Bow Dirt Buildup#2...alcohol

March 19, 2007 at 11:30 PM · Hey guys...

I made a mistake... I got my bow rehaired and sooner or later my bow got the dirt buildup I took toothbrush and dipped it in alcohol and then...I rubbed it on the dirty part of the bow...and bow has an alcohol stain. It's looks worse than how it used to look...and its dry so i don't think that I can do anything about it...or can i?? I've done this before and it dried and it was fine but this time its dried with a stain...



Replies (22)

March 19, 2007 at 11:33 PM · Next time you get it rehaired the guy will fix it. No problemo. Till then, just let it be.

March 20, 2007 at 02:16 AM · You put alcohol on the wood or the hair? If on the hair just apply lots of rosin. If you put it on the wood you probably took away some varnish. Also avoid cleaning strings with alcohol.

March 20, 2007 at 02:44 AM · Hey

Thanks for the replies back but...I put it on the hair not the wood...are u sure applying a lot of rosin will take it away?



March 20, 2007 at 03:41 AM · What kind of alcohol did you use?

March 20, 2007 at 03:44 AM · Yeah, if it's on the bow hair then it shouldn't be a problem. It doesn't matter as long as it still sounds beautiful.

March 20, 2007 at 06:48 PM · you can only use denatured alcohol on bow hair.

March 20, 2007 at 07:16 PM · I used to have a stand partner years ago who was with the Met. Opera in the 20"s. hesaid they couldn't afford to have their bows rehaired as often as needed so they used alcohol. I tried it and it was like 90% of a rehair.

I took a rag soaked in alcohol and got all the old rosin off the hair until the hair was slippery and shiny. Oh yes, unscrewed the frog first so the alcohol wouldn't touch the wood. Hung the bow up to dry for a day. After drying I had to untangle the hairs a bit, then screwed the frog back on and slowly tightened it. After putting rosin back on the bow played like a new rehair job, the nap was back up on the hair and it had lots of bite.

March 20, 2007 at 09:54 PM · Ditto Ray's story. The way you probably went wrong this time was that you didn't follow through. If you don't get every bit of the rosin off, it will gunk up on you.

March 21, 2007 at 02:57 PM · Poepoe!

Put tension on the hairs, take your bow and do pizzicato on it for a longer time, for example during watching TV!

March 21, 2007 at 06:55 PM · That's not a problem at all Poepoe although I would recommend getting a rehair when it gets dirty if you can. Just apply lots of rosin now, cause it got all washed away. Finn, I don't really agree with you on that. You shouldn't touch the bow hair (let alone pluck at it), you want to keep it as clean as possible.

March 21, 2007 at 07:27 PM · Yes Nate,

you are right; I did it like this and it worked actually but it is too long ago to remember exactly what happened. Sorry for my too easy given advice.

It is anyway a nasty problem! It did it once, washing with alcohol, I never do it again!

I even heard about people doing it with shampoo! Has anyone experience with that?

March 23, 2007 at 11:04 PM · The first time I tried this, I used rubbing alcohol, and I believe it worked, but since then I have always used denatured. As others have said, it's essential to keep the alcohol to the hair, only, not a bit on the stick or the frog. I have sometimes taken off the frog, carefully wound up the hair and dipped it in a cup of alcohol for a while to soak and loosen the rosin, and then carefully wiped everything down with paper towels, until it's clean and nearly dry before putting it all back together.

I often clean rental bow hair because the kids get it dirty near the frog (do they EVER wash their little hands?) much quicker than they break hairs, but I wouldn't do it with a good bow.

Hair does not wear out--in fact the string never actually touches the hair--just the rosin on it. What happens is that the rosin packs down smooth and loses its texture and grip. The problem for active players, though, is that most rehairs aren't necessitated by the rosin problem, but because since players use one side of the bow more than the other, hair mostly breaks on that side, resulting in an unbalanced ribbon of hair which tends to pull the bow to one side, warping it towards the string (the wrong direction, if there's going to ba a warp). Just cleaning the hair can't fix that, and even a bow rehairer can't just redistribute the hair that's left to the balanced state, so forget about asking for a hair realignment, too. :-)

March 27, 2007 at 04:32 AM · Does alcohol make the hairs brittle?

The bow I bought a few months ago seems to have rather brittle hairs comparing to my other cheaper bow. Lately I’m braking some hairs when I play chords ff – one hair every dozen chords on average. Time for luthier visit again?

March 27, 2007 at 02:10 PM · My own experiences with alcohol cleaning of bow hairs have been very successful. It is important that the about 8 or so applications of alcohol be used and removed immediately so the dissolved rosin will be removed from the hair (redried rosin on bow hair can really be a mess and spoil sound). However, I have found that after about 2 years of cleaning the hair of my most-used bow every few months, it did play better after finally having it rehaired than it had after the previous two cleanings (same for trying water/detergent cleaning after an alcohol cleaning).


March 27, 2007 at 05:36 PM · Yixi Zhang, since you just bought the bow, it might have old hairs on it. It could have also been haired with bleached hair which I've noticed is a lot weaker than unbleached.

March 28, 2007 at 07:04 PM · I put alcohol on my bow hairs. Once. It made a big sticky mess and I'll never do it again. I've had one bow maker tell me to use a damp sponge--it did seem to work better.

Also, I was under the impression that bows aren't varnished but are rubbed with oil. Either way, I'd use a violin cleaner instead of pure alcohol. Or just ask the shop to clean the stick when they rehair it.

March 28, 2007 at 11:45 PM · You do realize that alcohol ruins the varnish. I'm a second year student and I know that. That's really sad that you did that. I don't think there's anything you can do about it.

March 29, 2007 at 12:15 AM · I think Bourbon is OK....

March 29, 2007 at 12:28 AM · I'm not so sure about that Charles. I'm pretty sure bourbon is the reason my hair is falling out. However, it is very clean hair.

Anyway, I must go continue my experiments in this matter ...



March 29, 2007 at 03:32 AM · Daniel, I think he was putting the alcohol on the hair, not the wood.

April 1, 2007 at 04:25 PM · Alcohol that you purchase at the pharmacy/grocer can have something in it to be less drying on the skin, and that could be staying on the bowhair. I'd try to find someplace that sells alcohol for cleaning machine parts or medical equipment, etc., since this shouldn't have an additive. I have not done this much, just occasionally on very nasty student rentals. Where anything was better than what I saw. You may also want to try different rosins and using less rosin generally. Sue

April 9, 2007 at 04:19 PM · I have cleaned hundreds of bows (Hair ONLY) using denatured alcohol. The trick is to make sure that the damp hair NEVER touches the wood. It usually takes 3 to 5 applications to remove all the old rosin depending on how much rosin was on. It has been my experience that cleaning with denatured alcohol does not make the hair brittle. We were using this on new bows that had been rosined and tried out, but on a normal players bow, cleaning would/should extend the time between rehairs, but since you should be having rehairs done regularily, the old hair will be gone soon enough either way. I would also recommend cleaning the hair if you aren't going to be using the bow for a significant period of time, as the built on rosin will not be easy to take care of after it's been left on for a time (especially if the climate goes from hot/humid to cooler). Clean it before storing it.

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