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How do you clean a violin bow?

Instruments: How do you clean a violin bow?

From Brian Sura
Posted February 10, 2005 at 08:01 PM

Hi,
Does anyone know how to clean a violin bow? I took my bow to my teacher, and she said the bow needs to be either cleaned, or re-haired. {The bow sounds horrible.} Thank you

From N.A. Mohr
Posted on February 10, 2005 at 09:42 PM
There are two ways to clean a bow. One is to wash the hair with mild detergent (ie. dish soap) -being VERY careful not to get water on the wood plugs at either end...

...the other is to use alchol...

I much prefer washing...it's a tad more work but I find the end result preferable.

Either way - you will need to re-rosin as if it were a new bow.

If the washing doesn't work - then a rehair is fully in order...

Good luck!

From Sam Li
Posted on February 11, 2005 at 02:20 AM
I use compressed air. A half dozen good blasts usually does the trick. Watch out for the cloud of rosin though.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 11, 2005 at 02:47 AM
Thank you both for your responses. Some of my folk fiddlers clean their bow hairs with mild detergent or alcohol, and I recoiled in horror at the thought. I like the suggestion of using compressed air. That should be safer than using a mild detergent solution or alcohol near the wood.
From Rita Livs
Posted on February 11, 2005 at 04:31 AM
Pauline, before cleaning the bow unscrew it, so you will not touch a stick with alcohol or soap... After washing, hang it to dry.
From Richard Zhu
Posted on February 12, 2005 at 04:03 PM
I use one of those compressed air cans for cleaning keyboards to clean my bow and the inside of my violin. I'm a bit concerned, though, for two reasons. The first is that the gas in the can is not really air, but a really flammable substance--difluoroethane--and I am worried about harmful effects it could have on the instrument. The second is that the gas coming out of the can is extremely cold and I do not know whether the temperature could affect the wood.
From Owen Sutter
Posted on February 13, 2005 at 12:50 AM
gasoline is great for dissolving old rosin.
Note:that is a joke, never ever attempt that.ever.
From Sam Li
Posted on February 13, 2005 at 06:29 PM
Let me be a little more specific. I'm not talking about those aerosol cans. I'm talking about compressed air. The kind that's in a tank that you might also inflate your tires from. You can find a small compressor with maybe a 2 gal tank for under $100.
From Inge S
Posted on February 13, 2005 at 06:42 PM
I have a really stupid question. Before exploring how one cleans a violin bow, DO you clean a violin bow? I take the rosin off the wood for obvious reasons, but I had not heard of wiping the hair ribbon clean before. I though the act of bowing itself took care of that, assuming that you don't over-rosin the bow and use the whole bow often enough from end to end. Doesn't the act of bowing 'clean' the rosin off the hair? Alternately, how many people here clean their bows and how often, and how many don't?
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 13, 2005 at 06:40 PM
Sam, I have one of those small cans that blows air, and I use it to clean electrical contacts that aren't contacting, etc. Do you really mean that this wouldn't work on a bow? I suppose that the air blowers that you use to inflate your tires blow dirty air too forcefully to use on a bow. The gadget you suggested is too expensive for me. Would a hair dryer work?
From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 13, 2005 at 07:36 PM
I used a hair dryer on my bow hair once, and it shriveled the hair. Perhaps it was fake hair. I don't know, I was too inexperienced to know the difference, but you wouldn't want to damage your bow hair with heat.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 14, 2005 at 05:12 AM
Ow! I guess I should have specified a hair dryer set on low heat, low "blowing force", held about 8" from the bow hairs, and moved back and forth rapidly for a short period of time.

I once had a 12 year old student from mainland China. His mother told me that when she saw bow hairs breaking, she held the hair part of the bow in the flame on her gas stove. Ow! Ow! I wonder how the bow survived.

From Michael Molnar
Posted on February 16, 2005 at 12:11 AM
If it's an inexpensive bow, get a new one.
From Sam Li
Posted on February 16, 2005 at 02:51 AM
Pauline, while there's nothing wrong with the spray cans, I find that they just don't provide enough force for my taste. The "gadget" I mentioned is exactly the same one that I use to inflate my tires. I also use it to power my air tools, as well as my pressure washer and paint sprayer. There's a pressure regulator that let's you dial it up to 150 psi for air tools or down to a mere 50 psi for giving the computer - or violin bow a good BJ. I'm not suggesting that everybody should run out to get one, but if you own a house and 2 cars, it's certainly a handy thing to have in your garage.
From Steven Melamed
Posted on February 19, 2005 at 10:13 PM
Inge S., Those aren't stupid questions at all! A concert violinst would NEVER clean their bow hair unless absolutely necessary, rather: they would have the bow professionally re-haired. They do this often, say every 3 months or so.
For us mere mortals, cleaning bow hair might be necessary IF:
1. You have to make your current bow hair last until you can have it re-haired.
2. You're changing to a considerably different type of rosin, but your bow hair is pretty new.
3. You don't want to spend the money on new hair or even a new bow - with cheap bows.

I would stay away from those electrical appliance cleaning spray cans: It's NOT AIR that's coming out, and you're liable to freeze your violin/bow/hair.

From Phuong Bui
Posted on August 8, 2010 at 08:52 AM

Can anyone tell me how to clean bow hair in a simple way, and with stuffs that I can fin easily on market.

As I'm not from the States, I can't just go and get a prepared kit nor I can afford a rehair every couple of months.

One more reason I desperately want to know this is I lost my previous rosin, now start using a different one. I wonder whether I need to get rid of all the previous one, or I just put the new one on?

Please advise. Thanks!

From Merit Kraav
Posted on August 8, 2010 at 01:52 PM

 My teacher has told me to wash the bow with soap and water...

From Phuong Bui
Posted on August 8, 2010 at 04:49 PM

but many other posters here and in similar threads strongly object the idea of "soap and water"??

From Ruud Vermeulen
Posted on August 8, 2010 at 07:42 PM

You wash your hair with soap, so why use anything else for horse hair? An alternative is a towel with a little alcohol. After that you use your rosin.


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