How to Remove Cigarette Smell
from Clock Cases
Antique Clocks Guy Reference Library

"I get by with a little help from my friends..."

Some years back we had a beautiful nested-bell Gazo "San Gabriel" clock come to us as a physical consignment. It had apparently "suffocated" in a heavy smoker's home for eons. We are not smokers and have no friends with that insidious habit, so we were olfactorily offended by the stench emanating from that otherwise beautiful piece of horology. We became resolute in our determination to overcome the aroma before we sold and shipped the clock. Only an anosmic could live with it unless we intervened with a serious remediation plan. Here's what we learned:

At some point, you have managed to acquire a lovely clock with a wooden case. But what do you do if that wonderful timekeeper has a not-so-lovely smell? Unfortunately, wood tends to hold the smell of cigarette smoke for years, so if your clock has been in a smoking household, it may have a pretty unpleasant aroma to it. Don't worry though, with a little bit of elbow-grease you should be able to eliminate that disgusting cigarette smell.

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You'll Need

• Borax
• White Vinegar
• Baking Soda
• Lemon or Orange Oil
• Soft Cloths
• A Pile of Determination

Step One
Before attempting the following, we suggest that the mechanism be completely removed from the clock case. Then, put some white vinegar in a spray bottle, and lightly spritz it on the wood's surface. Wipe off excess liquid with a soft cloth to avoid staining. You will want to repeat this step multiple times until you are no longer getting a really brown cloth from the nicotene residue on the case.

Step Two
Baking soda can also help with removing the smell. Place a bowl of baking soda inside the cabinet, and then close it up for a few days. The baking soda will absorb much of the odor. If you don't have baking soda, you can use ground coffee in the same way, but we think baking soda is your best bet.

Step Three
Lemon (or orange) oil can also be very useful for eliminating smoky smells. If the case doesn’t have a buildup of nicotine on it, also try wiping it down with Murphy's Oil Soap, in the lemon-scented version. This not only gets rid of the cigarette smell, it also leaves the case looking nice and smelling fresh.

Step Four
Use witch hazel. This is an astringent which can be found in the pharmacy section of your grocery store or at your neighborhood CVS or Walgreens. Mix ½ cup witch hazel with a few drops of liquid dish soap. Using a soft scrubbing pad, gently rub the mixture into the wood. To wipe off, use a warm, damp washcloth. This should help neutralize the cigarette odor.

Step Five
Finally, remember that some odors are caused not by the smoke itself, but by a nicotine residue. Nicotine is an acid, so to remove it you'll need an alkaline-based cleanser. Borax, baking soda and most laundry soaps are alkaline-based. Combine ½ tsp. of any of these with a quart of warm water, and spray it on the furniture. Wipe it off and follow it with a white vinegar rinse. If the smell is really strong, you may need to do more than one application.

Tips & Warnings

If at all possible, do these treatments outside or in your garage. That will help prevent your house from smelling like vinegar or Borax... or cigarettes.

It was our experience that we had to repeat this process numerous times over a period of a week or so, then, "Oh, what a relief it was!"

We wish you much determination, happy trails... and many congenial fragrances!

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