Bought a violin riddled with perfume, help!

May 20, 2019, 12:03 PM · I got it airing out in my home but is there anything I can do to hasten the process? It is making me gag!

Replies (27)

May 20, 2019, 12:21 PM · Find an old lady without perfume. Osmosis will do the rest.
May 20, 2019, 12:31 PM · ...A tough (and annoying) problem! It might be worth a try to close it in an old case with some activated charcoal for a while. I doubt it could hurt it.
May 20, 2019, 12:46 PM · Give it a good surface cleaning (take to luthier if you don't know how), and possibly change out the chin rest.

As suggested by Charles, activated charcoal in containers made for deodorizing can be purchased at Amazon.

May 20, 2019, 2:50 PM · I get this with cigarette smell, what seems to work is activated charcoal, and leaving the case open for the smell to dissipate, although I think you need it closed for the charcoal to work.
May 20, 2019, 3:55 PM · Thank you everyone! Charcoal pouches purchased and they’ll be here tomorrow.
May 20, 2019, 4:53 PM · Thank you everyone! Charcoal pouches purchased and they’ll be here tomorrow.
May 20, 2019, 5:45 PM · glad to help!!
Edited: May 20, 2019, 7:46 PM · If the goal is for the odors trapped inside the wood and varnish of the violin to come out, whether there is an adsorbent material (such as charcoal) around to capture such odors (which are volatile organic compounds) will only help if the instrument is enclosed, e.g., in its case. Leaving it out in the open should accomplish the same thing. Be advised that many fragrances contain compounds (such as galaxolide) with astonishing low vapor pressures -- one wonders how they work at all, but of course low is not zero.
May 20, 2019, 7:42 PM · Because we have experience with activated charcoal effectively removing smells much faster than just airing it out.
May 20, 2019, 7:44 PM · When all fails, ozone treatment!
May 20, 2019, 7:44 PM · Please follow up for us to say if it works! One more thought - As George noted, the chinrest may be particularly stinky from direct skin contact. If that’s the case carefully remove it with a chin-rest tool (attention thread direction) and wipe it down with rubbing alcohol. This should not harm ebony or plastic. Don’t be tempted to do it in place - it would be less thorough and would risk getting alcohol on the violin varnish. You might eventually need to consider a new case too - lots of fabric in there to retain the scent.
Edited: May 20, 2019, 7:47 PM · Lyndon -- thanks, I clarified my response. And I seriously doubt you've tested that hypothesis properly.
Edited: May 21, 2019, 10:44 AM · "Leaving it out in the open should accomplish the same thing. " Paul my instinct lead me to beleive that you are absolutely correct. Charcoal will absorb what emanates from the instrument, it will not remove the source of the emanation. Cleaning all outer surfaces would probably remove the vast majority of the source. Remains what was "deposited/absorbed" inside the instrument. Simple ventilation inside the instrument may speed the evaporation process, but as I suggested, perhaps ozone treatment would more actively neutralize the source particles that were deposited on the inner surfaces and may as such be more effective.
May 21, 2019, 2:19 PM · Unfortunately ozone is very dangerous and toxic.
May 21, 2019, 3:39 PM · Low vapor pressure indeed! I found a reference which states:
5.45e-4 mm Hg at 25 deg C

So much for boiling it off in an altitude chamber.

Wikipedia reports:

Galaxolide has been shown to be removed by ozonation in wastewaters treatment plants.

But I wonder what ozone would do to the rest of the instrument.
May 21, 2019, 6:19 PM · For starters, ozone would probably not do the varnish any good. And the oxidation of the wood, etc., would probably make it more prone to adsorb water vapour from the air, not good for the tone.
You could try putting it in a chamber through which you blow or suck air (with a fan), this should evaporate the smell as fast as anything. Perhaps keep it under an active cooker hood (but don't turn the cooker on!!!)?
Edited: May 21, 2019, 8:07 PM · Vinegar in a bowl is an often recommended remedy for general perfume odor elimination. I would try it in a small container left in the case for 24 hrs. Don't know if there is possible damage to the instrument if not in contact, but I would research it for sure and would inquire the luthier community on maestronet.
Edited: May 22, 2019, 9:48 AM · 2 words: ozone chamber. It is often used to de-smoke a flat / items after fire. If you can not find a facility, you can rent a machine and run it in a small sealed space. Once upon a time I bought a violin on whim only to discover a heavy tobaco smell (stink) when I came home. Nothing helped until I left it for a brief ozone chamber treatment.
May 24, 2019, 9:11 AM · A while back, it was common for makers to expose new violins to high concentrations of ozone, to darken the wood prior to varnishing. This is rarely used any more, due to experience-based belief that this is very destructive to the wood.
May 24, 2019, 12:52 PM · An ad for a bidet just appeared in this thread...
May 24, 2019, 4:54 PM · But don't forget Paul that adds are targeted to you ;-) ... I get the add for electric scooters, this must be a hint for me to get away quietly from this topic!
May 24, 2019, 7:39 PM · Paul, are you sure Bidet is not a typo for Bizet?
May 24, 2019, 7:57 PM · Oh my God, once a girl friend of mine let me try her violin for the rehearsal and the chin rest was impregnated with her perfume, it was unbearable. Violinists, specially women, please don't wear perfume any place near the violin. Wood should smell like nothing, not like Eau d'Champagne du Roses, hahaha.
Edited: May 24, 2019, 11:33 PM · When I first started teaching, the housekeeper who emptied my trash every morning was entirely drenched in horrible perfume. I had to have our building manager take her aside and tell her that Mr. Deck is a little on the odd side and prefers to empty out his own trash. When her health deteriorated she blamed the university for making her work in a chemistry building. (Never mind she apparently saturated herself with chemicals deliberately and smoked a pack a day since childhood.
May 25, 2019, 6:38 AM · Paul Deck, after reading your posts over the years I also tend to agree with your building manager haha.

I work outside and my parents used to tell me I shoukd wear sunscreen but I have always felt that the ingredients in the uv blocker could be worse than the long term effect of being in the sun. I also feel the same way about bug spray and prefer citronella and eucalyptus type repellant to deet and permetherine type stuff.

May 25, 2019, 6:44 AM · Just got a couple of evaluation fiddles from Fiddlershop, and one was reeking of perfume. I also didn't like the sound, so encased that one right back up. I thought the smell was coming from the lower right bout, and not the chinrest.
May 27, 2019, 12:23 AM · "Never mind she apparently saturated herself with chemicals deliberately and smoked a pack a day since childhood"

It's not uncommon for cleaning staff to overdo perfume in my experience - I guess that it's an occupational hazard, perhaps being concerned about lingering effects of dealing with garbage. Smoking can also be an occupational hazard in the working class - perhaps to counteract some boredom, as in the days before they could chat incessantly on the phone, etc., while going about their tasks. (I wouldn't chat myself; instead I'd be reading v.com of course.)


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