Used iMac REEKS of Smoke - How do I fix?

Bocks

macrumors member
Original poster
Apr 23, 2015
36
22
Nebraska
OK.. So I purchased a used 2011 iMac off of eBay for $250 with shipping for my son to learn how to use a computer. I opened the box and was hit with the stench of cigarette smoke.
I decided to open the unit up, took it outside and used my leaf blower and removed a ton of dust and gunk from the inside. I put it back together and thoroughly cleaned the exterior of the iMac. Its PERFECT cosmetically and functionally. But when in use it still stinks and makes his room smell like a smokers lounge.

I put some scented dryer sheets across the intake vents at the bottom and across the exhaust vents at the top in hopes that some of the nice smell covers up the smoke. This seems to help but I am assuming the reduced airflow will not be good for the iMac in the long run.

Will this stench just fade over time or should I re-sell it on ebay and try for another?

Not exactly pleased with the thought of my son getting exposed to Third Hand Smoke while learning to use a real computer.

ANY Advice or help appreciated!
 

SaSaSushi

macrumors 601
Aug 8, 2007
4,100
493
Takamatsu, Japan
It seems wrong that a smoker wouldn't mention that on their auction. I'd contact them first but failing that I'd resell it and find another.

You definitely don't want your son exposed to thirdhand smoke which is as bad, or worse than secondhand, especially for children.
 

Bocks

macrumors member
Original poster
Apr 23, 2015
36
22
Nebraska
Thanks.. I contacted the seller and let them know the situation. They replied and told me that they both quit smoking over 3 years ago and didn't think to mention it. Seeing as how it still reeks after sitting 3 years I think I will be flipping this one and trying again.
 

EugW

macrumors G3
Jun 18, 2017
8,140
5,494
Thanks.. I contacted the seller and let them know the situation. They replied and told me that they both quit smoking over 3 years ago and didn't think to mention it. Seeing as how it still reeks after sitting 3 years I think I will be flipping this one and trying again.
Their house undoubtedly reeks of smoke but they just don't notice it. To fix that in a house requires removing the carpets, drapes, furniture, among other things, and then even painting all the walls with a special type of anti-smoke primer.

So, for a computer, if it smells of smoke, and you've already cleaned the interior and exterior as best you can, then I really don't think there is that much else you can do.

BTW, I've noticed that some eBay ads for used computers now specifically mentioned they are from non-smoking environments, so I guess this may be a relatively common problem.
 

jlseattle

macrumors 6502
Jan 9, 2007
455
322
Seattle WA
So gross.... I would try to buy one off craigslist. I sell all my macs off craigslist just make sure to meet at a starbucks and check the mac before you purchase. Everything I read says you would need to open up the computer and wipe down parts (fans and such) with ammonia and water mixture to kill the smell. I'm not certain how safe that is being that the inside is so tight and you wouldn't want to get water on the electronic components.
 

EugW

macrumors G3
Jun 18, 2017
8,140
5,494
So gross.... I would try to buy one off craigslist. I sell all my macs off craigslist just make sure to meet at a starbucks and check the mac before you purchase. Everything I read says you would need to open up the computer and wipe down parts (fans and such) with ammonia and water mixture to kill the smell. I'm not certain how safe that is being that the inside is so tight and you wouldn't want to get water on the electronic components.
From what I've read, even if done meticulously (often with alcohol based mixtures), this only decreases the smell, and does not eliminate it.
 

Bocks

macrumors member
Original poster
Apr 23, 2015
36
22
Nebraska
So gross.... I would try to buy one off craigslist. I sell all my macs off craigslist just make sure to meet at a starbucks and check the mac before you purchase. Everything I read says you would need to open up the computer and wipe down parts (fans and such) with ammonia and water mixture to kill the smell. I'm not certain how safe that is being that the inside is so tight and you wouldn't want to get water on the electronic components.
I may try selling this one on Craigslist before listing on ebay to avoid the fees.
Agree. This is NASTY! If it were a normal desktop I would replace the power supply, fans and use a vacuum brush to clean it up. Since its an iMac I don't want to tear it apart more than I have to clean it. Bummer because it was a good deal. It is the Mid range 2011 model i5 2.7 with the 512MB graphics card too. Can probably sell it for what I have in it.
 

ApfelKuchen

macrumors 68040
Aug 28, 2012
3,503
2,147
Between the coasts
Smoke contains a lot of sticky compounds. Every internal component and the interior surface of the case are probably coated in residue that may have been baked into every available pore by the warmth of the electronics, similar to the way an iron frying pan is "seasoned" with use. I'd expect it'll take a very long time for the smell to dissipate.
 

Mindbender14

macrumors regular
Aug 25, 2014
131
31
You can return it. Start a return in eBay. If seller refuses file an "item not as described" claim with eBay. I'd say the extent of smoke scent that you mentioned (and seller acknowledges) fits under this claim.
 

jlseattle

macrumors 6502
Jan 9, 2007
455
322
Seattle WA
Smoke contains a lot of sticky compounds. Every internal component and the interior surface of the case are probably coated in residue that may have been baked into every available pore by the warmth of the electronics, similar to the way an iron frying pan is "seasoned" with use. I'd expect it'll take a very long time for the smell to dissipate.
LOL that iMac has been "seasoned" with cigarette smoke. Why does this just get grosser and grosser. And the images of some old person with a cigarette happily typing away on the mac cracks me up. It's like watching an episode of Madmen...
 

kd5jos

macrumors 6502
Oct 28, 2007
425
140
Denver, CO
OK.. So I purchased a used 2011 iMac off of eBay for $250 with shipping for my son to learn how to use a computer. I opened the box and was hit with the stench of cigarette smoke.
I decided to open the unit up, took it outside and used my leaf blower and removed a ton of dust and gunk from the inside. I put it back together and thoroughly cleaned the exterior of the iMac. Its PERFECT cosmetically and functionally. But when in use it still stinks and makes his room smell like a smokers lounge.

I put some scented dryer sheets across the intake vents at the bottom and across the exhaust vents at the top in hopes that some of the nice smell covers up the smoke. This seems to help but I am assuming the reduced airflow will not be good for the iMac in the long run.

Will this stench just fade over time or should I re-sell it on ebay and try for another?

Not exactly pleased with the thought of my son getting exposed to Third Hand Smoke while learning to use a real computer.

ANY Advice or help appreciated!
When amateur radio operators deal with this issue they use a dryer sheet, and place it inside the case. The heat from the electronics will cause the perfumes in the dryer sheet to release potentially covering the odor. YMMV.
 

Bocks

macrumors member
Original poster
Apr 23, 2015
36
22
Nebraska
When amateur radio operators deal with this issue they use a dryer sheet, and place it inside the case. The heat from the electronics will cause the perfumes in the dryer sheet to release potentially covering the odor. YMMV.
I have just decided to give up on this one and will be selling it. (I WILL disclose the smoke smell). Not worth the risk or the work.

Thanks all for the replies and suggestions.
 

ApfelKuchen

macrumors 68040
Aug 28, 2012
3,503
2,147
Between the coasts
LOL that iMac has been "seasoned" with cigarette smoke. Why does this just get grosser and grosser. And the images of some old person with a cigarette happily typing away on the mac cracks me up. It's like watching an episode of Madmen...
It ain't hickory or mesquite, but what can you do?

I entered the workplace towards the end of the Madmen era (actually worked with some of the people profiled in "The Real Madmen" stories)... it's a very true image. Not just hunched over typewriters, but over mixing consoles, splicing audiotape, running Moviolas.... If a piece of equipment had to go back into the maintenance shop, its outer surfaces got a good wash-down with spray cleaner as part of the process. The paper toweling looked like a baseball player had spit several wads of chaw into it.
 

snowtrooper1966

macrumors 6502
Oct 13, 2011
258
176
Clarksburg, WV
And the images of some old person with a cigarette happily typing away on the mac cracks me up. It's like watching an episode of Madmen...
Smoking used to be a huge part of the culture, as promoted by Hollywood and MSM, touted even as healthful by medical professionals.
Plenty of emperical evidence to the contrary now, but I find any report of "third hand" indirect contact ill effect highly questionable and serving a financial bias.

IMG_8369.JPG IMG_8370.JPG
 

ZipZap

macrumors 603
Dec 14, 2007
5,487
905
Ozone (not ions) is effective at destroying the smell of smoke. I know of little else you can use on a computer. There are chemicals to do the same but they won't work here for obvious reasons.
 

SaSaSushi

macrumors 601
Aug 8, 2007
4,100
493
Takamatsu, Japan
I find any report of "third hand" indirect contact ill effect highly questionable and serving a financial bias.
On what scientific evidence do you base this conclusion? What financial basis does it serve?

How did the physician at the Mayo Clinic whose article I linked to above profit? He mentioned that it is a new concept and the long-term effects are still being studied but no one is claiming that the residual chemicals are not bad for health.

Here's a recent study of the effects of thirdhand smoke on mice at Scientific Reports.
 

Bocks

macrumors member
Original poster
Apr 23, 2015
36
22
Nebraska
UPDATE.
So last night before I called it a night I decided to see if I could clean this thing up more.
I tore it down all the way to the logic board and went to town on the insides with cotton balls and rubbing alcohol. It was NASTY dirty but its good as new now. The best part is.... The SMELL IS GONE! The procedure is not for the novice for faint of heart but it can be done.
 

Kajje

macrumors 6502a
Dec 6, 2012
719
956
Asia
While I won't completely disassemble an iphone (or iPad), I have done it in the past with iMacs and a MBA. In both cases used the ifixit manuals and found it being much less difficult than imagined. Good to hear you got rid of the smell!
 

snowtrooper1966

macrumors 6502
Oct 13, 2011
258
176
Clarksburg, WV
On what scientific evidence do you base this conclusion? What financial basis does it serve?

How did the physician at the Mayo Clinic whose article I linked to above profit? He mentioned that it is a new concept and the long-term effects are still being studied but no one is claiming that the residual chemicals are not bad for health.

Here's a recent study of the effects of thirdhand smoke on mice at Scientific Reports.
Oh, you mean the same research "professionals" that take grants and funding from big pharmaceutical and government lobbyists that have deduced vaping is more harmful than analog cigarettes?
 

garysauctions

macrumors member
Dec 15, 2010
65
4
Smoke odor not easily gotten rid of because of the residue inside that iMac. Having said that, you might be able to drastically reduce it by dismantling it and cleaning out the path the cooling air takes. I have had my hands on some smoke infected equipment in past year and found tearing it down and cleaning off the residue is a start.

We had an old Kustom guitar amp that came our way ....... it rebaked of smoke and we thought it had been recovered or had a custom venial covering on it. It was a golden color .... we contacted a Kustom expert and he assured us it was not a factory color. We began to dismantle it and discover the venial covering was actually silver .... but all its years in a smoky environment coated the exterior and turned it golden. We cleaned it with mild solvents and not only did it return to its original color, the smoke odor was gone.
[doublepost=1501963570][/doublepost]
but I find any report of "third hand" indirect contact ill effect highly questionable and serving a financial bias.
We had a vintage Kustom guitar amplifier that was adversely affected by " third hand " indirect contact with tobacco smoke. It lived in a small bar for decades before we got it. The person who appraised it for us increased his appraised value once it was cleaned and restored to " pre-indirect" contact condition.
 

jlseattle

macrumors 6502
Jan 9, 2007
455
322
Seattle WA
UPDATE.
So last night before I called it a night I decided to see if I could clean this thing up more.
I tore it down all the way to the logic board and went to town on the insides with cotton balls and rubbing alcohol. It was NASTY dirty but its good as new now. The best part is.... The SMELL IS GONE! The procedure is not for the novice for faint of heart but it can be done.
That's Awesome!!! Great work! You're a braver man than I. I'm glad you were able to get rid of that terrible smell. Haha, just be careful you didn't become used to the smell and don't smell it anymore.. haha. Joking. :D
 

SaSaSushi

macrumors 601
Aug 8, 2007
4,100
493
Takamatsu, Japan
Oh, you mean the same research "professionals" that take grants and funding from big pharmaceutical and government lobbyists that have deduced vaping is more harmful than analog cigarettes?
No, I mean the Scientific Reports study that showed that thirdhand smoke stunted growth and reduced immunity in mice and the opinion of the physician from the Mayo Clinic, one of the most respected non-profit medical research institutions in the world.
 

cynics

macrumors G4
Jan 8, 2012
11,554
1,871
Glad you were able to get the smell out.

I use an ozone generator to remove cigarette and other odors from various thing (clothing, car interiors, electronics, etc) without the need for cleaning with chemicals. It typically works very well. They can be a good investment if you are particularly sensitive to various smells. Just be careful the concentration isn't too high because it can be hard on plastics/rubber, and don't expose yourself to high concentrations of it either (not good for your lungs).
 

Policar

macrumors 6502a
Nov 21, 2004
647
5
I find an ozone generator effective. Use in a small airtight space repeatedly and allow air to dissipate before unsealing. Ozone is highly reactive and has a short half life. It might cause health problems if you're exposed to it directly but it will break down so fast that you can use the generator while you're away and just wait an hour or two after it's done.
 
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