Musty smell on very old camera bags

Quadna71

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I recently inherited two cameras that are 60 & 75 years old. While the cameras and the bags are all in great shape both mechanically and visually, the bags both have a very musty smell. I believe they had been stored in the back of a sloped closet up against the logs of a log cabin and often it can be damp up there. I don’t see anything actually growing (mold & mildew) but they won’t shake the smell. I’m picking up a couple boxes of baking soda to start with - placing them in sealed ziploc bags with the baking soda for a week and see if that helps. I’ve also read to try wiping them down well with a 50/50 mix of warm water and isopropyl alcohol and I might do that before putting in the sealed bags. Any other ideas? I did leave them outside for about 6 hours a day in the sun for 3 days and that didn‘t put a dent in it. Both bags are originals and I really want to keep them with the cameras.

Thanks!
 

RAH

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I understand your desire to get rid of the smell from the bags and also keep the cameras in the bags. But I think what I would worry about is mold in the cameras/lenses. Isn't that supposed to be something that happens to lenses?

Even if you could get the bags to smell OK (i.e. not smell), I think I'd be a little worried about storing the lenses in those bags. Mold is really hard to detect till it's too late, I think. I suppose you could "keep the bags with the cameras" without actually storing the cameras inside the bags.
 

BDR-529

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The only way to really get rid of foul smell and kill mold is ozone generator. Nowadays you can even buy one cheaply but companies who specialize in car upholstery cleaning etc will have industrial models. (try for example Amazon with "Ozone generator").

Get a large airtight plastic bag and let the ozone generator blast in as long as needed, even a couple of days. Ozone content must be very hight in order to actually kind mold spores. Also: do not do this in-house or even in garage because this amount of ozone is not good for your health.

Remember that ozone can only go where air goes so very thick organic material like leather might still contain mold inside, It can oxidize materials like foams, rubber, plastics etc so better try it first shortly if bags contain anything like this.

UV-C is very good at killing everything but it's even more limited to surfaces which you can just wipe clean in this case. UV-C is also very good at bleaching dyes. As a rule of a thump: anything strong enought to kill mold is also strong enought to break other chemical bonds too. Hydrogen peroxide is a well known mold killer but it's also known as a rocket fuel.
 
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PakkyT

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Are the bags something that can get wet and can be hand washed? Or are they things like velvet glued to cardboard type construction?
 

Brownie

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How about the 'good old fashioned way'.

Set them out in the sun, open. IF there is any mold or fungus the sun will kill it. It will also go a long way toward the odor problem.
 

ex machina

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I usually solve this problem by putting a small dish of white vinegar inside the case or bag, or put both inside an airtight container if the bag is too small, leave for a week or so. Works great.
 

Quadna71

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I understand your desire to get rid of the smell from the bags and also keep the cameras in the bags. But I think what I would worry about is mold in the cameras/lenses. Isn't that supposed to be something that happens to lenses?
I did a light restoration on the Jiiffy when it was first sent to me. The lens was very grimy but no mold. The camera itself is holding some odors , likely the leather/wood construction, so whatever solution I come up with for the bags is what I will also try on the camera. Fortunately the Brownie Twin is spotless and it’s plastic/metal construction seems to help it not absorb the odors. The restoration on the Jiffy is HERE.


The only way to really get rid of foul smell and kill mold is ozone generator. Nowadays you can even buy one cheaply but companies who specialize in car upholstery cleaning etc will have industrial models. (try for example Amazon with "Ozone generator").
I think ideally this would be a great fix but I’m unwilling to spend that much on it. They are mementos from my family and will stay with me and the odor is just a minor annoyance. In fact I feel the longer they live in my house the less they might smell (and the more my house my slightly increase as they even out!)


Are the bags something that can get wet and can be hand washed? Or are they things like velvet glued to cardboard type construction?
I think both are fine. I did scrub the Jiffy’s bag well with isopropyl alcohol when I was first working on the camera over the holidays. But then once it dried I gave it a good treatment with mink oil to try and soften and clean the leather. I have a fear in my mind that I may have now locked the odor inside the leather, but we will see how the baking soda works out.


How about the 'good old fashioned way'.
Set them out in the sun, open. IF there is any mold or fungus the sun will kill it. It will also go a long way toward the odor problem.
I did that with both of the bags. Probably a total of 18 hours outside on my patio table over 3 days with direct sunshine. I flipped them each day too. Didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

Here is the Jiffy‘s case being treated, the Brownie case, and both cameras. I also scored a box of original flash bulbs and two rolls of film to try out. Waiting for a good time to try them. We are vacationing in upstate New York this Aug/Sep so I may bring them along for hiking and try my luck. Go big or go home, right?
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Quadna71

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I usually solve this problem by putting a small dish of white vinegar inside the case or bag, or put both inside an airtight container if the bag is too small, leave for a week or so. Works great.
I’ll try this next if the baking soda doesn’t pan out. Or, maybe I’ll try this even IF the baking soda doesn’t pan out. I don’t mind experimenting a little. I’m not certain if it is an original bag for the Brownie. The age is pretty old evident from the small teeth on the metal zipper, but for all I know my mom switched it out when she was a kid. The bag for the Jiffy is definitely original and fits the camera like a glove. So that is the one of my most concern. Both cameras are in great shape though so I want to keep them protected both when on the desk and when taking them out on the road.

I also have a Yashica Electro GSN 35mm rangefinder that was my dad’s on the desk too, but I don’t have the case for it. He passed long ago and I think my youngest brother misplaced the case before I was able to rescue it from him. So I’m always on the lookout for the molded Yashica case that fits it. Lots on eBay in varying condition but sometimes the price of the case is more than the price of a camera. Might end up buying a whole new camera in order to get the case for mine!

Lastly, I have my grandpa’s Baby Brownie Special that he took with him when traveling the world in the Army Air Corps. I’ve yet to run a roll through it but might get up the nerve someday.

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Brownie

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I did a light restoration on the Jiiffy when it was first sent to me. The lens was very grimy but no mold. The camera itself is holding some odors , likely the leather/wood construction, so whatever solution I come up with for the bags is what I will also try on the camera. Fortunately the Brownie Twin is spotless and it’s plastic/metal construction seems to help it not absorb the odors. The restoration on the Jiffy is HERE.



I think ideally this would be a great fix but I’m unwilling to spend that much on it. They are mementos from my family and will stay with me and the odor is just a minor annoyance. In fact I feel the longer they live in my house the less they might smell (and the more my house my slightly increase as they even out!)



I think both are fine. I did scrub the Jiffy’s bag well with isopropyl alcohol when I was first working on the camera over the holidays. But then once it dried I gave it a good treatment with mink oil to try and soften and clean the leather. I have a fear in my mind that I may have now locked the odor inside the leather, but we will see how the baking soda works out.



I did that with both of the bags. Probably a total of 18 hours outside on my patio table over 3 days with direct sunshine. I flipped them each day too. Didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

Here is the Jiffy‘s case being treated, the Brownie case, and both cameras. I also scored a box of original flash bulbs and two rolls of film to try out. Waiting for a good time to try them. We are vacationing in upstate New York this Aug/Sep so I may bring them along for hiking and try my luck. Go big or go home, right?
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Those Twin 20's are cool. You can use them as direct viewfinder or a pseudo TLR. Kind of an outlier among the Brownie series, there are also some basic lens adjustments. I recently bought one still in the box, everything but the flashbulbs.

Regarding the bags, as I said it will start the deodorizing. However, if they were in the sun for 18 hours you should have zero concerns about mold or fungus.
 

Quadna71

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I can’t believe how good of shape the Twin is in. It looks like she barely used it! So how long should I leave it in the bag with the baking soda? A few days? I’m going to open it up in the morning to stir soda a little to freshen it and then seal it back up.
 

ex machina

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I can’t believe how good of shape the Twin is in. It looks like she barely used it! So how long should I leave it in the bag with the baking soda? A few days? I’m going to open it up in the morning to stir soda a little to freshen it and then seal it back up.
I always thought baking soda was good for absorbing odors -- that's why people would buy it for their refrigerators -- but only deodorized by direct contact? The white vinegar method deodorizes via vapor action that wafts into the material and breaks down the odorant. I'm curious to hear how it works for you.
 

Brownie

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Baking soda can be left in the box. Just ear the top off. But, I'm not sure it's going to work like that, it's more of a preemptive strike than a response.
 

Quadna71

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So after 72 hours of the smaller case and a fresh box being sealed in a gallon ziploc bag I’m happy to announce…..it did nothing. Bummer too - I was hoping it might be that simple. Oh, and while the one case was bagged up the other spent the past 3 1/2 days sitting outside in the sun and breeze from 7:30am to 7:30pm and still is the same. We have family coming to town in a day or two so time to refocus on lawn and house so it looks nice. First house guests in over 14 months! I’ll move along to other remedies soon and let you know how they are panning out.
 
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