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First of all, I realize this is Fiddlerman not Violaman; but this is the forum I frequent the most; so here's what I've got -
About 3 hrs ago, I received a viola that I purchased 2 wks ago, and just now finally got! It sounds AMAZING. However, after just seconds of starting to play, I noticed the foulest smell I've smelled since college,,, like drunk barf!!! Sorry to be so graphic, but hole mother of god,,,, it is unholy.... but I had to keep playing as long as I could hold on to consciousness.
I then remembered a thread that I think Daniel started about getting rid of foul smells in violins. I had never had that experience; every one of my violins actually smells pleasantly interesting; either of old wood, or old age (you know that slightly musty "old" smell), so I never paid much attention to that thread; in hind sight, I should've bought the book.
Do you remember the Seinfeld episode where a valet with horrific B.O. sat in Jerry's car, and no matter what kind of "Silkwood Shower" they took, they couldn't escape the stench,,,,,,,, THIS is what I've got.
I didn't want to put any kind atomized spray in it, because it's a misted liquid (still liquid), and I didn't want to pour sanitizing powder into it because it might not all come out, and I didn't want to use drops of an essential oil because I need to extinguish the putridity not mask it.
So right now, I've devised a sort of pocket or mini envelope with a long back (something to hold while inserting and removing) into which I've poured a teaspoon of A&H carpet deodorizer. I'm going to let that sit overnight and see if the beast is still there or have I successfully exorcised the demon.
Any and all ideas (which are non-destructive) are appreciated. HELP ME!!!!!!!
Ken, are you drinking at this late hour!!!!! Haaaaaaa; I think you may have read that wrong,,,, I just got it [3 hrs ago] but I paid for it 2 wks ago.
Unless, the stench has just really f'd up my brain and I am really "tripping"; which I'm not entirely ruling out.
Toni, it sounds so beautiful, I'll wear a nose clip before I sell this one, lol.
First disclaimer: This replay contains some possible (if insane) suggestions and is not short. Those with short attention spans might want to skip this one.
Big disclaimer on this one, Fred. Just about everything I can think of that might be strong enough to get the smell of vomit out of wood could possibly harm the instrument. Probably the best possible course of action is to take it to a luthier and ask if they can fix it. I wouldn't take your first-born along when you go to get that estimate. I don't know what that sort of a repair actually costs, or if they even have methods for it, but I wouldn't think anyone would want to work on that sort of a smell for low pay. LOL
Never dealt with this particular sort of problem, I am not a luthier, and so all suggestions I make here should be considered just plumb coon crazy and for entertainment value only. Anyone trying them is at their own risk and shouldn't take a baseball bat after me for mentioning them or Pierre for owning this forum, etc. K?
Worst case scenario, if nothing else works.. You could take off the top so you could wipe the inside down with something like lemon juice and then when it dries fill the body up with baking soda and let it sit for a couple days and then clean it out and put it back together. That would be extreme, and I don't know what it might do to the sound. Any time you take the instrument apart that far, it will likely sound a bit different when it is put back together. But I'd bet that would work.
So before anything like that.. First thing I'd try myself is air. Set the instrument in front of a fan for a day or more and see if the air flow can clear out the stench. Might even consider hanging it outdoors if you have a safe and shady place to do that where it won't get rained on, stolen, or hijacked by racoons or possums intent on throwing themselves a jamboree or something. Might take a few days or a few weeks, and the smell still might come back to haunt you, I don't know.
I'd also check the case. Just the way vomit usually works, I'd suspect the case might be what actually got hit. A lot easier to vomit into a case than F-holes, I'd think. Case lining can look clean, but still smell foul. On the case you could use all the usual sprays like Febreeze or OdoBan on, or carpet cleaner or whatever.
But even if the case was the actual culprit, being stored in the case would have gotten some of the smell into the wood of the viola.
And we come to the craziest possible solution. The main chemical that gives vomit it's distinctive smell is butyric acid. Pernicious stuff. Even a drop of it on a saucer will stink up a whole chem lab in a little while. My chem teacher back in high-school did that demo. But.. It can be reacted with another chemical to produce a chemical called ethyl butyrate. Ethyl butyrate has a fruity smell, and is often used as an artificial flavour or scent where they want stuff to smell like fruit. "Tropical" fruit, mostly, it smells a bit like pineapple.
Here's where it gets crazy. The chemical it needs to react with to do that is.. ethanol. Booze. It wouldn't be good to pour proof alcohol into a wooden musical instrument. But alcohol vapour mixed with air *probably* would get into the wood as well to some degree to react with the butryic acid trapped in the wood fibers. An old aquarium air pump with a hose going into a jar where it could bubble below the surface of some proof spirits and where another hose up near the top could take off the vapor but not the liquid itself would give a stream of ethanol vapor (mixed with quite a lot of air). Pipe that into one f-hole so it could circulate around the wood inside the instrument and go out the other sound-hole and in a few hours it might be enough to change the smell stuck in the instrument from "barfy" to "fruity".
The downside to that idea, is I'm not sure that "artificial pineapple" is actually a better smell. But the upside is that ethyl butyrate is a lot more volatile than butyric acid, and should dissipate sooner. Butryric acid (puke scent) isn't really volatile at all, and if it stays in the instrument, the smell could last a century or more for all I know. It only needs to release a few molecules into the air to be enough to smell like vomit. Even more pernicious than cat urine.
Anyway, I told you it was a crazy idea.
To recap, I'd try just air first, in hopes that maybe not too much of the vomit smell is actually in the instrument and just airing it out will do the trick. Next I'd probably try the alcohol vapor idea. If that didn't work either, I'd take the top off and use at least baking soda to cover (or fill) the body and then dump/brush and vacuum it all out and put the instrument back together.
Oh, and take the baseball bat and go visit whoever sold you the instrument without mentioning it's distinctive aroma..
(Edited to correct a chemical name)
"This young wine may have a lot of tannins now, but in 5 or 10 years it is going to be spectacular, despite the fact that right now it tastes like crude oil. You know this is how it is supposed to taste at this stage of development." ~ Itzhak Perlman
I have heard that the wood from china can stink to high heaven. Is that where yours is from? Id shove a paper pine scented tree shaped air freshner down one of your f holes. perhaps one that complements the barf smell. perhaps one that smells of margharitas or wheat? If its really pungent you can put a dab of vics vapor rub under your nose. they did that in the movie Silence of the Lambs to counter act the dead body smell.
"Please play some wrong notes, so that we know that you are human" - said to Jascha Heifetz.
Do you have access to an ozone generator air purifier? Hotels use them to clear the funk from unpleasant guests.
I have one that I've used to successfully remove all traces of smoke odor from a leather jacket that was worn to a cigar convention. Two weeks in fresh air on an enclosed patio had no effect, but a few hours in a small closet with the Living Air purifier did the trick.
All great ideas, thanks for brainstorming! I'm going to work from the simplest, least interactive (with the instrument) and just continually work my way up.
Daniel, funny you mentioned butyrate, for some reason, that's a memory that also lingers form my first year of college Inorganic Chemistry. And the viola came without a case, so I don't know that how it was stored is a factor.
Robert, you can never be 100% where a very old instrument was made, but I'm 99% sure this instrument was made in Tyrolia about 180 yrs ago. And none of the rest of the wood is odoriferous.
Barry, we aren't a religious family, but being Italian, I always have plenty of holy water, garlic, crucifixes, and sharp wooden things around the kitchen, lol.
Lmao Ken,,, happens to the best of us man!
Keith, that is an incredible idea. If my odor absorbers don't work, I'll see if I can beg/borrow/or well, borrow a Living Air purifier in a very small space. My only concern is if this really is possessed, it may have an endless supply of "stank".
I'll let you know over the next several days, what has worked, and what hasn't,,, that is, if it hasn't killed me first!
Ok Fred,, I just called my luthier from.. Wilson Fine Violin's in Birmingham, Michigan and told him about you dilemma, he said to sprinkle a tablespoon of good ole baking soda in the violin and shake it around then let it set for a few day's. He said it will not affect the sound of the viola. He said he's used it before on smelly violin's. He also suggested not to spray any liquid deodorizer inside the viola nor should you lock it up in a closet with a room purifier as it may affect the wood.
He also suggested to put some baking soda in a small plastic bag attached to a string so you can extract the bag and leave the bag open a tiny bit.
I hope you get stinky out.
I think rice is used more for moisture, I've never heard of rice being used for odor's that's why some restaurant's put it in the salt shaker's, for moisture. Plus, how do you get every grain of rice out once you put it in ?
With the baking soda, after you shake it around, it doesn't have to come out and won't cake up unless it get's wet inside.