Cleaning fiddle strings

Cleaning fiddle strings

I really really need to clean my fiddle strings but I don’t have any proper string cleaner. Out of the many things that I have heard of people using to clean their strings, I currently posses: Methylated spirits, nail varnish remover or vodka. Which would be better (least harmful) to use on my fiddle?

Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

If you use any alcohol-based liquid (all three you have mentioned are such) then you have to be careful not to let any contact the varnish on the fiddle - the alcohol will ruin it.

I wouldn’t like to use methylated spirits because, although, it is alcohol based it contains additives intended to render it undrinkable and very poisonous. Some of the additives, depending on the composition of the meths, which again depends on the intended industrial use and varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, could in fact damage the metal winding of the strings and perhaps the synthetic core if the meths gets through the winding.

I’d use one of two things: medical alcohol wipes, or a cork from a wine bottle. It should be regular practice anyway, after any fiddle playing, to dust the strings down with a lint-free cloth, and the top plate area between the bridge and fingerboard, and that will minimise the use of solvents.

Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

Don’t use nail varnish remover.

Meths or vodka are OK as long as you are very, very careful. Even if the body of the fiddle is oil varnished there may be repairs that have been touched in with spirit varnish, and the neck is usually french polished with shellac. Even heavy fumes of alcohol are enough to soften spirit varnish or shellac.

Personally I wouldn’t wet clean strings - all you do is dissolve the rosin, allowing it to seep in between the windings of the string, where it then hardens as the alcohol evaporates.

My preferred method is to give the strings a good rub with a wine bottle cork. (And it’s a good excuse for emptying a bottle of wine.)

Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

Cross post with Trevor.

Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

All of these will work. I have also used whisky, any old fire water will do! The cheaper and nastier the better…

Basically anything with a bit of alcohol that isn’t sticky (wine for instance is no good) is going to do the trick. I usually use what I think is called in english rubbing alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol, in french it’s called alcool à 70%. For cleaning or disinfecting. You want to clean the whole length of the string, to get the grease off where your fingers go, and, if your strings have been played a lot, there might be rosin caked on (more than just a layer of dust that comes off if you brush over the string with a rag or something) that can be detrimental to the sound of the fiddle.

Be careful however if you have a varnished fingerboard (and be careful with the varnish on the rest of your fiddle!) as alcohol can damage and/or strip off varnishes. Whatever you do don’t clean the rest of the fiddle with alcool à 70%!

Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

I am a bass player but we have the same problems with rosin build up etc. I always take my strings off (one at a time) before I clean them. Then alcohol does the tick without danger of harming the finish.

Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

Don’t clean the strings - drink the alcohol instead and then they’ll LOOK cleaner

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Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

(ofc, follow the actual good advice above)

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Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

Try the alcohol pads that are used to disinfect and area before getting a needle. This way you won’t get any alcohol drips on your varnish.

Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

I don’t really understand the question, but then I never, ever, clean my strings. I wipe them with a duster after playing - every time - and they only last about 2-3 months with the amount of playing that I do, so by the time they’d be ready to be cleaned, I need to change them.

I wouldn’t mind betting that, if the strings need cleaning, they need changing.

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Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

I don’t think you need to change your strings that frequently, my sister is a Viola player at Birmingham Conservatoire so plays 4-5 hours per day, she changes her strings every 6-12 months, this is standard for most of the violin/viola players.

As for cleaning the strings, the advice above is good. I just use a very small amount of cheap perfume on a cloth and rub it up and down the strings, I also put another cloth under the strings to protect the instrument.

Once you’ve cleaned them, just a quick wipe down at the end of a session should be enough to keep them clean, if you find you still need to clean them a lot then you’re probably using too much rosin. There shouldn’t be much more than a light dusting on the strings after a couple of hours of playing.

Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

Depends what strings you use. Besides, viola strings do tend to last longer. Just as well, given the price!

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Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

With plain gut strings I find that rubbing the string down with olive oil helps its longevity, gives it a smoother feel under the fingers, as one might expect, and, I believe, enhances the tone a little. Specifically, I moisten a lint-free cloth with a drop of the oil, slacken the string off half a full turn, wrap the cloth round the string and run it up the string from the end of the fingerboard to just within the pegbox. For obvious reasons I don’t let it get on the bowed part of the string between the fingerboard and bridge.

Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

[*I don’t really understand the question, but then I never, ever, clean my strings. I wipe them with a duster after playing - every time - and they only last about 2-3 months with the amount of playing that I do, so by the time they’d be ready to be cleaned, I need to change them. *]

Ben, are you using Pirasto gut, and how roughly how many housr per week do you play, approximately? Your string bill must be high!

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Can anyone think of a reason not to use WD-40, at least on strings not on the instrument? I tarted up a few sets of used synthethic core strings (Obligatos, Alliance,etc) and strung up a few spare fiddles. I’m told WD-40 (as well as being a de-greaser) does evaporate (eventually).

It’s not true that Frankie Gavin uses it on his fingers :)

Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

Rosin is soluble in alcohol and cleaning the rosin off the strings give them a clearer tone and the bow moves more smoothly. You need to clean with alcohol only once or twice a week and just wipe the strings with a cloth on the in-between days.

A box of 100 Alcohol Prep Pads ( a years supply) costs $3 at CVS

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Re: Cleaning fiddle strings

I never heard about the cork cleaning technique before…how/why does it work?

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I’d guess wine bottle cork acts as a low level abrasive - just enough to rub off the rosin, but not enough to damage the winding. Some violinists in my orchestra use it.