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A guitar that smells like cigarettes.
If you have this problem, I feel your pain. I’ve been there, and nothing’s worse than getting all excited about the arrival of a nicely broken-in guitar that you’ve ordered online, only to be hit by that smell of cigarette smoke when you open up the case.
What’s worse, that smell does not go away easily.
However, there are a number of things you can try that have proven quite effective. The purpose of this post is to give you some ideas for how to get cigarette smell out of your guitar for good.
8 ways to remove cigarette smell from your guitar
I’ll begin by stating what might seem obvious. Keep your guitar and its case out in the open air as much as possible. If you have space, just leave the case open and set your guitar on a rack. Keep them separate. If the weather’s fine, you can do this outdoors. You want as much fresh air swirling around your guitar and case as possible.
Hotels and car rental services use ozone generators to get rid of cigarette smells. You can rent one of these from most tool rental shops. They are quite effective. However, ozone will dry out leather so remove any leather straps from your guitar before doing this.
Coffee grounds are kind of magical. You’ll hear about how drug smugglers use them to mask the scent of drugs so dogs at the border can’t detect them. Well, they’re pretty effective for smoky guitars as well.
You can put them in a little tub and insert it into your guitar’s soundhole, but it’s probably easier to just sprinkle them directly (and generously) into the guitar and its case. Use a coarse grind if you can, because it will be easier to clean up. Wait a few days and then simply vacuum everything.
My wife uses cedar chips to keeps moths out sweaters in the drawer, but they can make your guitar smell a lot better, too. Pet stores often carry these woodchips as bedding for rodent cages. Just put them into cloth bags and leave those inside both the case and the guitar. Keep them there for a week or so (with the case open for fresh air).
Ozium is an air sanitizer with triethylene glycol and propylene glycol as its active ingredients. It usually comes as an aerosol that you spray. For your guitar and case, you can spray it on a cotton rag such as an old T-shirt and leave it inside your soundhole and inside the case. Ozium is also available as a gel that sits in its own small container with holes on top, which should work well for your case.
Dryer sheets such as Bounce that usually accompany your clothes in the dryer can fit easily into your soundhole and case. They may help to eliminate that cigarette odor.
Scent spray for hunting
I’ve heard the scent-eliminating sprays that hunters use to escape detection by animals can work on guitars as well. Again, because this is a spray, you probably want to cover a rag with it and then deposit the rag inside your guitar and case for up to a week.
Baking soda is old school but still effective. Just open a box up and leave it inside your case for a few weeks. If you’re able to do the same inside your guitar, even better. If the whole box won’t fit into your soundhole, try a small mason jar. You’ll have to leave your guitar alone for a while so it doesn’t spill.
How to get cigarette smell out of your guitar case
Sometimes the upholstery in your guitar case retains odors the longest. If you’ve tried everything above and still can’t rid your guitar case of that cigarette smell, you could consider reupholstering the case.
Any good upholstery shop should be able to remove the old lining from your case and replace it with new upholstery that comes with no unpleasant odors.
However, this can get expensive. For the price of new foam liner, material and labor, you could probably buy a new, scent-free case. I would probably go that route instead.
Dim lights, thick smoke…
You aren’t the first to have a guitar that smells like cigarette smoke, and you certainly won’t be the last. Hopefully one of the methods above, or a combination of several, will get your guitar smelling tolerable again and you’ll soon be back to playing loud, loud music—and doing more listening than sniffing.