Smoke smell

Bill Taylor

True Grumbler
Mar 17, 2002
Waterville,Maine 04901
Hi Fellow Framers,

A customer dropped off a couple of pictures that received heavy smoke damage. I'm cutting new mats and backings The glass is no problem, but the customer wants to get rid of the smoke smell on the frames. They look like a gold leaf or metal leaf finish.I was thinking vinegar would work. Any suggestions?
Thanks, Bill
I once deodorized a camel hide coat that had been cured in urine by sealing it in a plastic bag with a lot of activated charcoal for 10 days. Maybe something like that would work for a smoky frame.

Careful cleaning might be enough. Smoke is kind of greasy, and you may need to use ammonia or acetone to cut it.
Most commercial fire damage services use an ozone chamber to remove the smoke smell. The safest way is to let them air out for a few months in the great outdoors or a warehouse area with good air circulation.

Be careful with a clients items if you have never done this type of work before. Some surfaces are removed or damaged even more with water based cleaners along with the dirt. Also the strength of any chemical cleaning solution is important. Too strong and more damage than good can be done as well.
Bill, this is where it is a big difference between good framing and "quality" framing.

Good is expensive, but when push comes to shove. Replace.

Quality framing is expensive, but is always worth the cost to restore, and most importantly CAN be restored.

If this was a chop moulding, more than likely, it's not worth restoring.

Smoke gets into the leaf and the wood. Even zeolite 127 can't negate the damage done. the steps needed are:

1) chamber with Ion generator (ozone) for a few weeks.
2) seal completely with shellac.

3) get customer to pay for all that.

good luck. I've only had one customer in 38 years pay for a restoration from smoke. all others chose a new frame.
Thanks for the feed back Hanna, Jerome and Baer.
I'm loving your answer Baer! It was so obvious I didn't think of it!
Be careful with that ion generator - they are very bad for the health!

The gilt wood can sometimes be cleaned with barely damp cotton swabs, changing frequently, but test, test,test! You can add surfactants to the water to increase cleaning power, but these need to be tested first and rinsed.

Sealing the rabbet with Linco's frame sealing tape might be more effective than shellac as it is impermiable (aluminum).

OK I franenthreading .But I have to ask ,even if no one else does.

Hanna >>>>>>I once deodorized a camel hide coat that had been cured in urine <<<<<

Cured in URINE? But more importantly ,why would anyone do that or keep it afterwards,unless it was revenge from a Camel?LOL

Please enlighten me Hanna.
Buddy, Urine curing or "tanning" is very common in Africa. I have several bracelet with exceptional beading with beads made in the late 1700s by the Boars.

They are very beautiful; just don't let them get damp. :eek: :D

When I was just a little shaver, my mother used to tan our rabbit skins with the hair on. It was about 3 weeks in a weakened solution of battery acid.... so where's the "tannins"?
Because wood is such a porous material it can be infused by the gaseous by products of a fire. The higher temperature in the room and higher pressure literally drives the vapors into the honeycomb we call wood. After the fire the wood continues to "degas" by the principle of diffusion whereby hydrocarbons want to migrate from where there are many (in the frame) to where there are few (the atmosphere). A basic tenet of High School chemistry.

This however is a slow process. Some of the gaseous by products from a fire smell bad a relatively low molecular densities.

One way to speed the process up is to wrap the frame in a cotton cloth to protect it. Buy some 5 or 10 mil polyethylene sheeting and heat seal it or glue the edges, save for one, which will be the opening. In the center of the bag cut a hole and get a sheet of metal or plastic to make a 4 x 4" flange. To this glue a connector to attach to your vacuum source (vacuum cleaner or better Gast, Rotron pump). Place the cloth wrapped article in the patented bag. Seal the opening by folding it several times and clamping it with two wood or metal bars. A slight leak is not a problem.

Pull a vacuum on the bag, with a vacuum cleaner you cannot use it continuously, this is what a vane pump such as the Gast is ideal, it has a longer duty cycle. Creating a vacuum speeds up the degassing of the organics that are embedded in the wood. The time varies depending on the density and thickness of the article. A small amount of heat could also help but be careful not to melt the plastic.

At the Smithsonian they use critically controlled vacuum ovens to dry and degas documents and other artifacts.

Its possible if one had the skills of one Wile E Coyote to build such an oven out of a 55 gallon drum.

The problem with ozone is that it is a highly reactive and corrosive gas. It can oxidize most metals and burn many organic substances (linseed oil, acrylics and painted frames). This is of course with a protracted exposure of several hours and it will indeed oxidize the fires byproducts. Ozone as I said is not selective it does not know which are the desireable organics and the undesirable ones. It gets them all.

You can buy ozone generators from pet stores and if used carefully for a brief time can speed up the process. Sort of like a wash and rinse cycle in the laundry. Ozone and then vacuum.

My 2 denari

Dan Serra
It was a really nice coat. My Grandfather bought it for me in Cairo. He said he didn't know how bad it smelled because the whole bazaar stank. (My niece has it now.) If you have camel dung in the streets, who cares about how you tan the leather?