Musty case: is it toast?

March 6, 2008 at 04:33 PM · I inherited a violin that had been kept in a case and barely saw the light of day for about 30 years. The case is a nice Jaeger in great condition with a real leather cover. Exactly my style of case, and probably impossible to get anymore. The problem is, the case must have gotten infected with mildew that was never eradicated, and everything smells musty--the violin, bow, blankie. The musty smell is prominent on the violin. My question is, is there a way to get rid of the smell? I have left it outside, but it didn't seem to matter much. Is the case ruined?

Replies (30)

March 6, 2008 at 04:51 PM · You could try leaving it in the sun for some time (without the violin and bow). You may try also disguise the smell with some drops of your preferred parfum inside the case. Perhpas a moth ball for some days inside the case also.

March 6, 2008 at 06:00 PM · What kind of lining is it?

March 6, 2008 at 08:02 PM · This summer, just put it in the sun for a week and that'll take care of it. I'd take it to a real good custom leather shop and see it needed to be cleaned and conditioned or something. Tell them you don't want it oily, though. Sounds like a great find. If worse came to worse, rip out the lining and re-do it with new material. You can find anything you need for it on the web, so it's definitely not "ruined."

March 6, 2008 at 08:03 PM · I don't know about ripping out the lining. I'd probably end up with glue and pieces of velvet all over myself.

March 6, 2008 at 08:18 PM · I re-did part of the exterior of a case once, and in looking up parts discovered that anything you need you can get. For a leather exterior I'd use a professional though. I inherited custom-fitted case that people had painted on. I recovered the top because the painting there was stupid. It had a very nice painting on the side, which I cleaned up and left alone :)

March 6, 2008 at 09:26 PM · You could try getting an ozone generator, the ozone will break down mold and then decay into oxygen without any residue or side effects. From what you said this seems to be a higher quality case, but I once had to deal with a case that had rotting glue (it was very disgusting).

March 7, 2008 at 12:28 AM · Leave it out in the sun like was said above to make sure there's no dampness left. Then pour baking soda all over the inside of it and leave it for at least 24 hours. Arm & Hammer also has a baking soda carpet cleaner that has a pleasant scent if you prefer. Then vacuum it really well. Repeat if necessary but if that doesn't work then I'd say it won't ever go away.

March 7, 2008 at 03:25 AM · I like that baking soda idea. Can I substitute baking powder?

What about baking chocolate?

March 7, 2008 at 03:33 AM · Have you tried Febreez? Worked pretty well on the old case Blondie came in...I used Fresh Linen, or something like that, no fruity types, yuch! Unless, of course, they have Essence of Prunes...

March 7, 2008 at 04:13 AM · A luthier once told me to do this to fumigate a case (not my own though) that had bow bug infestation: spray it with Raid (ewwww poison!) Close it for a day. Then open it for a day. Then vacuum it. Then you can do the Febreze thing I suppose, to help the smell.

I don't know, that might be too extreme. But if you have critters...

March 7, 2008 at 05:59 AM · I have used dettol spray (a brand of disinfectant) on leather saddles that had ongoing mildew and it didn't hurt the leather. You might be able to find a spray on antifungal (for people use) and try that as well, since the mold should respond. then its sunlight, febreez, and more of the same to eventually get rid of the smell. You may find it always comes back a bit during humid weather. Has the violin lost its mustiness now?

March 7, 2008 at 10:40 AM · I'd go with Daniel's suggestion: An ozone generator.

If you truly have mold, it is very hard to completely eliminate. Those spores can practically survive a nuclear attack and come back again later.

Ozone will definitely do the deed.

March 7, 2008 at 11:27 AM · Most "ozone" generators on the market do not generate ozone but a series of nitrogen oxides. A good ozone generator uses a pure oxygen source and is hence dangerous for non trained people.

If you subject the case to nitric oxides you will get rid of the mold but also the case!

Lots of violin makers tried to darken their new violins with ozone using these generators and instead they treated the them with nitrogen oxides. The result was disintegration of the wood structure and most makers have abandoned it now.

March 7, 2008 at 03:09 PM · Sorry, I get confused between baking soda and baking powder. The stuff that you put in the fridge to keep things fresh that comes in an orange box. It gets rid of all odors and is safe - I don't know about putting raid in there it's extremely harmful.

I don't think chocolate would work very well in this case but it may perk you up a bit.

March 7, 2008 at 03:33 PM · if the odor took a while to build up, it may take a while to dissipate.

agree that putting the case gingerly out in the open, under the sun may help kill off some microorganisms that produce the odor-causing chemicals. but don't forget to take it back in at night:)

with the violin, i know some people use uncooked rice or other small pellets to rattle/shake off the dirt/deposits inside the violin (via the f holes). it may help decrease the load of "stuff" which contributes to the smell. be careful not to inhale the dust since we know airborne mold can be quite nasty to health.

also, i may add, to add perfume to the musty case is one way to do it. i may suggest to my wife don't bother launder my socks:)

March 7, 2008 at 03:34 PM · Baking powder and baking soda are the same thing: sodium bicarbonate. It works by relasing carbondioxide when you heat it and hence raises the dough.

March 7, 2008 at 06:52 PM · I'm going to try all these remedies. One question: If I use baking chocolate, is it better to encase it in something to prevent melting?

How would a croissant work?

March 8, 2008 at 03:06 PM · Scott, Get a new case! I am a luthier with 14 years experience. Mold and mildew will begin to destroy the animal glue holding your violin together, as well as the hair on your bow. People are much to casual about mold. Once it is in your case you cannot get rid of it. It is also proven to cause respiratory problems.

March 11, 2008 at 06:25 AM · Try activated carbon to get rid of the smell. In a pinch, use charcoal bricks ;-)

Put the carbon/charcoal (same thing) in a shallow dish in the middle of the case and leave overnight or a few days, until the smell is eliminated.

Mildew can be eliminated by spraying the inside of the case with Hydrogen Peroxide (the same bubbly stuff used in hospitals)

March 12, 2008 at 02:00 AM · If you are trying to remove an odor, it's baking *soda* that you need, which is not the same thing as baking powder. (I do a lot of baking, and you cannot substitute one for the other.) Have you tried finding a luggage repair place? They might be knowledgeable about what to do--after all, a violin case is just a very fancy, specialized and expensive piece of luggage. If the professionals can't help, you're probably better off giving up on the case, although that would be a shame.

March 12, 2008 at 03:04 AM · The mildew is a living thing and disguising the odor will not kill it, but like salt on slugs, something to draw the water out of the mold will kill it.

Besides exposure to sun for many days, you might try putting a lot of finely ground table salt (sodium chlroride) in the case and let it sit for a week or so. You could even make up a saturated salt solution and spray it in. Let it dry, and then vacuum it out.

It might help afterwards to also use "moth balls" to keep it "killed" for a few weeks -- and then expose it all to the sun. If there is any odor after that use baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).

That gives you something to do until summer comes.

March 13, 2008 at 11:58 PM · I've worked on a lot of old violin cases, Jaegers are great.

Start by thoroughly vacuuming out the case, get the nozzle in all the pockets and crevices. Wash the exterior with warm water and dishsoap, rinse and dry well. Appy a leather conditioner. Hand wash the blankie in mild soap, hang dry.

Dump a container of Arm and Hammer carpet deoderizer (basically scented baking soda) in the case . Leave the case open in front of a window. Sunshine can kill off some mildew. After a week or two dump out the powder and vac again, use a face mask if needed. Then spray it with Febreze and let it sit in the sun again.

Avoid mothballs, they are really toxic and the smell will linger.

March 15, 2008 at 08:27 AM · So - Scott, how's it going? did anything work yet?

March 15, 2008 at 11:05 PM · Poor boy has probably overdosed on Febreze - I loathe that stuff, makes me sneeze for ages.

March 15, 2008 at 11:21 PM · Sharelle,

I haven't gotten to try all the suggestions yet because the shop where I sent it, along with the violin that came in it, had fallen behind in their work. Everything is supposed to returned to me this coming week, and then I'll try the baking soda/chocolate egg creme/fabrize/Chernobyl/Colt 44 solution. Unfortunately, the weather here in OR is rainy and windy, which would prevent me from leaving the case out in the sun.


March 16, 2008 at 01:39 AM · Scott, looks like you'll just have to move somewhere sunny if you want to use that case! Australian Chamber Orchestra's hiring...

March 16, 2008 at 07:58 AM · All in the fullness of time, Scott.

March 16, 2008 at 05:10 PM · Don't worry about sunny: in OR we don't see a cloud from June-November. I guess the case will get a wee bit riper...

March 17, 2008 at 12:48 AM · are we doing underpants next?

March 17, 2008 at 02:36 PM · Prune stain removal?

:)))) Juergen

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