How to Get Smoke Smell Out of Vintage Lamps

EmmJayAugust 6, 2014

I just got the latest item the vintage goodies that I'm ordering for my new home. It's a pair of lamps with glass bases that have a green plastic coating (see attached photo).

They must have spent a lot of time in a smoker's home because they have that distinctive smell. which I'm guessing is embedded in the plastic colored coating and base/bottoms, which are also plastic. Being old, there's already some flaking off of the color. Normally, I'd douse them with vinegar, but I don't want to cause any additional damage. I certainly don't want to bring that smoke smell into a brand new house, so I'd love any other suggestions on how to get rid of it delicately, without harming the lamps.

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Fun2BHere

You might try tying them up in a bag with activated charcoal or baking soda for a week and see if that helps.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:19PM
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EmmJay

That is a wonderful idea! Thanks so much. I'm afraid of using liquid and rubbing/scrubbing in any way, but good old baking soda shouldn't harm them at all. I'm going to give that a try.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:57PM
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Olychick

I've taken scents out of old furniture and trunks by crumpling a BUNCH of newspaper and stuffing it into the smelly piece. I would try doing that by placing the lamps in a garbage bag full of the crumpled newspapers. Leave for a week, replace the newspaper, keep doing it until the scent is gone.

So if the charcoal doesn't work, or the baking soda, give it a try.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 11:56PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

The problem is the smell is from the oils and tar in the nicotine and until that is removed, the smell will remain. I suppose you could try to spray it with febreeze.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 6:50AM
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tibbrix

Call a reputable antique store and ask them. They'll know.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 8:02AM
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jan_in_wisconsin

I know for antique furniture with a musty smell, that a coat of shellac seals it, however, that (or something similar) may not be an option with these pretty lamps.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 8:40AM
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mclarke

Oh boy. I looked at your photo and said to myself, "She'll never get the smell out." (Ask me how I know.)

My only advice is to find someone who is handy with small electrical appliances and have them TOTALLY dismantle the lamps. Replace the cords, the plugs and the sockets, because those are porous materials and will hold the smoke smell. Everything else... soak in vinegar, scrub with baking soda, reassemble the lamps and hope for the best.

Good luck to you. They are very pretty,

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:41AM
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EmmJay

Uh oh, mclarke, why do I suspect you've had your own similar experience? We were already planning to rewire because I'm rather paranoid about electricity and fire (buying a house where the electricians screwed up, causing two scary incidents, will do that to you). I don't think the bases will hold up to much scrubbing, but maybe if I replace the rest and put them in baking soda and newspaper isolation for a while, it will at least make things tolerable if they get a daily spritz of Febreeze. I know enough to ask about smoking for most items I buy online, but it never crossed my mind for lamps.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:49AM
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joaniepoanie

Maybe try washing them with a little diluted dishwashing soap like Dawn and then leaving them out in the open air on a covered porch or patio for a few days would do it.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 11:33AM
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WMA89

You could always repaint the bases if the finish gets a little damaged during the cleaning process. I metallic spray paint followed by a dark glaze would work well I think.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 2:05PM
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vedabeeps

I'm a vintage dealer, primarily 30s-early 60s clothing (when smoking was considered glamorous,) so I deal with this all the time. White vinegar is your best bet but start with Dawn, well diluted first. Get your qtips out and get in all those nooks and crannies. Test a tiny hidden spot first, of course. Dilute if necessary and repeat as necessary. Options are sunlight (for the ozone,) or actual ozone treatments (often offered by furriers.)

Do NOT use febreeze (which only makes it smell like smoke and febreeze.) Newspaper, baking soda and kitty litter really aren't all that effective (as someone mentioned, until you break down that sticky nicotine coating the smell will always return.)

Best of luck!

This post was edited by VedaBeeps on Thu, Aug 7, 14 at 14:25

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 2:22PM
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tibbrix

How about rubbing alcohol with q-tips? That's what I use to get remote controls cleaned up of gunk. And since it's alcohol, it dries very quickly so can't do damage. I think.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 2:28PM
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vedabeeps

Rubbing alcohol is a pretty strong solvent. You would have to spot test in an inconspicuous place for sure.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 2:34PM
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WMA89

Delete duplicate post.

This post was edited by WMA89 on Thu, Aug 7, 14 at 22:10

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 4:00PM
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mclarke

Ditto to what VedaBeeps said. Steer clear of Febreeze, which (contrary to its advertising claims) doesn't remove any odor.... it just covers the odor with another odor.

I once had a houseguest who, upon her departure, proudly announced that she had "Febreezed everything" in the guestroom.

My heart sank. I hate the smell of Febreeze. I had to have everything -- EVERYTHING -- professionally cleaned to remove that sickening smell.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 12:58PM
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marti8a

Another option, but not cheap, is to take them somewhere for an ozone treatment. I called about a pickup we just bought, and an hour with the machine is $150. That guy will come here though.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 1:18PM
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ILoveRed

Are you sure they don't have smoke damage from a house fire?

We had a house fire in 2003. You can't get that smell out of plastics. Even with a good cleaning and "ozone".

The lamps are great.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 11:14AM
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