11, 2008 at 08:27 PM
Sorry to hear about your robbery. Take the violin you bought to your luthier and see if s/he can diagnose the cause of the smell and suggest some remedy.
From Mary Skeet
Posted on June 11, 2008 at 08:25 PM
I bet the previous owner's cat used the case as a litterbox. Yuck.

Maybe you can replace the smell rather than remove it? Don't use the same case, and store a dryer sheet (like Bounce) in the new case with the violin, but don't let it touch the violin. You could try Odor Eaters shoe inserts in there too. No guarantees, but that's what I'd try.

Good luck.

From Sue Bechler
Posted on June 11, 2008 at 08:30 PM
Sorry to hear of your loss. :( Did you check the case it came in? If it smells of cat, it could be cat. :((( so get rid of it pronto. Can you safely put the violin in some other box, and put a lot of crumpled paper, some chunks of charcoal or a bowl of baking soda in with it to try to absorb odors? Sue
From Bill Busen
Posted on June 11, 2008 at 09:14 PM
By the way, a surprising number of violin thefts are solved - the violin world is like a small town. Hope you've made sure all the places the thief might sell it locally have a description.
From Hannah Wright
Posted on June 11, 2008 at 09:55 PM
I've never had this problem, but maybe you could start by getting a new case.
Also clean out your violin using violin polish. Maybe even try putting orange peels in your case (clarinetists do it...but make sure to change them every two days. they start rotting!).
From Ron Gorthuis
Posted on June 12, 2008 at 12:43 AM
Mal-odours from wood are almost always caused by bacteria. As wood is organic, bacteria can reside in wood forever.

Simple solutions are:
- throw out the case
- remove the top plate of your violin, and expose all unvarnished surfaces to strong UV light without heat (can try sunlight, but watch the heat).

Don't be surprised if you have mould and stains inside. If so, you will need to treat the wood with alcohol or something else (non-water-based) to ensure the mould is killed and removed.

If the above does not remove, things get risky. You will need to resort to a chemical (eg chlorine) to kill the bacteria. You can use bleach crystals to rub into the wood, and use a brush to remove it from the grain. Liquid bleach works, as it will penetrate through the bacetria layer (and kill it) but the water can damage the wood.

Things like "nilodor" simply mask the odor, they do not solve the core problem.

good luck!

From Tammy Pawelczak
Posted on June 12, 2008 at 12:55 PM
Thanks, everyone. I'll do anything at this point! I've been keeping it out of the case; can't afford a new one right now. I actually put one of those car air fresheners in the case but it's not helping. And Bill - I did give the police the serial number and make, but I was told by a pawn broker that if it comes into a pawn shop they have to report it to the police and then the police would contact me. Yeah - I can see that happening - one of these days, maybe.
Thanks again,
Tammy
From Carlos Marquina
Posted on June 12, 2008 at 04:05 PM
Tammy,
Also keep logging in to ebay or amazon and see if your violin turns up. Also craigslist.
Good Luck!
From Louise Pallet
Posted on June 15, 2008 at 09:03 AM
Buy a packet of bicarbonate of soda ,shake it in the violin and leave it a bit and shake it out. The same as with smelly shoes. It really helps
From Louise Pallet
Posted on June 15, 2008 at 09:05 AM
I bought 2nd hand cello which a cat had sprayed, you can't imagine the smell, I did the bicarb bit and it lost the smell completely
From Carol Cook
Posted on June 23, 2008 at 03:09 AM
Tammy, did you solve the odor problem? Was your stolen violin found?
From Nate Robinson
Posted on June 23, 2008 at 04:37 AM
That stinks.

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