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Author Topic: How to get rid of tobacco smoke smell on mics, etc  (Read 6935 times)

Posts: 35

« on: December 29, 2007, 10:20:02 PM »

I recently purchased a much sought OEM base station microphone used on eBay described as in "good condition".

What the seller did not disclose (nor did I think to ask) is that it reeked of tobacco (probably cigarette) smoke, and the originally white plastic buttons were actually yellow where the smoker's nicotine-stained fingers had touched them.

How do I get rid of the awful smell? I cannot even get my  face close to this microphone to speak into it without smelling the horrible stench! It would be nice to be able to clean up the whole base, gooseneck and mic body and screen as well, especially the yellowed plastic keys if possible.

What can I use that will not damage this delicate equipment and how do I apply it?

Thanks for any thoughtful and successful ideas!

73 es tnx de W0DER (ex-KC0JBJ)


Posts: 196


« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2007, 02:02:38 AM »

Contrary to what many people think electronics can be cleaned with soapy water followed by rinsing thoroughly with clean tap water and drying. This will not hurt anything.
I had very smelly smokers stuff and cleaned it that way with good results. Be patient and make sure the equipment is completely dried out before reconnecting.

Drying can be speeded up by blowing warm air (not too hot) with a hair dryer or similar equipment.
Disassemble the equipment as far as possible.

Posts: 3585

« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2007, 04:37:43 AM »

It is true that soap and water will remove tobacco tar and related products. It's also true that water and microphone elements do not mix. As I found out at considerable expense.

I would disassemble the mike, taking plenty of pictures and making sketches at every step, set the element and any electronic parts aside and put the rest in the dishwasher. If that knocks the odor down to a tolerable level, reassemble in reverse order.

If the odor is still intolerable, the internal parts EXCEPT the mike element itself would probably benefit from a soakdown with electronic cleaner and a few days of sunshine and breezes.

You can safely wipe down the outside of an electret mike element, which usually looks like a rather large pill with a few small holes on one end. If you can see any part of the microphone element's diaphragm (usually looks like a flat or slightly domed piece of foil) a wipe down of the diaphragm support structure with solvent dampened tissue may be in order - but at all costs do not touch the diaphragm, nor allow solvent to enter the element case.

Good luck on the project. I am working on a very expensive accordion with the same problem. It plays great - outside in a stiff breeze!

73  Pete Allen AC5E

Posts: 364

« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2007, 05:41:18 AM »

As Pete has suggested, I would never immerse certain parts in any liquid. Good quality Q-tips and some non-agressive cleaner is probably the safest bet for reachable components. Patience needs to be added to this mixture.

There is another approach which I highly recommend you at least look into. Most janitorial supply companies are stocked these days with a variety of odor neutralizing products. They range from sprays, to mixable liquids, to crystals. As the term says, they neutralize the odor and not simply mask it. Some of the large pet supply stores that have sprung up everywhere also carry some of these products. Febreze is an odor neutralizer for clothing and upholstery and can be found in the laundry products area of super markets. I have used all of these for one purpose or another. The crystals I have look more like porous lava rock chips and are in a mesh bag. The pet stores carry them. An object placed in a large plastic bag along with the crystals and left for a while has come out odor free.

For the outside of equipment I use a diluted solution of Windex to clean and follow with wiping it down with a tiny bit of STP's Son-Of-A-Gun on a clean lint free piece of cotton fabric. That's an eBay trick to make things look nice. About the only place I can find the STP stuff these days is at Wally World.

This might be too much information, but all work for one purpose or another. And don't forget to pick up some patience and good Q-tips while shopping. The best Q-tips are the kind the YL's and XYL's use for make up and nails. They are tightly bonded and don't leave cotton fibers behind in the cleaning process.

Pete, you might try some of these products on your accordian. When you're done you could probably play a "sweet" song with your eyes closed. :-)

Good luck ....and good patience,


Posts: 4450

« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2007, 05:58:31 AM »

Almost every supermarket / drug store / big box place like Tar-Wal-Get carries 'cosmetic pads' in the Health & Beauty Aids section. Look for cotton pads approximately 1.5" square or the round kind (which are thicker) and typically sold in a bag of 300 for about two bucks.

Pick up a bottle of isopropyl alcohol if you can't find yours at home. Total cost should be around three bucks for the combo. Although the pads tend to leave some lint (which can be easily blown or brushed away with a small paint brush) they are very absorbent and a good cleaning tool as they tend to pull crud into the pad and hold it. Go light on the alcohol, be generous in changing the pads often. Disassemble the mic as needed to clean it inside and out.

As for the yellowed plastic bar, squirt a little dishwashing or liquid hand soap into a coffee mug and add warm water. Mix. Let the bar soak in the liquid overnight or longer. If you have a gas range in the kitchen park the cup over the pilot light so it stays warm. Should brighten up the plastic and give you a clean coffee mug...............

...says a lot about our society that Martin Shkreli went to prison for defrauding investors but not for price gouging lifesaving medication   -   Ken Klippenstein

Posts: 428

« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2007, 07:40:55 AM »

Wrap it in a VERY TIGHT and SEALED plastic bag and burry it WAY DEEP in the outside trash can.  Go back to EBAY and get one that states NON-SMOKER.

I have never found a way that completely removes the harsh oder of smoker exposed equipment.  

What is sad is that the fellow who sat in front of that old mic has that stuff in his loungs!

Gary - W5GNB

Posts: 6252

« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2007, 07:43:09 AM »

I would also go the liquid soap route--but not dishwashing liquid.  I've found that the Wal Mart brand--Equate--clear antibacterial hand soap will do a better cleaning job than dish liquid on a lot of things.

I would go easy on the electronics also, but the housing and the ptt buttons can be cleaned with paper toweling and a soft toothbrush to get into the crevasses and angles.  That soap also rinses cleanly away very easily.  To get rid of the yellowing, you may have to soak and polish, depending on the severity of the staining.

Posts: 6606

« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2007, 08:50:12 AM »

For the cleaning, I normally try using isopropyl alcohol first.  If possible, use the 90+% solutions... this works well and leaves little residue.  For smell, wipe down with a water/baking soda solution, and rinse.
DO NOT get the microphone elements too wet!
Most eqpt can be made "acceptable" this way!
Good luck!


Posts: 5688

« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2007, 09:50:23 AM »

After dissassembly and carefully removing the mic element itself, setting it aside, I've had great results cleaning tobacco completely off of plastic cases, etc. by using, believe it or not, "Miracle Formula 409" and a toothbrush.  

It also completely eliminates the smell rather rapidly.  

It may help to wear rubber gloves here.  

After the cleaning, okay to rinse with tap water and then let thoroughly dry before reassembly.  

Mic elements can be problematic, though, avoid letting any amount of moisture into Electret Condenser buttons, kiss of death.  If the element is an older dynamic or ceramic type with metal diaphragm, you can usually get away with lightly wiping off the outside of the capsule and the diaphragm with a diluted one to one solution of that 409 on the end of cotton swabs.  

Any foam or material screening can be problematic, though, best answer is to replace if at all possible, second choice is to try soaking in the diluted 409.  


Posts: 504

« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2007, 03:27:14 PM »

Try an air ionizer in a small box.

Posts: 560


« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2007, 04:56:51 PM »

I would not buy anything that has been exposed to smoke.  As for us non smokers I don't think you could get rid of it 100 %.  Especially a microphone. I bet every once and a while you would still get a faint smell. Sell it and try to find a different one.

Posts: 1757

« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2007, 12:50:45 AM »

I would perform a thorough cleaning and then expose it to ozone for a week or more, depending on the density of the o3.

73 de N4CR, Phil

Never believe an atom. They make up everything.

Posts: 159

« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2009, 02:21:19 PM »

I got stuck with an Icom 7000 owned by a smoker. I wouldn't have purchased it if I had known, but it slipped my mind to ask.
I cleaned the external surfaces of the radio and mike with 409. I then put the whole thing in a big plastic bag with a couple dryer sheets. It took a couple months before the microphone was good. That wasn't a big issue because I have never used the radio on SSB to this day.

I thought you said this was a weak signal mode ? I HAVE a weak signal and he still didn't hear me.

FWIW: My callsign is AB8KT

Posts: 1

« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2009, 04:51:41 PM »

The best thing I do with used mics is throw them out.  There are sanitary issues with a mic since they are spit collectors.  I don't want my mouth very close to a mic that has been spit in for a few years, smoke or no smoke.

Posts: 436

« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2009, 07:34:31 PM »

Can you purchase a new mic cartrige? If so, I'd go with a new cartridge and steralize everything else.

That will get it clean and no smell. Now let's work on the plastic. A while back I read an article on the net about people who collect old computer games and the problem with the plastic turning yellow. Apparently the yellowing is not due to smoke, it's the flame retardents in the plastic reacting to UV. Google around and you should find a couple of links for how to correct this. I think they used hydrogen peroxide, but I don't remember for sure.

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