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Cigarettes – part 2 June 27, 2011

Posted by Judy in Musings.

Remember this post/rant, on the lingering smell of cigarette smoke? Well, this is part two, and this one is even better! Have I mentioned that I LOVE freecycle? So many of our things have found new homes, and many things have found a new home here. It’s so much better than chucking things in the trash, only to end up in the dump! A few weeks ago, I managed to snag a sewing machine that someone was going to throw away. The lady posting didn’t actually own the machine, she just knew someone that was going to pitch it and she went “NOOO!! Let’s give it away!” So DH helped me go pick it up, as it was not only a machine, but a cabinet, as well (READ: heavy and awkward). When I got close to the machine, it was pretty smelly, not like old and musty, but like cigarettes. Oh well, it was free and I was sure I could get rid of the smell.

As soon as we got home, the machine went outside into the sunshine (I learned from my last experience with fresh air and cigarette smoke smell). I unloaded all of the drawers, and realized that everything REEKED! I opened up the manual, and as I was flipping through it, I seriously felt like I was inhaling smoke with every page turn. I’m not exaggerating . . . it was BAD! Don’t take my word for it, though. See for yourself.

Here’s the back of the machine.

And now the side.

Nope, the machine is not supposed to look yellow. (If this is what the machine looked like, imagine your poor lungs! EEK!)

The machine was about 60 years old, so I’m guessing there was at least 40 years of nicotine tar on the machine and table. Getting rid of the smell was NOT going to be an easy project. I posted a message on the Necchi sewing machine Yahoo group, looking for advice on getting rid of the smell. I took a bunch of the suggestions and set out to conquer the stench.

The first and most important set was to somehow remove the nictoine tar from both the table and the machine. I first set out to clean the machine, removing all of the easily removable parts, doors etc. Anything that was silver got soaked in denatured alcohol. The machine itself also got cleaned with denatured alcohol, which is wicked stuff, so I was definitely wearing gloves and was thankful for the fresh air. About two hours later, here’s what I had.

The back of the machine.

Not a huge difference, but big enough that my 4yo asked “Why is the machine grey?” To which I replied, “Well, that’s the color of the machine, which was obscured by the yellow nicotine tar . . .gross, eh?”

The side of the machine looked quite different. Are you ready for this?





So now that the machine was clean, I just needed to let it sit outside for a day or two. The cabinet was going to be trickier, because I didn’t want to mess up the beautiful finish. (I’m not totally sure what kind of wood it’s made of, but I’m thinking it’s rich mahagony.) I filled a spray bottle with water and put about 2 -3 tablespoons of baking soda in it. I worked section by section, first spraying the area down with the mixture, then cleaning and scrubbing with a white rag, and finally doing a rinse with vinegar. I really should have taken pics of the rags, man, were they DIRTY and smelly!

An hour or so later, the cabinet had gotten a good cleaning and was looking better. The only problem was now, it smelled like nicotine AND vinegar . . . .nice! I figured the vinegar smell would quickly dissipate and then left the cabinet and machine outside for another day and a half. Fortunately, the two days that the machine/cabinet spent outside were HOT and were filled with wall to wall sunshine . . . good for me and my project. Things were going well and smelling better when I noticed that we were supposed to get some thunderstorms. Rain . . .. not so good for the machine/cabinet. The unit smelled better, but I still wasn’t willing to bring it into the house. What to do? What to do?

Well, I’d read that newspaper or kitty litter were good smell grabber, so I decided to go that route. DH helped me bring the machine into his office and we set it on a giant piece of plastic. Then, I got TONS of newspapers, wadded them up, and filled every empty space with them.

Once I was satisfied with the amount of newspaper, we wrapped the machine up, making sure that it was well sealed.

It sat like this for 3 days. When we opened it up, I was amazed that it didn’t stink anymore! I still didn’t totally believe that the smell had disappeared, there had been, after all, a thick layer of nicotine everywhere, and at least 4-5 burn marks on the cabinet itself. Back outside the machine went for another day or so.

It now happily lives in my sewing room. No, the smell isn’t totally gone. When I’m sitting at the machine and my nose gets really close to the cabinet (while threading a needle or something), I can still smell a little trace of smoke, but it waayyyy better.

Once again, fresh air saves the day!


1. Lara - June 30, 2011

You are incredibly gifted with creative ideas. You amaze me.

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