Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mildew Issues with the Featherweight

       Mildew / Musty Smell
From: Shelley440
Subject: Regarding that smell....

Regarding that smell, believe me they all have it.  One case, I actually
ripped the lining out of due to the mold.  I was able to get rid of most of
it on another by washing the box out with a soapy clorox rag and leaving it
in the sunshine for a couple of days.  Also put a small bag of regular grind
coffee in there too - that soaks up odor.  My experience is that the machines
themselves only smell after being in the box for a long time and that the
smell actually comes from the box.  Leaving mine out for a length of time,
usually gets rid of the smell.
From:  (Anabeth Dollins)
Subject: FW in Pittsburgh

I acquired my 1934 FW in May from a woman in my textile arts guild. It
belonged to her mother and she learned to sew on it. The poor machine had
sat in a damp basement for the last 20 years and it had that musty smell
that everyone talks about.  During August, when it was above 90 degrees
every day -- hot and dry -- it occurred to me to put the case in the attic
to bake. It worked! The smell is no longer there! The machine works like a
dream; all I need is a handle. The one on the case is ready to fall off.
From: Nursejodi
...and when my little friend was returned, it had a very bad mildew
problem.  I cleaned it up, but it still has that distinctive smell :( !  I
have tried airing, sunning, crumpled newspaper, all to no end...

Try a mild solution of spin and span with clorox.  It will not hurt the paint
and it will kill the mildew.  Be sure to rinse it off throughly and dry it.
From: Marilyn Root  Subject: New Featherweights

About the odor in the cases - I don't have this problem but thought it
might help to close the case in a big plastic bag with a box of baking
soda. Also if the odor is caused by moisture, maybe put kitty litter in
the bag or silica gel which is used to dry flowers.

Subject: That old smell

Robbi Ecklow posted a note to quiltnet that she got rid of the old smell in
her Featherweight by using "lava rocks" which she purchased at Bed, Bath and
Beyond.  I haven't bought  them...I agree with Janice who posted that she
enjoyed the smell.

Subject: Featherweight fragrance

Last year, I tried washing out the inside of the case and then airing it
outside in full sun and it did help with the smell for a while.  Yesterday, I
had a brainstorm,  first i cleaned the inside with a dilute bleach solution
paying special attention to the corners and crevices and then I baked the
open case in the hottest place I could think of, my car.  We are just
starting indian summer here it was 90 outside and probably 120 or so in the
car.  I did the case in early morning, and didnot have to use the car all
day.  when I took it out this evening,  it smelled pretty good.  I think i'll
try keeping an open bag of kitty litter in there this winter.

Subject: Musty Odors

My FW also had an awful mildewy/musty odor when I first purchased it.  I took
the advice of several people and wiped down my case with a mild clorox
solution.  I then put the case on my deck for several days on the really hot
days during summer and it did a great job on most of the odor.  When I
brought my case inside, I just couldn't make myself put kitty litter or any
of the other remedies in my case.  Instead, I stuffed about 5 scented dryer
sheets in the case and when I open it.......  ummmm.... it smells sooooo
good.  You might want to give it a try and see if it works for you.

I also think that putting your case in a HOT & DRY area for awhile as I've
seen some of you have posted is a good idea.  I know that the airing on the
deck sure helped mine.  I wish I had had this list earlier when I got my
machine.  I felt like I was stumbling around in the dark trying to fix my
problem.  Ain't life grand now?!!!!!!!
Subject: Musty Odor

Hi- There has been much talk about removing the musty odor
from featherweight cases. Somebody on Prodigy once suggested
the following: Call the U.S.Dept. of Agriculture, Pocatello
Supply Depot in Pocatello, Idaho, and buy some stuff called
"Neutroleum Alpha". It is a highly concentrated odor
remover. You will only need a small bottle, it will go a
long way. It comes with instructions and cautions, etc.
They will send it out to you with a bill, mine took about 3
weeks to arrive. I took the FW out of the case, put some of
this stuff on a cotton ball and dropped it in the case,
which I left closed up for several days. Sure does smell
better now. The phone number for the Pocatello Supply Depot
is (208)236-6920.

Let us all know if it works for you.

From: Lynda Carswell 
Subject: "FO" - Featherweight Odor

Here is a method that I have used pretty successfully to eliminate the
dreaded "Featherweight Odor".    first i wash the inside of the case with a
dilute bleach solution  (remember, "do as you otter,  add the bleach to the
water")   then I let it dry out in the hottest place that I know,  a car
with all of the windows closed, on a sunny day.  I bake the case in the
closed car in direct sun for as long as possible. This is usually pretty
successful,  but in very stubborn cases may need to be repeated.  If your
winters are damp,  you may need to repeat this every summer.

I find that it is usually the case, not the machine that has "FO",  and the
machine just needs to be aired out.
From: "gary w. candlish" 
Subject: Mold and Mildew in the case

Referring the question about mold and mildew in the case.  Try wiping out with a
damp cloth and dry.  Then put baking soda in a cup or bowl to absorb the smell.
If this fails try spraying with lysol and set out in the sun.  May take several
tries.  I tried the lysol method on my flute case that had been stored for
years.  It worked for that.  Hopefully the sun will arrive soon so you can try
the lysol/sun method.  Let me know if it works for you.     Carol in cold and
wet MN.
From: Subject: Featherweight Odor

)here is a method that I have used pretty successfully to eliminate the
)dreaded "Featherweight Odor".

You might want to try kitty litter.  I have put kitty litter in musty
smelling suitcases and it works!   I would air the machine outside on a nice
dry day first to get rid of as much musty smell as possible.

Also, you might check out some of the products one uses to get rid of doggy
odor. I have two dogs & two cats and believe me I *need* an odor control at
times -- especially in skunk season.
From:  (Lynn Laughrin)
Subject: FW case odor

I have been following the trail of  FW case odor and offer these hints
from my experience. I too am highly allergic to molds and have a violent
sneezing and shortness of breath when opening the FW case, so I am pretty
convinced that white powdery stuff is mold. My guess is that in the
history of these FW cases that most were stored on the floor of a dark closet
until needed. Not likely that the original owners kept the case in a dry, airy
place for too long if the machines were originally purchased for mending.
(we make much better use of them nowdays!)

POSSIBLE SOLUTION: I wiped the inside and outside of my FW case with Lysol
and put it in the sun to dry. This was not too effective since in near the
beach in SO CA near it is never really "dry". Baking soda had only minimal
effect and did not get rid of the odor.

BETTER SOLUTION: So I came up with the following for mild mold cases based
on a theory about glue.

1.Keep the FW case in a dry upstairs room, up off the floor, with lots of
air circulation. Never in a dark closet or on the floor.

2. Place GEL SILICATE packages in the case when it is closed. I got
several in boxes along with new shoes. These little packages absorb the moisture
inside the case. So far, the odor is greatly reduced and no new white mold
has grown on either the inside or outside of the case in 2 years. The odor
is very slight and I can live in the same room with the case.

3. Perhaps those of you who have had success with other remedies live in
dryer climates for at least part of a year. Near the beach we experience
dampness and fog daily so there is no way to get the case completely dry,
but providing the gel silicate bags seems to do a pretty good job in
creating a better environment for the inside of the case. It might be
better for the machine too as it would cut down on moisture trapped inside
and prevent rust to machine parts.

This is just a guess, but I think the GLUE used in the case construction
is the reason why FW is the culprit. My case has a vinyl cloth on the inside
and that would certainly trap moisture between the box and the cloth.
Hide, rabbit skin,animal hoofs and blood are often used in woodworking and
to "paper" or size canvas. I remembered that in art class we learned to
prepare rabbit skin glue/sizing for our oil paint canvases. Each can of
dry crystals came with a gel silicate package inside and we were instructed to
keep the glue crystals in a dry place. Our instructor told us that rabbit
skin glue (and I would guess this is true for hide or hoof glues too)
tends to mold easily. This type of glue is effective in sealing the linen canvas
from the paint oils and in drawing up the canvas tight to the frame.

It occurred to me that perhaps these older FW cases might be made from
pressed cardboard, wood or pressed sawdust and they may have used this
cheap and effective glue. All the hide glues are still used in industry
and for woodworking, although there are better glues available today.
The glue crystals, prepared with hot water, will deteriorate quickly and
mold when cooled--they must not have been stabilized with an agent to
prevent molds. It is highly likely that these cases were made with animal
glues, but even if wheat paste glues were used, the result would also be
mold formation.
Anyway, that's my two cents worth. Hope it helps. --Lynn

Lynn Laughrin ------------------

Subject: Featherweight's black box
I just wanted to tell everyone what I had done to my "black" FW box.

The carrying box that came with my FW machine was totaled out.  A real
mess!!!  It had sat in a mildew basement for a long time by the looks and
SMELL of it!  PHEW!!
Anyway, the black cloth was very loose and barely attached on the edges only.
Amazingly enough though, both the latches and handle were intact.

I've heard that a few people have refinished the wood underneath, so I gave
it a whirl.  After ripping (holding my nose at the same time) the mildewy
black cloth off, I had to re-glue most of the box.  It had come apart all
over.  The bottom was out and the lid fell off, along with a lot of places on
the sides.  Each side of the box is made up of about 4 sections of wood in
varying widths and then glued together.  The corners are "finger jointed"
(notches that interlock together with the other side corners).  This helped
in the re-glue-ing process.

After glueing, I sanded it well and stained it with "Min-wax" puritain pine
color, painted the inside with black paint, then varnished it.  WellAhhhh!!!
I now have a beautiful wood stained box for my FW to reside in.

It really does look nice and smells a whole lot better too!  It's not "black"
anymore but heck, it's still my FW box, and now usuable.

So don't give up hope if your FW box is a disaster.  I'm here to say "What's
underneath is just as beautiful (if not more!)"   :)))
From: Mark & Linda Heminway 
Subject: Re: smelly machine

> I have a featherweight that I love but my family thinks it smells.  If I have
> had it out during the day and put it away before husband comes home, he says
> he can still "smell" that machine and I haven't even told him I was using it.
> This weekend my 12 year old daughter and I are going to a quilt camp and I
> want her to enjoy the sewing time - how can I make my featherweight smell
> "fresh"?

First, leave the machine out of it's case for awhile.  Most of the
machines pick up the odor from their cases, I believe it is the glue
used in the cases that creates that lovely smell.  Put the case with an
opened box of safeguard soap in a sealed plastic bag aside for at least
three weeks.
Then, if you want to to eliminate the odor from the machine, take off
the plate from the bottom of the machine.  You will find a felt like
gasket under that plate.  Take it out and trace it onto an old pizza box
or other similar cardboard.  Cut out the new replacement gasket and put
it in place of the felt like one.  The felt like material can absorb
odors and make the machine smell badly, also the spool felt can absorb
odors as well.  You can get replacement spool felt discs at any Singer
dealer.  Once you have replaced these felt items, and leave the machine
out of the case for a few weeks, the machine's odor should go from
strong to mild and possibly nonexistent over time.  This idea was
suggested to me a long time ago by the late Dale Pickens and it works
like a charm.

I have tried so many methods, in the past, to get my case to smell
better, including airing outdoors, activated charcoal, baking soda,
fabric softener sheets, baking soda, cedar, etc., etc. and nothing works
like the safeguard soap - no other brand seems to do the trick.  BTW,
the odor won't leave completely, but I keep the opened box of soap in my
case all the time and it is just "ok" with that.  I only put the machine
in the case to transport from one place to another, then it is taken out
immediately once I am at my destination.
One other thing, I saved the original felt gasket from the underside of
my FW, the pizza box remains in place.  I sealed it in a zip lock bag
(so it didn't smell up other things) and just left it.  I didn't want to
discard any original parts to my machine.


Anonymous said...

I have had my machine out of the case, and stored in a duffel bag since Sept 2007 (2 1/2 yrs). It still smells! I had a box of baking soda stored with it. I am going to try the "felt pad" idea. The duffel bag absorbed the smell into it, so I sprayed it with Fabreze (sp). Do you think the rubber belt absorbs the order also?

Anonymous said...

Once I figured out that the felt gasket was what stores the stink I figured I had little to lose... Since my research says that it takes heat to kill the mold in the carrying case (a strong work light in a metal cage, for several days) I just took the felt gasket and nuked it in the microwave. My kitchen now smells a bit like burnt popcorn, but my machine doesn't smell like mildew. It makes sense that only the absorbent parts of the machine get mildew.

By the way -- its not just a "smell" for many of us, its an asthma trigger.

titianmom said...

Hi, You can buy a new pan liner--no need to keep the old musty one. Go to and she has them for sale for cheap. The mildew will also be in the glue stuff on the pan. That's what I'm wondering about, also, so I'm guessing I'll have to gently scrape that stuff off and apply something new.

Mike said...

I couldn't believe the smell upon receiving my new 221. I think the case takes on the smell of the rancid oil and grease on the drip pan and pad under the machine. I ordered a new pad from and used goof-off (very sparingly) to remove the crud on the pan (worked perfectly and did not take up the paint). There is no mold or mildew in my near pristine case, but the smell is intense. I'm going to try the hot garage and ground coffee. Thanks for the tips and good luck.

Sheila R said...

My case doesn't smell like mold or mildew. It smells like old typewriters in similar cases. I think it's a grease and metal combination smell. The paper and wood of the case probably absorb the odor from the machine. The machine might have been cleaned and lubed and not smell anymore, but the case retains the smell. I'm really sensitive to most odors, but I like the FW case/typewriter smell. It reminds me of riding the subway with my mom in the 60s. I can't stand the smell of bleach or dryer sheets or any cheap fragrance. I know the history of my machine and it was never stored in a damp area (it was my mom's, and I learned to sew on it in the 70s.) We stored it in the first floor closet. I live in the northeast where it's not damp. So, I think some people have a case with a musty odor combined with the typewriter smell, and others just have the typewriter smell. Next time you see an old typewriter in a case at a flea market, open it up and smell it. Ahhh....featherweight/typewriter odor.

bridenet said...

When I got my sewing machine it had a terrible musty smell.
I left it in the sun for a few days I live in Florida.
Nothing would get rid of the smell.
I saw an article somewhere on the internet to open a bar of safeguard soap and leave it in the case for a day or so and believe it or not it worked. I love my sewing machine it is a wonderful machine.

bridenet said...

These machines have a piece of felt where the oil drips down. If you take the bottom panel off you will see it.
You can order a replacement for around 5.00.