What is that smell? Why is my guitar case growing some fur? Mold and mildew in your guitar case is never fun.
It’s a sign that you either got your case wet and it didn’t dry, or you’ve been storing it in a damp location with poor humidity control.
How to get rid of mold on a guitar case, and removing mildew are two common questions.
There’s a couple different methods I’m going to recommend depending on whether you have a hard or soft shell case.
Except for extreme cases, you can almost certainly get rid of mold in your guitar case, and restore it to near perfect condition.
Hardshell guitar case with mold or mildew
Hardshell cases are more difficult to clean mold from, than their softshell cousins.
Many hardshell cases have inserts inside of the “hardshell”.
These inserts are usually made of foam, and often lined with a soft carpet like fabric.
Foam and soft fabrics are great at keeping your guitar safe, however, they’re also a perfect spot for mold to grow, if left unchecked.
If cleaning mold and mildew from a hardshell case here’s some things to keep in mind:
- Don’t use too much cleaning solution (you don’t want cardboard components of the case to warp)
- Do not scrub too hard (This can lead to the fabric pulling away from the foam)
- Use warm water, not hot! (Hot water can loosen the adhesive used to keep the case together)
Softshell guitar case with mold or mildew
Softshell cases are going to be much easier to clean, and I’m usually much more harsh on them.
Softshell cases are usually cheap compared to hardshell cases.
If you have a softshell case covered in mold or mildew, consider if you actually want to keep it.
If the mold is really bad I might recommend getting a new case, as softshell cases are fairly cheap.
Softshell guitar cases are much easier to completely eliminate mold from.
This is because softshells can be completely saturated with a cleaning solution that can kill the mold, and then be washed and fully dried.
Some things to keep in mind for cleaning softshell guitar cases with mold or mildew:
- Consider if it’s worth cleaning (cheap guitar cases might not be worth it)
- Use the washing machine, after you brush off the case
- Soak the case in a vinegar solution
How To clean mold and mildew off a guitar gig bag
You’ll need some cleaning supplies, of course.
A soft bristle brush, cleaner, and some cloths or a shop vac/extractor will be everything you need.
For cleaner, I prefer just warm water and dish soap, to remove any possible mold, then warm water and vinegar to kill it off.
I know bleach works well, but I’d rather stick with something a little more natural and less harsh.
Then a light scrubbing of just warm water to get rid of the vinegar smell.
So to clean mold or mildew from a guitar case:
- Brush off any mold off the case with soap and warm water
- Scrub the affected areas with warm water and vinegar
- Rinse the area with warm water, to get rid of vinegar smell
- Leave guitar case to dry, preferable outside in the sunlight
That’s the basics of cleaning out your guitar case, to remove mold or mildew.
Whether it’s a hardshell or softshell case, the process isn’t too different, you just can’t get a hardshell case too wet or else you might run into more problems.
How to get that mold smell out of your guitar case
Chances are, that if you cleaned your guitar case thoroughly you also got rid of the mold or mildew smell.
However, that might not be the case.
If you feel like you thoroughly cleaned the case and once it’s had a day or two to completely dry out, it still smells, here’s what you can do.
For softshells you can soak the case in a bucket of vinegar and water overnight.
Then wash the gig bag in the washing machine and allow to completely dry out (preferable out in the sun on a nice dry day).
Congratulations you’ve traded that mold and mildew smell for a vinegar smell.
I know vinegar isn’t a great smell either, but it will fade quickly.
After a couple weeks the vinegar smell will be cut down to about half and over a couple months should fade completely.
For Hardshell cases that still smell like mold, you can try saturating paper towels in vinegar water solution and laying them on top of the affected areas.
Leave it overnight, ensuring that parts with cardboard inside aren’t affected.
In the morning remove the paper towel and give the case another thorough cleaning.
If after thoroughly cleaning AND drying the case, TWICE, the smell still lingers, there is probably some mold that just cannot be reached without taking the case apart.
At this point you should consider how much you want to save this case, versus buying a new one.
It is possible to remove the inserts inside a hardshell case, but this is a big undertaking, one that I probably wouldn’t find worth the trouble.
Remove mold from guitar case
You now know how to remove mold and mildew smells from you guitar cases and gig bags.
Whether you have a hardshell or softshell case, mold stands no chance.
Just a reminder that the best way to remove mold from a guitar case is to avoid getting it there in the first place.
Guitars and musician gear in general should be stored in a climate controlled area.
Ideally shouldn’t be prone to big swings in temperature or humidity.
If you’re able to keep your gear away from harsh conditions you won’t ever find yourself in a situation where you’ll need to clean mold from your gear.