Vinegar To Clean Violin And Strings

June 19, 2009 at 03:14 PM ·

What does everyone think about using white vinegar to clean violin strings or the violin body?

Replies (32)

June 19, 2009 at 03:23 PM ·

I don't think acetic acid is something you'd want to use for cleaning either a violin or strings.

June 19, 2009 at 03:42 PM ·

I use mineral spirit. Use tissue paper or rags, and you only need a drop to clean the melted rosins. Careful not to get any on the instrument.

Never heard of using vinegar, perhaps you don't want that smell everytime you play.

June 19, 2009 at 06:14 PM ·

Is it ok to use alchohol to clean violin strings as long as I don't get it on the varnish?

June 19, 2009 at 06:44 PM ·

For the strings, just use the cork from a wine bottle.  It will remove the rosin buildup without any potential adverse effect on the violin.

June 19, 2009 at 07:58 PM ·

 For cleaning my chain and cluster, I use disc brake cleaner. Then I re-grease  with Tri-flow. My motto is "if it's good enough for Shimano, it's good enough for Stradivarious." 

Your results may vary. Try on a small corner of your violin first.

June 19, 2009 at 09:23 PM ·

The best cleaner/polish for violin and strings is that one the player NEVER USES. Accidents occur every day wil alcohol, solvents and other cleaners used by players, regardless their care in handling these products.  A fraction of  second just after the accident everything was  safe and going ok but then...

But, on the other hand,  these products helps many varnish restorers to pay their bills...

June 20, 2009 at 01:26 AM ·

Scott you use mountain bike disc brake cleaner and it works? I should try that next time except I wonder if Hayes brand works the same. In the meantime I use alcholol wipes that are used to clean injection spot on the skin before putting in a needle.

June 20, 2009 at 02:41 AM ·

Sean - it's very dangerous to use alcohol or solvents. There're a blog written by a member here stating that he's been cleaning the strings with solvents for long time, but one fine day he did not aware of the alcohol dripping from the string to the varnish - there goes the finishes.

In my case, I always use a large piece of tissue paper (use thicker ones) as it'll absorb the extra solvents to prevent dripping. Fold the tissue paper a few times, put a small drop of solvent will do, when I wipe it on the strings it basically just evaporate instantly as it gets only so little on the strings but plenty to melt the rosins (after wiping I can see the tissue paper become yellow color). Then I use another piece of clean tissue paper to wipe the strings again just to ensure no extra solvents remained on the strings.

June 20, 2009 at 05:53 AM ·


No, not "mountain bike" disc brake cleaner, just regular car disc brake cleaner. Strips away everything. I mean everything. Also stinks to high heaven--use it in the out of doors. Banned in CA, and for good reason.



BTW--I clean my Tri-X negatives for 10 minutes, then wash with photo-flo. Then I wash the photo-flo off or I get lots of crap on the negatives. Does this help the discussion? What was the original question anyway? 

June 20, 2009 at 06:10 AM ·

I used to use Tri-flo, then I tried Quadra-Flo, then Penta-Flo. Finally I gave up and just use WD-40, followed by a light coat of Pledge.

June 20, 2009 at 03:16 PM ·

Eddie Van Halen boils his guitar strings to clean them, but also when they're brand new. He likes the tone.

June 20, 2009 at 06:15 PM ·

After boiling, a quick dip in liquid nitrogen is supposed to have a good effect.


June 20, 2009 at 06:58 PM ·

I hold my violin upside down using alcahol gel.....SPARINGLY!  If it drips it drips on the floor.  I use an old towel just in case of drips.

Don't use gun cleaner!  The main solvent is Carosene which leaves a petroleum residue!  Bad for the violin bow!  Good for archery compound bows. 

June 21, 2009 at 03:45 AM ·

For residue issue, buy those off the artist supply shops - they're designed to have least residues to prevent them ruining the painting process.

PS: Well, this is how they advertise them, but what's the true stuffs inside is beyond my knowledge and ability to analyze.

June 21, 2009 at 04:30 AM ·

I just wipe some Marine gasoline, sans ethanol, on the strings and strike a match. The fire burns off the rosin and the heat smooths out the varnish below. Add a marshmellow for an extra treat. The trouble with brake cleaners is when you're trying to play fast they won't let you speed up much at all. For real I use a small dab of alcohol that I put on a finger sized part of the rag while in another room. Walk to the next room, turn the violin upside down and wipe the rosin off. I put the alcohol on in a room where the violin isn't to preclude any remote possibility of spilling alcohol on the violin. Accidents can and do happen. Paranoid? Probably, but no way will that kind of accident ever happen with the violin nearby.

With July 4th coming up, putting small firecrackers inside cellos and string basses really adds luster and more realism to the 1812. They resonate like crazy.


June 21, 2009 at 06:54 AM ·


you guys are so pedantic.  I just stick mine in the washing machine . This has the advantage of adding underpant boquet,  something not to be sniffed at.



June 21, 2009 at 09:21 AM ·

 Vinigar  is a  good  and natural disinfectant, but I don't  need to disinfect my violin.With that said , I don't see the harm in cleaning the finger board and chin rest with vinigar.I use  alcohol to clean the bow hiars and steel srtings.

I noticed that you do alot of recordings.Softer rosins have less bow noise,Pirastro Olive and Obligato are what I use in the studio , but the bow needs to be cleaned more often>I clean my bow hairs ever three months or so.


June 21, 2009 at 12:57 PM ·

Ah… brutal and bitterly sarcastic as usual.  :)

I’m with Manfio on this one. The product that you don’t use is the best one for your violin. Anything that you don’t want to take a bath in shouldn’t be used on your violin. Simply wipe your strings down with a cloth after you play. Regular maintenance will prevent a lot of future headaches. Also, as stated above, better quality rosin will leave less buildup, unless you just over rosin to begin with.

June 21, 2009 at 05:45 PM ·

As  Ian said, wiping the strings off really well everytime after playing stops the problem from even devloping.

June 21, 2009 at 06:00 PM ·

Wipe the strings with alchohol or with just a dry or damp cotton cloth?

June 22, 2009 at 02:16 PM ·

I clean my violin with Windex.  But then again...I can.  I play a carbon fiber instrument. 

For my strings, I use a wine bottle cork.

---Ann Marie

June 22, 2009 at 02:51 PM ·

You are an adult.  If you feel inclined to clean your violin with alcohol on a rag, go for it.  I've seen at least a dozen violins with cloth burns.  People sometimes forget that they even soaked the rag with alcohol, especially when it feels almost dry.  Even a slightly damp rag with quickly zip into the finish, leaving a nice tie dyed look.  If you look carefully at this violin, I covered up the burn the best that I could, without adding to much new varnish below the treble f.  It was shockingly bright before.

June 22, 2009 at 03:49 PM ·

I use a dry cloth, the soft lint-free ones that are similar to cloth baby diapers. I use two fingers to pinch the cloth around each string and rub back and forth several times until all rosin is gone. I also use the cloth to lightly wipe down the body of the violin (especially under the strings between fingerboard and bridge) to keep rosin from building up there. The dry cloth works great, just remember to wipe after every practice, it only takes about 30 seconds.

It also helps to use the minimum necessary amount of rosin on your bow hair, to cut down on the amount of rosin dust you have to remove later. I draw my bow over the rosin cake 3-4 strokes and that's enough to last for hours.

June 22, 2009 at 04:10 PM ·

I use Vision Orchestra strings -- don't know how long that is going to last, or when I'm going to return to gut -- and I asked the manufacturer (Thomastik Infeld) what to use for cleaning. This was the technical part of the reply:

You can clean the strings with a dry microfibre cloth or you could slightly dampen this cloth with “Isopropyl alcohol”  (

Please take care that the cloth is not wet (only dampened) and take care that the alcohol can’t touch any parts of your instrument (except the fingerboard).


June 24, 2009 at 07:38 PM ·

Use 1 part ammonia to 10 parts water for oil varnish finishes.  For the less expensive, or nato high gloss student level violins, it is OK to use window cleaner like Windex.  

June 25, 2009 at 12:40 PM ·

Ammonia can strip retouching varnish in a flash, as can windex. I'd stay away from them.

Steel wool works great on strings, with no risk to anything, except it makes a little bit of a mess. Stay away from solvents--I've seen too many people do things they didn't intend to do. No one ever INTENDS to drip on a violin, but. . . .

July 1, 2009 at 06:46 AM ·

Question --

I'm using alcohol to clean the strings, and it works great. I use cotton swabs to ensure there isn't much to drip.

But is it normal to want to clean it every day? I find wiping my strings with a cloth simply doesn't work as well.

I've tried switching rosin -- that helped significantly, but still, even before the alcohol idea, I've had a need to clean the strings quite meticulously.

July 1, 2009 at 09:37 AM ·

Lots of things will seem to work well. What the luthiers here are trying to do is reduce unintended consequences. We are the ones who most frequently see these consequences. Often, musicians are so embarrassed when something goes wrong with their cleaning method, that they don't even tell their friends.

This was the case with one high-level player, and one Strad. The whole thing was kept very hush-hush.

July 1, 2009 at 12:46 PM ·

I personally stay away from any kind of liqud or solvents.  I have found the best method is a tiny piece of very fine grade steel wool.  I hold the violin against my chest and lean forward a bit so any residue that falls off falls to the ground, not on the belly under the strings. 

Thanks for the tip on the cork.  that seems to work really well also.  but I'd be worried about any resins or oils that may still reside in the cork and ultimately coat your strings and decrease their life or transfer to the bow hair.

July 1, 2009 at 01:17 PM ·

I'd much rather cork than steel wool. Steel wool is abrasive, and easily cuts into silver and aluminum string windings, altering tone and reducing string life.  It is also heavily oiled to keep it from rusting, which it would do immediately if not protected.  Not to mention the residue of steel filings, which is why I banned it from my shop for decades.

Natural wine corks are made from the bark of the cork oak (Quercus suber), and don't have any additives that I know of, nor are they at all noticeably resinous. Synthetic corks work pretty well, too.  Stands to reason that anything that won't alter the wine's flavor won't have much in the way of undesirable constituents to transfer to strings.

I'm really good at touchup and varnish repair, but I still don't allow solvents like alcohol anywhere near any instruments I'm working on except when doing varnish repairs, and even then it's on a separate table.


July 3, 2009 at 09:52 AM ·

The first cork I used quickly wrecked my string. I use Dominant strings, so it might make sense that the cork chipped away at the outer coil. It was a pretty old and dried up cork.

The second cork I used made my strings go brown.

I don't know, maybe I should just keep hunting for a better cork?

Yet another reason to be disappointed that I can't drink...

October 21, 2015 at 01:09 PM · Don`t put any oils or solvents on your violin!!!--My violin is very old and has many cracks. It never looked shiny, so i used various cleaners and oils over 7 yrs. Recently i became aware that the violin was a little dead and couldn`t do what it did before and was rattling , so i brought it to a very good luthier and left it with him to discover the problems and do some much needed restoration.

Three days latter. i was informed that past repaired cracks were open, many seams were loose and that the violin was too oily to repair for 2 months. Then the very little remaining varnish could not be repaired until the oil had dried from the exposed wood. I never drenched my violin in oil or cleaner, just wiped and polished it once a week. So this is a warning to all DON`T PUT ANYTHING ON YOUR VIOLIN!!!!! (maybe spit is ok?). It will now cost thousands to restore my violin, mainly due to the years i cleaned it and made it look shiny :( T_T.

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