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Strong cigarette smell in a tube amp
Strong cigarette smell in a tube amp
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Old 4th June 2008, 12:03 AM   #1
mikejennens is offline mikejennens  United States
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Strong cigarette smell in a tube amp
Default Strong cigarette smell in a tube amp

Any ideas how to get the cigarette smell out of an old tube control amp?
I picked up an old Packard Bell console stereo that must have been in a house with some heavy amount of cigarette smoke. I got rid of the console, and have the amp and tuner/pre-amp. I tried cleaning them as well as possible, but they still stink. When I run them, the smell gets really bad! I got the top sides pretty clean, but the undersides with all the wires and components are holding the smell. I tried alcohol and that didn't work. I tried windex, but couldn't really get inside well enough. I'm wondering if there is something I can spray on everything that will get rid of the smoke smell and residue, but not hurt the components. I've heard of the dishwasher routine, but the felt behind the indicator needle on the tuner probably wouldn't hold up very well. I have to wonder about the tuner itself, too. Any ideas or experience with this type of issue?
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Old 4th June 2008, 12:58 AM   #2
tubewade is offline tubewade  United States
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Clean and degrease them as best you can (as you already have) and set them out in the sun and wind for a few days. The sun is a remarkable natural deodoriser. I would bring them in at night and put them out in the back yard in the sun in the daytime for a few days until the smell goes away. You may never get rid of that smell completely but hopefully you can get it down to a tolerable level.

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Old 4th June 2008, 02:24 AM   #3
ray_moth is offline ray_moth  Indonesia
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Take Wade's advice but guard tham against cats, otherwise they could end up smelling a darned sight worse!
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Old 4th June 2008, 02:38 AM   #4
jon_010101 is offline jon_010101  United States
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I've had a few cigarette-smelly amps before, and all lost the odor within a few weeks of daily use (hour or two a day) -- I suspect the heat helps a lot.

But I do have a Nikon F camera bought 12 years ago, which was exposed to cigar smoke in the store -- it still smells as funky as the day I got it.
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Old 4th June 2008, 04:57 AM   #5
dsavitsk is offline dsavitsk  United States
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I have a '78 Les Paul Custom that I bought used in '88. Still stinks a little from the previous owner. Plays nice though.
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Old 4th June 2008, 05:27 AM   #6
Klimon is offline Klimon  Belgium
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Any ideas how to get the cigarette smell out of an old tube control amp?
Start smoking, you won't notice the smell anymore. (I smoke Marlboro and have always had good experience with that brand; camel is a close second, little less pronounced in the low cough)

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Old 4th June 2008, 06:10 AM   #7
c2cthomas is offline c2cthomas  United States
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Hey Mike - Some hints from a fellow old fart!

1st - unplug the amp from it's power source and give the large storage capacitors time to discharge and double check them to make sure that they are discharged.

If you don't have a service manual that shows component layout etc. the you should take the time to make one of your own by taking some detailed photo's of where everything goes and how the wires are routed. You might need to remove some components prior to cleaning the amplifier chassis and you are going to want to know where the components go when you put them back in (or replace aged components due to deterioration). You should remove the meter you mentioned before cleaning, as many of them don't take to water very well at all.

Establish a work area that can get wet when the water starts to fly and where you won't munch your fingers up when you are moving the unit around during cleaning. I'm not going to suggest that you use any chemicals (like degreasers) that are hazardous to the environment - but if you choose to use any be aware of proper handling and disposal procedures.

Get a hand pumped spray bottle and mix a good liquid soap that breaks down grease (Dawn dishwashing liquid is one) with 10 parts warm water to 1 part soap.

Get clean 1-inch and 2-inch paintbrushes with long soft bristles.

Remove any component that is socked mounted (tubes, relays, etc.) and store safely (handle gently). If you have any of the old paper capacitors you might want to remove them or protect them - if they are that old they may need to be replaced due to age anyway.

You should wear some safety goggles and rubber gloves used for washing dishes - the cotton-lined gloves come off easier than the non-lined ones.

Spray the soap solution onto the unit and brush it around with an appropriate sized paintbrush until you get the solution to foam up and start to remove dirt and grime. Rinse the cleaned area with a spray of clean water and proceed to the next area to be cleaned.

If you have areas that have old remnants of paper labels, masking tape, sticky stuff, etc. try some WD-40 on the area and rub with a stiff brush (toothbrush, short bristle solder brush, etc) or gauze like cloth. Great trick for getting those sticky price tags off smooth surfaces!

After you have the unit washed up you need to thoroughly dry it out. Compressed air works great for getting into areas and forcing the water out but lacking that you can use a hair dryer or hot air gun to help things along. Regardless of how well you get the unit air-dried there will still be damp areas that need to be taken care of. A few hours in the hot sun (direct sun) will get things dried - but go out about once an hour and turn the unit around so that all sides get a good exposure to the sunlight. Before you start putting things back together you want to be sure that the unit is good and dry - even under things like transformers or chassis mounted capacitors.

Install the components that you removed. Now is a good time for any paint or metal touch up you might need.

With an old tube unit like this it is very possible to have problems after cleaning. Shorts to ground and to other components can happen - and capacitors or transformers that get shorted out can be both scary dangerous and a source of amusement for your family and close friends that get to watch you put out the fire while you do the Ah-Shucks dance.
DIY audio can be expensive but getting to see things go up in smoke - that's priceless!!!! ..... "whatever - call it brainfart of Mighty ZM"
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