Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by danac, Jan 23, 2021.

  1. I just bought an old film camera and three lenses. These components are in superb condition with one glaring problem though. They have a very intense mildew odor. I know that mildew is a fungus. Can this spread to other things like my other cameras and camera bags? I've tried cleaning with disinfectant wipes, alcohol and Listerine but nothing seems to help. There is no visual evidence but I will never be able to enjoy my new acquisitions if they have that dreaded smell. And there is the distinct worry that it will spread to my other equipment. I live in a very dry climate and have never had this problem before. What ever can I do???
  2. I once confronted this problem with a small leather camera bag that had developed mildew, After a good rubbing over with a 50/50 water and isopropyl alcohol mixture I let the bag dry in the open air, then put it in a large ziplock plastic bag with a handful of activated charcoal tablets. After a week the odour had disappeared. It might be worth trying; the tablets are usually available from pet supply places.
  3. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Some say UV does the trick - others modest exposure to sunshine (a good bit of the same plus heat). I would keep them away from your other gear. If there is a bag, unless very collectible and worth the trouble to clean - trash.
  4. UV light kills the spores, but leaves them on the gear. Wiping it down with some diluted alcohol/ammonia will kill them and remove them.
    It will also remove some of the smell (particularly of cigarette smoke). Best to leave it to dry and air out somewhere (damp-free) for a few days.

    In a dry climate I wouldn't worry too much about it spreading to other gear. But I'm not a fan of keeping cameras in leather bags or cases.
  5. You will likely not get completely rid of the smell, it will stick to organic material as well as softer compounds such as plastic and leatherette, but it can be minimised.

    To minimise: Throw out anything in the kit that isn't essential; bags, straps, plastic caps etc.
    Get an unscented disinfectant based on "benzalkonium chloride/didecyldimethylammonium chloride". I don't know what brands are available in your market. I buy a product called Rodalon produced by German Brenntag, I seem to recall that a product in the US called Lysol also contains these disinfectants - check for yourself.

    For items that will survive a bath; Filters, Lens Hoods, maybe even a camera back door - let them soak in the recommended solution. Leave them to soak for a good while - then rinse and leave to evaporate in an airy dry place without sun. Sniff and repeat.

    For other surfaces, dab/rub a solution (according to recommendation on the product) on all appropriate surfaces. Wipe with a damp cloth, leave to evaporate in an airy dry place without sun. Sniff and repeat

    I have rarely experienced results until after the third treatment, so be patient and allow plenty of moving air to surround the items.

    After the above process, living organisms will likely be dead, but it is unlikely that the smell is completely eliminated.

    The human nose is genetically tuned into detecting even the faintest traces of mildew, as it can be a matter of survival to avoid it. Neither can you hide it with perfume, so if you really hate the smell, you may consider selling the equipment.

    If you ever froze down a garlic dish in Tupperware, you know that the smell will not disappear from the plastic no matter how many times you wash it - it may disappear very slowly over time though.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2021
  6. I note that in the day (pre-plague) when I was getting cameras from all over the world (Poland, Ukraine, Belorussia, mainland China,...) there were many odor problems, not only mildew. An interesting one was the mahorka tobacco smell from the former Soviet Union, which in that case combined with some interesting animal glue aromas, There was also a hint of fungus, as the camera sniffers say.

    In addition to some of the solutions suggested, I used to buy spray Lysol by the case.o_O
  7. Oh, of course, don't spray anything directly on lenses or camera bodies. Spray on a soft rag and wipe.
  8. If the smell doesn't go away despite all efforts to eliminate it I will not hesitate to sell these things. There would be no enjoyment in their use otherwise. The seller advertised that returns were not possible. I will not hide the fact that they have an odor. That should make selling rather difficult. Live and learn.I have my wonderful Canons and they don't stink.

Share This Page