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Thread: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

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    Mike Aehle Aehle's Avatar
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    Default How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    Last spring I purchased mid-80's Kentucky (Dawg)mandolin from a guy in Hawaii. Both the instrument and case are fine except for the mold smell emitting from the case and the mandolin.
    How do I safely get rid of the mold without damaging the case and/or the mandolin?
    Mike

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    Re. the mandolin - the 'most' important item. I'd do a thorough check for any mold spores on or in the instrument. Personally, i can't think that there will be any at all. It's most likely that the mandolin has picked up the smell from the case. There's one thing that you could do,an old violin player's trick - get some clean rice grains,say a 1/2 cup full, & pour them into the sound holes of the mandolin, give it a good shake around for a few minutes & then pour the rice out. That should at least help to clean out any mold spores (if there are any).
    As for the case - there are ''mold inhibitor'' products that can be bought to add to water. I'd buy some & gently wipe the inside of the case over with a cloth soaked in the water/mold inhibitor solution & wrung out, so as not to soak the case interior. I'd then leave the case to dry out naturally. To further get rid of any smell,use a naturally scented product such as a dried Lavender sachet placed inside the case. That's about as much as i'd do. One thought - depending on the type of glue used to glue the case lining in place,the smell could be caused by the breakdown of the glue & not any mold. However,if the smell persists,i'd buy a new case. Ok,it's extra cash,but it's either put up with the smell or........ !,
    Ivan
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    Registered User houseworker's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    Mildew leaves a musty smell that is very pervasive. Best thing is to leave the case open to sunlight outdoors on warm days for a week or two. Otherwise, get the case relined.

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    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    You could try Febreze in the case along with leaving it out in the sun. Leaving the mandolin outdoors on a cool breezy day might help.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    Here are some past discussions on the subject. Honestly there has never been a totally agreed on method but many have offered their solutions.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    I too have seen many suggestions but never a report that a case has been cured. Once mold or mildew gets in the fabric of the lining the only treatments that will kill it will also destroy the fabric. I had a nylon camera bag that had mold and I tried everything; even ran it through the washer and dryer without success.

    You could pull out the lining of your case, bleach the wood underneath, then replace the lining with new plush. (A lot of work.) Since it's not a rare or valuable case a better approach would be to toss it and buy a replacement.

    As others have said, the mandolin is probably fine. If needed you could clean the exterior and do the rice treatment inside. But there's not much on a mandolin to support mold or mildew, so probably not a problem.

    Steve

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    Registered User KGreene's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    This is really a very easy cure.... Nearly all star mold spores require a minimum of 21% moisture to survive....Open the case and allow it to dry... spray febreeze or another fragrance that you prefer... allow it to dry...done....

    Although most acoustic intruments require 40-50% RH, the cases wont retain this if opened and exposed to the drier air on a regular basis....i.w., play you instrument daily.
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    KGreene, I'm not doubting you. . . but have you done this treatment to a case successfully?

    Steve

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    Registered User KGreene's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Loudloar View Post
    KGreene, I'm not doubting you. . . but have you done this treatment to a case successfully?

    Steve
    Yes, with guitar cases... Although I should have noted that dependent upon the length of time the mold has been present and the severity of any damage... It may be necessary to have it re-lined.
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    Thanks. Good to know there's a possible cure if the mold is a recent or mild case.

    I know with my nylon camera bag it was dry as a bone and I tried everything short of bleach without success. Bleach will kill the mold 100% but will also destroy the fabric.

    Steve

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    From Steve above - "Bleach will kill the mold 100% but will also destroy the fabric.". Bleach won't damage Nylon fabric,even a pretty strong solution - not neat. My elec.guitar Fender gig-bag is strong Nylon, & at one point a couple of years ago,i discovered a few specks of what i thought was mildew. I washed the area with soapy water/bleach solution,stuck it outside in the sun to dry (yes,we do have sun in the UK !) & it was fine if a bit 'bleachy' smelling. Very strong bleach solutions can harm natural fabrics such as cotton if used carelessly,but on Nylon,it's fine,
    Ivan
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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    Perhaps a solution of vinegar and water may work, and not damage any case parts.

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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    Bleach won't damage Nylon fabric
    Hmmm. Interesting. Of course my camera bag is long gone. But most modern plush is synthetic. It would be interesting to do some experiments and see what will survive (or not.) I've had enough colored fabric ruined by bleach but haven't really tested nylon or case plush.

    Steve

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    Mandolin Dreams Unlimited MysTiK PiKn's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    I had to rearrange the living space lately, and that meant pack up the instruments. When my dobro (circa late 90's Regal, gloss black finish) came out of the case, there was an offensive odour - I don't think it's mold. It smells more like an organic aromatic chemical smell - not quite like acetone - not like lacquer - but something VERY volatile. I think I ruled out 'cat pee' also. I think it's coming from the case.
    I called the previous owner of the dobro, he said he had taken it in for new strings installed, and also said the repair guy used a polish on it. So I think it's some unusual polish that's really slow to dry. I say "dry" cos there's nothing going to soak into this super glossy black finish. Also I don't think it's a "drying oil" as discussed in a recent thread about f'board cleaning. I can't help thinking whatever it is, is not drying, and is remaining wet - it's certainly "gassing off".

    The case is now parked in my garage, which usually smells of gasoline from 2 lawnmower tractors that just always smell like gasoline. But amazingly enough, the garage now smells like the case!!! and not gasoline. I am thinking of burning this case, or just junk it. I don't think this is mold, and it is not going away quickly - yet.

    I also used Kleenex tissue (about 8 of them) to wipe down the dobro, hoping to remove any traces of polish. The dobro is clean and shiny, and smells far less - but if I nosy up to the sound holes, I can smell the same organic chemistry kind of smell, still there. I hope it just goes away.

    I also thought it could be something like Febreeze that maybe was used in the past - I never use any deodorant sprays - I don't think it's good to breathe nice smelling chemicals in the air - frankly, I am amazed that people actually use those auto dispensers in the home environment - not for my house.!!

    Only other thought - when I bought the dobro and case, it was hot and humid summer weather; and case was never used since, cos the dobro is ready to play in the living room full time. If the garaged case does not recover soon, it's going away forever. I can't identify this chemical; but it's not something nice - and I tend to think it's toxic. Maybe a glue? Possible. Many of those are toxic. This smell gets on my hands and won't wash off. !!

    = The Loar, LM700VS c.2013 = "The Brat"
    = G. Puglisi, "Roma" c.1907 = "Patentato" - rare archBack, canted top, oval
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    I have a fair knowledge of mold and mildew, and professional experience with a goodly number of mold projects, but none exactly like this -- none involving musical instruments that I can recall. But thought I'd mention what I would try if faced with a case and instrument having persistent mold odor.

    First, some observations. (Oversimplification is unavoidable.) Mold requires a certain amount of moisture, and controlling the moisture is far and away the most important element of mold control. Spores by the thousands and millions are ubiquitous and ever-present in continental outdoor air. Generally lesser concentrations of mold spores still persist when the air is drawn in to ventilate interior spaces. Spores from the air attach themselves or just lodge on just about all surfaces of everything. If there is sufficient moisture and something the fungus can utilize for food, growth happens. For the most part, growth occurs by extension of tiny tubules called hyphae ("high fee") The hyphae get longer, and will grow into pores. Before long, sporulating structures form and new spores are formed by the millions, and to a great degree released into the surrounding air, riding the air currents. Generally the hyphae, spores, and other structures are too small to see individually with the naked eye. But the mass of all these combined is visible on a surface -- sort of piles up, the mass being called "mycelium" -- with a fuzzy appearance. Mold doesn't take in food and digest it much. Rather, the mold releases enzymes that break down the "food" structure, and then absorbs breakdown products. You can readily see why paper, cloth, or wood disintegrates after supporting mold growth for a long time. One kind of surprising feature is that liquid wetness is not required. There are many genii and species of mold that have lesser water requirements and may get sufficient H2O from high humidity alone.
    When chlorine bleach is used on mold, chemical action from the bleach largely kills the accessible mold structures. Airborne components can present problems for people breathing in a treated space. Not all the viable mold structures are accessible. The bleach may not be able to penetrate into pores that mold has grown into. Moreover, most of bleach is water and that has the potential to become part of the problem.
    IN general, porous materials that have sustained substantial mold growth just have to be discarded, as a practical matter. That doesn't mean that recover of an item is impossible -- just that most of the time it's not worth the considerable cost.
    Now to what I said -- what I'd try if I had a problem like that. I'd get hold of a small wide-mouth screw-top jar, or two or three or a dozen. Jars short enough to fit standing up in that case with the lid closed down. I'd find a spot where that case could be laid down flat out of the way of other activities. Away at a suitable place -- a laundry or kitchen sink, for example -- I'd pour bleach solution into one or two or three of the little jars. Could start with 10% household bleach in tap water and work upward if necessary. I'd cap those jars, and carry them carefully to the case, set the bottle(s) into the open case, carefully remove the cap(s) and gently close the lid. After a while, I'd expect that the "vapors" from the bleach would permeate throughout the case and into the liner. The airborne permeating components I'd expect would be a little chlorine, hypochlorous acid itself, and maybe that's about all. There's some risk of bleaching color in the liner this way, so I'd want to proceed slowly and build up gradually, checking for mold odor each time I opened it to check, and to take the jar(s) to the sink again to refresh the bleach solution.
    With regard to the instrument itself, I'd want to try the same vapor-phase treatment method. In some case, perhaps there'd be room in the case itself for a small jar alongside the instrument. Or I might wind up having to contrive another sort of box or case to form a treatment chamber for the instrument itself.
    The odor is from chemical substances produced by the mold in its life processes. It is not from spores, though the bleach will inactivate the spores at the same time as it's attacking the odor molecules, whatever they might be. I'd love to have a moldy instrument to try all this on, but in truth I don't think I've ever seen one. Once renovated a Gibson LG2 that had been in a flood that unglued about all the braces, but there was no mold odor present. Don't know why.

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    I'm telling you guys to try vinegar! We used to get a lot of moldy instruments sent from overseas and vinegar was the winner in cleaning them safely.

    "The EPA quotes “the use of chlorine bleach is not recommended as a routine practice for mold clean up”
    So what works? It may surprise you to know that the most effective way to remove mold is most likely in your pantry..it’s vinegar! Straight vinegar kills about 82 percent of mold spores and also prevents future mold if you spray it on the surface and allow it to dry."

    http://cleaningallstars.com/the-trut...ch-vs-vinegar/

    http://blacktoxicmolds.com/vinegar-kill-mold.php

    http://www.maids.com/blog/3-non-toxi...to-clean-mold/

    http://homeguides.sfgate.com/clean-b...gar-93318.html

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    David - Several years ago,before i had the 150 year old walls in my back yard completely renovated,patches of mold / slime would crop up on an almost daily basis. Being outside i was able to use a combo.of Vinegar & Bleach made into a strong solution with water & it would kill of any mold within a half day. Vinegar would be a good means of killing off mold spores,but i'd hesitate to use it on the inside of an instrument case, as Acetic Acid has a very pungent & long lasting smell all of it's own - as we all know.
    It would be hard to really know what to do if the case in question was an expensive one in which the smell persisted. I mean,what would you do if it was a Calton or Hoffee case that had somehow become infested ?. I suppose returning it to the maker for a 're-fit' would be the only cure. For far less expensive cases,a replacement might be in order,
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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    Ivan, usually the smell of the vinegar went away after a short time, and we did use it to clean the inside of cases too.

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    Wood and Wire Perry Babasin's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    Not mandolin related but vinegar in strong solution is also a great garden weed control. Similar to Round-up only non-toxic and you have to apply more frequently...
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    As long as we don't get around to sprinkling 'Round-up' on our fries,then i guess we're ok. Another use for vinegar is for loosening nuts/bolts which are a bit siezed up. Vinegar is very penetrating & can leech into minute spaces - car hydraulic fluid is great as well for the same purpose,but it ain't so great for cleaning mando.cases - it makes the mandos. kinda 'slick'. However, the strings'll never rust !!!,
    Ivan
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    Mandolin Dreams Unlimited MysTiK PiKn's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    Update on the scenario I presented above.

    My dobro still has some of the odor but not bad now. I can play it and not feel contaminated.

    The case = I entered my garage yesterday, and again did not really notice gasoline smell; but the case is sitting open in the garage for a week now, and is still the dominant smell. Even with the garage door open, if I am within 4 to 6 feet of the case, I can immediately detect that same chemical smell. In otherwords, no change.

    I don't believe that my case has a mold problem. I don't know what it has. Perhaps it has an unusual species of mold; but the smell continues to signal "toxic chemical".

    The weather is supposed to warm during the next few days - if no improvement, it's gone.
    It's a soft shell case, which, I suppose means it's largely composed of styrofoam for rigidity, and a black plush lining, with a zipper closure. I don't know how they make these things, whether it's glue of whatever. I have never had a problem like this before. There's no noticeable damage to the finish on the dobro.

    Thanks for info above re molds, bleach, vinegar - and related links.

    = The Loar, LM700VS c.2013 = "The Brat"
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    Mandolin Dreams Unlimited MysTiK PiKn's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    Quote Originally Posted by Perry Babasin View Post
    Not mandolin related but vinegar in strong solution is also a great garden weed control. Similar to Round-up only non-toxic and you have to apply more frequently...
    That strong vinegar is aka commercially as "Horticultural Vinegar" = not for use on fries, Ivan.
    The "stronger" = it's a higher "molarity" - think kinda like 'concentrated' - but actually it's a chemistry thing.
    I am not sure if it's publicly available without a pesticide licence.

    Personally, my opinion of it as a weed killer is pretty low - kills some, but not all. Since it's essentially vinegar, it's a clever money maker in the Hort/Turf/Lawn/Garden industry. Results are fairly quick; endurance is short; repeat required. Anyone selling this to you is not your friend. (I hope).

    Pesticides are largely banned in Canada. THAT is a good thing, unless you like poison around your house, and in water, etc.

    Best treat for weeds = 'weeds don't like to be mowed' + 'ignore them, they are unworthy of your attention'.

    = The Loar, LM700VS c.2013 = "The Brat"
    = G. Puglisi, "Roma" c.1907 = "Patentato" - rare archBack, canted top, oval
    = Harmony, Monterrey c.1969 = collapsed ply - parts, testing, training, firewood.


    "The intellect is a boring load of crawp. Aye. Next wee chune".

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    If you're in Canada (or even the US) try taking the case to your local ice hockey rink and see if their ozone machine will kill the odor in the case like it does on hockey gear. Don't put the musical instrument there, it will damage that.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    I have bought chlorine dioxide kits from auto parts stores to kill off mold and smells including urine in vehicles. I do not know how this would work on a case but might be worth looking into. I would certainly do some research first and don't use it indoors it is deadly.

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: How do I get rid of mold in a case and on a mandolin?

    From Mystik's post #21, it seems more likely that the smell originates from the glue used to glue the inner lining in place. It could either be 'gassing off' - releasing fumes from the solvent in the glue,or it might be breaking down & becoming unstable. Either way,i'd keep any instrument of mine well away from it - if in doubt,don't !. I've often wondered why case manufacturers don't use water bases adhesives more. 3M,just to mention one maker,make an adhesive called 'Fast Tack' which is water based. Because they are used in a variety of furnishing applications where 'smells' wouldn't go down too well,they are usually very much less 'aromatic' than solvent based adhesives such as Titebond & others,
    Ivan
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