Odor Removal for a Guitar

by David McGuffin
Some used guitars may wreak of smoke and cigarettes.

Some used guitars may wreak of smoke and cigarettes.

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Depending on your situation and the nature of the guitar's smell there are several ways to remove odors from the instrument. Some of the most common odors for used guitars include mildew and cigarette smoke. Generally, you may need to try more than one technique to get your guitar back to its normal smell.

Oils and Polishes

One of the most obvious ways to protect your guitar--in addition to removing unwanted smells and other substances--is to apply guitar polish, which is sold at most music stores. Other products--such as bore oils--are specially formulated, natural, non-toxic solutions that can control the water balance of wood instruments, including guitars. Most oils and polishes should be applied in a well ventilated area with a polish cloth or a lint free cloth. When using guitar polish or any other type of oil, clean dust bunnies from the inside of the guitar, as well as its components.

Air Fresheners

If guitar polishes or bore oils don't remove the smell, you may have to resort to stronger chemicals to get rid of the odor. An assortment of these products are available at drug and grocery stores. One strategy may include putting fabric softener sheets in the guitar case or inside the sound hole of an acoustic guitar to help eliminate the odors. Another option--although it comes with a price tag--is to use an ozone generator, which can remove mildew, mold and smoke odors. The ozone generator not only purifies the air but removes the causes of the odors as well.

Homemade Solutions

If you don't want to put household cleaning chemicals on your odoriferous guitar, consider using some natural, homemade products that you already have at hand. For example, clean the guitar neck and the fretboard with rubbing alcohol followed by a light application of lemon oil. Petroleum based lighter fluids, such as ronsonol, can also be used to help remove residues and odors from the guitar's wood. Alternatively, try putting small paper bags of baking soda in your guitar case for a couple of days to see if it absorbs the odors.


If you're concerned about damaging an antique guitar with different chemicals or household cleaners, consider taking it to a professional antique restoration specialist or someone who works specifically on guitar restoration and repairs. Make sure that the person you employ is bonded and insured; if something happens to your instrument, you'll be covered and can obtain a replacement.

Photo Credits

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