I cleaned the violin with alcohol

August 9, 2008 at 06:53 PM · I got vintage violin. And it got lot of dirt and rosin stuck on the front of violin. I tried to clean with alcohol. Then varnish seems got thinner. So I just stop doing it. Does it make the sound affected? And if I did wrong, is there some way to fix it?


August 9, 2008 at 07:07 PM · It would be like cleaning your car with paint thinner. Don't.

August 9, 2008 at 08:24 PM · The best violin cleaner/polisher is that one the player never uses... Always use just a soft rag.

Paganini's Cannone, made by Del Gesù, has a rosin build up and nobody is thinking about cleaning it.


August 9, 2008 at 07:35 PM · Alcohol melts and removes varnish.

Yes it will affect the sound, depending on how much varnish was lost.

No you cannot fix it. Maybe a real luthier could help. There are some things that might be done to restore the finish, but YOU cannot do them.

August 9, 2008 at 08:12 PM · A good restorer may be able to help. Please don't try to remedy the situation until you take it to a qualified restorer. No chemical is safe on all varnishes- even water. a soft cloth is all the player should use.

August 9, 2008 at 11:40 PM · I don't think you did any real harm. Just don't do it anymore! One time I had an old violin with something on it and I started cleaning it with an old t-shirt dampened with water. I noticed a spot on the cloth turning the color of the violin, so I stopped! These days I don't do anything to instruments at all, and either let it go or let a pro do it instead, even if it's something trivial I think I could easily do. They might know or see something that I wouldn't.

August 10, 2008 at 12:22 AM · Alcohol is a big no-no (at least on the body; it cleans the fingerboard well, but is probably not worth the risk) -- it will strip the varnish. Get it to a luthier. I had my varnish touched up recently due to some atypical wear.

August 10, 2008 at 12:16 PM · I think it's better not using alcohol even to clean the fingerboard, an accident may occur and accidents are unpredictable, even if you think that what you are doing is safe.

It's better keeping alcohol, superglue, violin polishers and cleaners away from the instrument, use just a soft rag to clean the instrument.


August 10, 2008 at 01:24 PM · Alcohol is fine on the fingerboard and strings. Simply dampen a fingertip size spot on a cloth with alcohol (dampen, not soak) and rub away. Since it's damp there are no drips. If you;re still worried turn the violin upside down. Why be afraid of something that works well. Cautious and careful, yes; afraid, no.

August 10, 2008 at 01:46 PM · Well, there was the careful Strad owner who set his violin on that rag, sparingly moistened with alcohol, during a momentary lapse, and found the varnish attached to the rag instead of the violin (true story).

Sometimes when returning the bottle to an upright position, a few droplets will splash out the opening too.

I'm with Mr. Manfio and Pasewicz. I don't even use it myself. It's an accident waiting to happen.

There are also plenty of anecdotes about people who never wore a seat belt and were never injured.

I don't do that either. ;-)

So far in this thread, you have three people in the violin biz advising against using any solvents. Your call.

August 10, 2008 at 02:45 PM · David - that's a bloodcurdling story about the Strad, I can't begin to think how I would have felt if I'd been the owner. With an instrument like that, what kind of percentage loss in value would it suffer after such an accident?

(I'm another "nothing but a dry 100% cotton duster" user.)

August 10, 2008 at 03:30 PM · Ditto go to a pro....ditto cotton duster.

Your violin's voice and value are at stake.

August 11, 2008 at 03:39 AM · This was the first thread I checked this morning. The title alone sends shivers up my spine :P

August 11, 2008 at 03:42 AM · When cleaning the fingerboard and strings (and of course NEVER EVER to I do anything but wipe the body of the fiddle with a dry cotton cloth), I use those tiny first-aid kit swabs that are pre-soaked in alcohol, along with a paper towel to immediately dry nearly every stroke. The pre-soaked swabs generally do not drip, though one still has to be obsessively careful. I generally only clean the fingerboard when I'm changing strings and have a string off.

August 13, 2008 at 01:38 PM · Violin polish is of little use. Why add a layer of waxy gunk to your violin? It won't improve the tone, and if it gets into something like an incipient crack, it'll make repairs difficult.

A soft cloth will remove rosin, if you use it regularly.

Some people advocate the use of olive oil on pure gut strings. I'd be very careful with this. Oil and rosin can make a mess.

But go ahead and clean your fiddle with steel wool or sandpaper, and furniture polish it if you want to. It's your violin. Never trust an expert, they're just trying to make more business for themselves.

August 13, 2008 at 04:25 PM · Thank you for all of your answers. Yesterday I went to repair shop in Chicago. All is good. The violin sound is good and I am happy.

I learned that I should not use any alcohol and any chemical stuffs..

August 13, 2008 at 04:51 PM · I once had this small vial of some sort of oil based violin polisher. It was made my a teacher who i know and he won't give his secret ingredients out!!

the polish it left was astounding

August 13, 2008 at 10:32 PM · Some guys of the violin world here advised against the use of alcohol and polishing by players. I think polish should never be used by players. I'll quote Charles Beare, the most important living authority in the violin world:

"The other problem with the polish that we and everybody else sell is that there is usually an oil in there somewhere. And an oil is not good news for the four joints that are commomly found in the purfling. If one of these comes loose, it will have catastrophic effects on the tone of the instrument, almost anywhere on a violin. Even if it does not make a buzz, it will have an effect on the volume and solidity of the tone. We are forever gluing the purfling at the top of the bass bar or at the botton under the chinrest, in order to cure tonal deficiencies, as well as shoulders and that sort of thing. But I mean that if oil gets in the purfling or into an old crack, it's going to be quite a while before you can get it out again."

And why using polishes? To make the varnish shine like patent leather? Well, this look is not desireble in the violin world, and I'll quote again Charles Beare:

"It`s not uncommon these days to see fine instruments with layer upon layer of grey/green discolouring French polish built up year after year as part of their regular overhaul, which far exceeds in thickness and hardness the original varnish wich may still be seen underneath with the aid of a strong light. Most of the Stradivaris and Guarneris in the USA have this - and I once asked a leding American restorer, a good friend from the old Wurlitzer days, why he and his compaions were giving the violins that were enstruted to them this patent leather look, "If I don`t do it, the customer won`t accept the job" was his reply. "They want it to shine all over; if there is a dull spot they bring it back and complain". Surely this is a case for re-educating these customers. I fear there are many in our trade, as well as the customers, who are unaware of the beauty of unplished Italian varnish, who don`t recognise it when they see it. It`s like fine wine, the taste comes with experience and is none the less valuable for that.


Obviously the purer (the varnish) it is the better, and I would say that French polishing, which is still a habit of one or two of the bigger institutions in the USA has actually almost irretrievably damaged perhaps to a minor extent a large number of instruments. It is being fought against by many of the younger makers. "


August 13, 2008 at 11:17 PM · I practice pretty much daily at my local music shop. I have seen violins come in almost daily that have had the varnish fairly destroyed by being loved to death.

Just play it. If you want to make something shiny, polish your car. The sound of the violin is what you should be concerned about.

I get a kick out of this community. It's humbling to see burgess, Manfio and the rest of this deep well of talent freely giving information and helping each other.

Thanks for the forum Laurie!

August 14, 2008 at 01:17 AM · I'm too afraid to put any polish or other cleaning product on my violin. The only time I've ever had it cleaned was when I brought it back to the dealer I bought it from, whom I absolutely trust. I've never even put anything on my pegs (which probably could have used something because they were sticking, and I've heard that peg dope absolutely does not do any harm)! However, I do wipe off my strings and the rosin off the belly with a microfiber cloth everyday and change the strings every three to four months. This seems to work.

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