The Video Game Critic's Guide
to Removing Smoke Smell
from Video Game Instruction Booklets

Aug 13, 2017

DISCLAIMER: The author takes no responsibility for damage incurred as a result of employing any of the techniques listed below. These are general recommendations based on his own personal experiences.

If you're a classic game collector it happens every now and then. You order a game from Ebay and there's a waft of smoke as soon as you open the box. The game, box, and instructions reek. That's not information most Ebay sellers tend to be forthcoming about. You can usually clean cartridges and plastic boxes with alcohol to sufficiently remove the odor, but what about instruction booklets?

A few months ago I was pretty disgusted with an NES manual I had received with a game. The stench of smoke was so heavy I considered tossing it in the trash! Then again, classic game manuals are hard to find so you want to salvage whatever you can. After scouring the internet for ideas I came up with a two-part technique that did a surprisingly good job of neutralizing the smell.

The first step I would recommend is using a hair dryer on the pages. I know it sounds crazy but hear me out people!! Hold down the edges of the book (to prevent flapping), set the dryer on high, and move it across the pages. I usually hold it within an inch of the page. How did I know this works? Because you can actually smell the smoke being blown off the pages! Just don't linger on any page for too long or leave the dryer unattended, or you might burn your house down. Just use a slow sweeping motion on each page, concentrating on the edges. I notice the front cover, back cover, and middle pages (with the staple) are typically the worst offenders. Note: This may warp the pages slightly.

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The hair dryer trick will only get you about 25% of the way there. The next part requires at least two dryer sheets. Fold the sheets into the book, making sure they are touching both the cover and the middle section (at minimum). You can use as many sheets as you want but I think any more than three is overkill. Place the book with dryer sheets in a plaster bag and seal it the best you can. Let the book sit in the bag for two or three days.

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When you first remove the book from the bag it will have a pretty strong fragrance of dryer sheets but that's a lot less offensive than smoke! In time the fragrance will subside, leaving the book smelling like a fresh load of laundry! I've employed this technique several times and it hasn't failed me yet. I hope it helps you save a few manuals.

See also The Video Game Critic's Guide to Cleaning Games.