Using Acetone

July 12, 2009 at 06:37 PM ·

Is it good to use acetone to clean the violin, strings, bow, or bow hair? Why or why not?

Replies (21)

July 12, 2009 at 06:56 PM ·

Acetone is a stripper of violin varnishes.  It is also quite toxic.


I don't think you want to strip your violin, or get high though.  It will however clean your violin-right down to the bare wood, and leave you feeling kinda good about the whole thing for a few hours.

July 12, 2009 at 09:49 PM ·

In simple terms, no, it's not good. Let's put it this way: unless you feel comfortable with a bottle of nail polish remover being in close contact with your violin, I wouldn't recommend it.

With all respect, Sean, in your last couple of posts, you seem intent on finding new and interesting ways of damaging your violin and bow. I'm just wondering, is there a reason for your curiosity about solvents and cleaning agents? Are you interested in learning about lutherie, or just trying to find household remedies to keep your instrument out of the workshop?

 I can understand trying to keep your instrument in good order. As a shop owner, people ask me all the time about what to use to keep their instruments and bows happy. I'm sure that if you approached your local shop (there must be at least one luthier in Calgary), they'd be able to help you find things to use that won't take the varnish off your violin -- or the skin off your fingers!


July 12, 2009 at 11:07 PM ·

Plus, it will certainly ruin your manicure!  : )

July 12, 2009 at 11:18 PM ·

Hi, Sean--

As I have mentioned in responses to previous questions on similar topics, keep it dry. Most cleaning is best done with a soft cloth or high-thread-count linen. You'll need nothing else if you are regular about this, and the opportunity for damage to self and fiddle is reduced to almost nothing. If it gets so bad that solvents are needed, pay a luthier to take the risk. :-)

P.S. Nice Pup!

July 12, 2009 at 11:43 PM ·

I thought that we already covered this topic with you; no harsh solvent is good for the numerous reasons given in the last thread.

July 12, 2009 at 11:57 PM ·

Hi Sean,

You haven't said why you're asking...did you sneak off and buy some flithy little eBay bargain? Accidently fall in the mud mid concert? Find the cat using your case 'cause the cat box was full?

"Fess up;-)


July 13, 2009 at 04:10 AM ·

you keep your cats in boxes?

July 13, 2009 at 02:19 PM ·

'Tone is a delicious aperitif--for silicon life-forms.  Not indicated for carbon life-forms, nor post-life carbon forms (e.g. violins).

July 13, 2009 at 03:44 PM ·

I am one of those people who does use alcohol (of various sorts) to clean my strings and even bow hair. But I would not bring a container of acetone into the same room with an open violin case let alone think about cleaning anything on an instrument with this extremely powerful and toxic solvent.


July 13, 2009 at 04:48 PM ·

I prefer to use a brick fastened to a strong steel chain.  When hit hard enough with vigorous repetition, there is little left that needs cleaning.

July 13, 2009 at 06:34 PM ·

My teacher has always told me to use rubbing alcohol. It is very good at cleaning rosin from strings but don't, I repeat DON'T get it on your varnish!!! Use a cue tip, dab it in a little alcohol, and clean the strings with that. For the body of the violin, I just wipe it with a cloth, it takes alot of work but its better then harmful acidic chemicals (or a brick on a chain for that matter)!!! 

July 13, 2009 at 06:58 PM ·

Wiping down the strings, fingerboard and body with a dry cloth isn't hard work, if you just make a habit of doing it after every practice. Takes only 30 seconds (or less).

July 13, 2009 at 07:48 PM ·

I find that even though I wipe down my strings every time I return my instrument to the case for the day (night) it is still not sufficient to keep the strings as clean as I need for getting the best sound. To return the instrument to it's best behavior I do clean the strings with alcohol - about once a month for a violin and about once a week or 2 for a cello.

Because of the difference I definitely here after such cleaning, I hypothesize that there is rosin that gets into the winding grooves and cannot be removed by dry-rubbibng the strings, so it has to be dissolved out. Of course I could be wrong about the cause-effect relationship, but I know I'm not wrong about the results.


July 13, 2009 at 11:10 PM ·

Just for the record, acetone isn't particularly toxic.  You don't want to be exposed to large amounts of its fumes or drink it or anything, and you don't want to have chronic exposure to it, but as solvents go it's widely considered to be pretty mild-mannered as far as toxicity.

July 13, 2009 at 11:12 PM ·

You only need enough rosin on the bow hair to generate sound...if you have such a build up on strings or bow hair that you are thinking of resorting to solvents to solve the problem you are either applying too much rosin, the wrong rosin or a combination of both.

July 28, 2009 at 10:17 PM ·

it is perfectly fine if you keep it on the strings and fingure board. its like using rubbing alchol. if that stuff gets on the wood of your instument you are screweed

July 28, 2009 at 11:05 PM ·

Some things are just inevitable. Try all these various potential disasters you've been asking about and you will eventually pour some on your fiddle and then we can discuss repairs.....


July 29, 2009 at 03:34 AM ·

 Why bother with acetone?  Alcohol and mineral spirits pose less of a health risk and are effective solvents for rosin.  Mineral spirits is less harmful to the instrument finish.  All are flammable.

August 1, 2009 at 11:36 AM ·

I use injection swabs. Small, in sealed foil containers, lint-free and with just enough alcohol to clean strings and fingerboard. Be VERY careful that none drips onto the varnish, but they seem to have just about the right saturation that this isn't a problem. Leastways, I've never had an accident.

Sometimes get funny looks in the chemists shop when I'm asking for them, but a box lasts for years.


August 2, 2009 at 02:12 PM ·

I agree. Injection swabs saturated with alcohol are the best. Have used them for years. It is the safest way to clean the strings and the fingerboard.

Alcohol does not drip from the swabs. Allow it to evaporate from your fingers before touching the violin.

August 8, 2009 at 07:37 AM ·

I also use the injection things for my strings.

I have heard of naphtha being used to clean violins infrequently.  Has anybody else heard of such a thing?

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