Here’s a great post from our friends over at www.thebassplace.com that we thought you might like.
So you’ve just picked up an amazing vintage instrument that sounds great and oozes all the vibe of forty years of playing in bars and nightclubs. This thing is just as cool as it gets. Only one problem. Your brand new vintage bass also oozes forty years of cigarette smoke. The case smells too. How are you going to get the stink out?
The very first thing to do with an instrument or case that smells bad is to put it out in the sun. As long as the humidity is not too high the UV light will kill a lot of the odor. If that doesn’t take care of it, then you can move on to the next step – the ozone machine!
Ozone machines are used to remove mold and odors in places like hotels and cars, but they work just as well on musical instruments. Ozone does not mask smells. It destroys the molecules and bacteria that cause odor. Ozone reacts with molecules and the cell walls of bacteria and spores to break them down. Since it is a gas it can go wherever air can, and is therefore an excellent way to get the stink out of an old instrument. I first talked to Dennis here at The Bass Place to get the lowdown on how to use an ozone machine properly, and then I called Ken Brumleve at jenesco.com to get a bit more information on the possible issues with using ozone on instruments. Dennis and Ken both agreed that with a little care, this can be an excellent way to safely get rid of odors.
Ken and Dennis both warned me that ozone is corrosive – it can make metal rust and it can also break down plastic parts. This should only be a problem with too much exposure, so the best idea is to put your instrument in a closet with the ozone machine on a low setting. Ken suggested that 1 part per million would be a good starting point. You could leave it for a few hours or even overnight. If you are particularly concerned about metal parts I would suggest removing them, though it is worth noting that a single treatment of ozone is unlikely to cause rust. If the smell is not gone after one treatment, just do it again. As long as you are being careful not to turn it up too high you won’t damage the instrument.
One of the more difficult issues with ozone generators is how to get ahold of one. They can be rented or bought but most of the better ones cost over $100. ForeverOzone makes an inexpensive but highly regarded ozone machine but it is likely too high output for a single instrument. A better idea would be to put the instrument in a larger room and treat the whole room. The larger the room, the lower the concentration of ozone will be. Keep in mind that ozone is not good to breath and you should not be in the room while treating your instrument.
If your brand new old bass smells as funky as it sounds, consider using an ozone machine to destink it. Your bandmates will thank you.