Rosin removal

November 3, 2004 at 06:39 AM · Does anyone know a safe method of removing some light rosin buildup between the sound holes of a violin? I've tried lightly rubbing distilled water with soft cloth. I've also tried a good violin polish-cleaner. Nothing seems to work.

Any ideas short of bringing it to a violin shop?

Any help would be appreciated.

Ted Kruzich

Replies (35)

November 3, 2004 at 10:53 AM · DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT USE RUBBING ALCOHOL!

IT WILL EAT AWAY THE VARNISH QUICKLY! NEVER EVER USE RUBBING ALCOHOL ON YOUR VARNISH!

This is super important...NEVER use rubbing alcohol to clean your violin's varnish. Never.

November 3, 2004 at 04:32 PM · Never say never, the answer "NEVER USE ALCOHOL WITH ALCOHOL-BASED VARNISH" would be better. There are plenty of violins with polyurethane varnish, and the alcohol doesn't make any problem with it (I'm using the alcohol, when nothing else help)

M.

November 3, 2004 at 04:38 PM · Personally, if polish doesn't work, I'd take it to a shop. The only way I have found to completely avoid rosin buildup is to wipe that area after every time you play, before it bonds with the varnish. I do that with my new instrument, and it is still pristene. If you let it build up at all, it is much harder to remove (though polish usually helps a lot).

You might solicit recomendations here on the best polish. I have used one (recomended by my violin professor in college) called Weinman's Furniture Cream, that I have only found in Chicago (in a grocery store), in a cream-colored shampoo-bottle-looking thing. (It also comes in a spray, which is NOT the one.) I have used it on several cheaper instruments, including one that had about 80 years of rosin buildup (fiddler), and had some luck and no damage, but there is NO WAY I would put this stuff on my concert instrument (which has a wonderful sounding, beautiful, and bloody fragile and finicky varnish). If I had to, I might ask the maker for a recomendation for polish (I know he cleans it with _something_), but I just clean it with a soft cotton cloth and leave it at that. I would probably only use a labeled violin polish for a high end instrument, if anything, rather than take chances with a furniture polish, even one recomended strongly to me. (My prof said some restorers use it...can anybody confirm or deny this? Or recommend any other good polishes?)

Personally, I would never use alcohol on any instrument. I didn't know that any violins used a polyurethane-based varnish. I thought even the cheapies used spirit (alcohol) varnish, and I would be afraid to put alcohol on an older oil-based varnish as well. Basically, it's a sizeable risk IMHO, I guess unless you're sure your varnish is polyurethane-based (my God, what must that sound like?). I suppose you could find some part of the violin where you aren't too worried (something MUCH less critical to sound and appearence than the center of the belly...back of the scroll, maybe? Still looks bad if it eats it.)

Good luck! Rosin accumulation is a pain. :-)

Francis

November 3, 2004 at 06:06 PM · I have to agree with the above post - NEVER EVER USE REGULAR ALCOHOL TO CLEAN A VIOLIN!

It might as well be the same thing as using hydrochloric acid! Yes, it's possible that you could find a type of alcohol that might work, but I wouldn't take even think about taking that chance!

Go to www.swstrings.com or www.sharviolins.com Look through their accessories for cleaner or polish. It's only a few dollars and it designed to clean instruments without damaging them. Don't use anything other than a cleaner specifically designed for that purpose.

November 4, 2004 at 04:04 PM · There's a couple of things that work and can be quite useful, but I suggest caution in trying them.

Neutrogena soap (about the mildest out there) and tepid water on a brush or paper towel can work quite nicely. Don't allow the water to stay on the instrument, however.

As a cleaner, you can try no. 7 brand car polish -- it's available at most auto parts stores (Pep Boys, Autozone and the like). It's a mild abrasive in a vessel that's not harmful to many types of varnish. A small amount on an old t-shirt or other soft cloth is all that's needed.

I would stress that I wouldn't try either of these on a particularly soft varnish -- the Heberlein shop, for example, used a very soft varnish on its better-quality instruments, and no.7 will take the color coat right off. And I wouldn't suggest it in place of going to a luthier and having them clean and polish the instrument.

But if you're in the middle of nowhere with nary a violin shop in sight, it can be worth a try.

November 4, 2004 at 06:30 PM · Please, whatever you do, do NOT follow Michael's advice. Neutrogena soap is meant for humans, Car soap is meant for cars. Don't try using it on your violin, it's not worth the risk.

Go onlin and look up Shar or Southwest strings and order violin cleaner/polish off their website. Having rosin buildup is not a life or death matter, it can wait a few days. It's not worth risking your violin just to try new stuff...

November 4, 2004 at 08:23 PM · Melanie,

I understand your concerns. I don't recommend these methods as an alternative to seeing a luthier. I only mention them if you happen to be stuck 300 miles from the nearest shop and need something as a last resort.

I also wouldn't recommend this for daily (or weekly or monthly) use. These methods are for when the rosin has built up to the point that it cannot be wiped off.

November 4, 2004 at 11:50 PM · Greetings,

why did a demntor give Michael a demerit?

Can it be removed with neutrogena?

Cheers,

Buri

November 5, 2004 at 02:50 AM · Compressed air?

November 5, 2004 at 02:49 AM · A bottle of remerit works wonders, I hear. Probably because the suggestions are considered unsafe for the varnish by some.

November 5, 2004 at 05:05 AM · Sam, where would you obtain compressed air, may I ask?

November 5, 2004 at 05:07 AM · Buri,

Evil dementor avenged! Can't change elections - but can correct misguided moderation.

November 5, 2004 at 05:11 AM · I happen to have a compressor and tank, but you can purchase aerosol cans at any computer or office supply. Works wonders on bow hair too. Twice a year I take computer, keyboard, vcr, fiddle, whatever else strikes my fancy out to the garage and give evrything a nice - dare I say it? - B.J.

November 5, 2004 at 05:19 AM · Greetings,

Mark you may wear your underpants on the outside of your trousers with pride,

Cheers,

Buri

November 5, 2004 at 05:32 AM · Mark and Buri,

Thanks for the Patronus!

The easiest way to keep your violin clean is to keep it clean -- wipe it off with a soft cloth after every playing session. It sounds glib, but it's true.

November 5, 2004 at 03:13 PM · Mark,

My point with the whole thing was that it would be much better off to order specific violin cleaner/polish from online and wait a few days until you receive it so that you can clean your violin with the proper stuff instead of taking the chance that car soap or Neutrogena would ruin the instrument. Having rosin buildup on a violin is not a life and death matter, it can wait a few more days.

Even if a person is stuck in the middle of nowhere, 300 miles from a shop, they can still go online and place an order. It would only take a few days and no chance of ruining the violin varnish in the process.

I'm not saying that there's no way your ideas wouldn't work, but there are better ways to go about cleaning a violin without risking damage to it when you don't know how car soap and neutrogena will react on your specific violin.

November 5, 2004 at 06:14 PM · People!

I know what alcohol did to my 1800's violin and what it costed me both financialy and mentaly!

PF

November 5, 2004 at 06:51 PM · I had a luthier tell me to use dry ivory soap and baby powder instead of peg dope for pegs. It works great.

November 5, 2004 at 08:00 PM · I clean my violin using walnut's oil. I just put chopped walnuts into soft cotton cloth (if cloth is too thin, you can fold it into several layers), connect cloth's ends to form a ball and wipe the violin with this ball. I need some time to do it but it works well and safety.

November 5, 2004 at 09:16 PM · Greetings,

does anyone know if prunes work?

Cheers,

Buri

November 5, 2004 at 10:09 PM · Yes, Buri, but don't let the juice drip into the f-holes. It'll stain the label.

November 5, 2004 at 10:48 PM · > I didn't know that any violins used a polyurethane-based varnish.

Believe me, there are. I own such a violin, and I found many others on the net.

> I thought even the cheapies used spirit (alcohol) varnish,

Not every, but many of them. And that's the most popular "target" of polyurethane varnish, but there are some student violins as well covered with polyurethane, for example some Strunal violins. (And they are _not_ cheapies I'm thinking about)

> Basically, it's a sizeable risk IMHO,

You're right. Never use alcohol with violin if it can cause _any_ damage to the body or varnish. The instrument is too subtle and delicate to treat it with alcohol!

> my God, what must that sound like?

I'm a beginner learning on my own (looking for a teacher now), so don't expect good technical points, good intonation, and no false notes - but it sounds like

http://maticomp.net/caprice.mp3

Regards!

M.

November 5, 2004 at 11:03 PM · I've known a few luthiers in my many accumulated years, and Michael's tip about mild soap ties in with what they all used. Some patent violin cleaners are actually quite abrasive so caution there. Also I don't know about walnut oil(or even prune juice, tho not ingesting IT would be a waste!) but I have a circa 1730 violin and I use a very little almond oil on a cloth, with finger tip inside it, to clean and polish my violin. I don't let the rosin build up in the first place

November 6, 2004 at 02:39 AM · Greetings,

perhaps this part of the universe should be referred to as the f-hole,

Cheers,

Buri

November 6, 2004 at 03:01 AM · whoever is doing that to sam should stop, you're being very immature, and abusing your privelage.

November 6, 2004 at 03:20 AM · Greetings,

Owen, I think what actauuly happend was Sam abused his privileges (as it were)and got a lot of demntor marks with the result the computer kicked in with automatic soul-suckers. In essence, you are chastizing a machine, but that's okay. If it was good enough for Hal it's good enough for Robert's laptop,

Cheers,

Buri

November 6, 2004 at 12:38 PM · I would say just clean your violin with soft clothes daily. If you clean every day after you play, you'll never have problems with getting dirt on your violin.

November 7, 2004 at 06:43 AM · Weishaar's Violin Shop in LA has a cleaner and a polish. Cleaner should be used every once in a while with a very soft cloth and then use polish to restore its natural shine. Nothing abrasive to it, BTW.

November 7, 2004 at 05:50 PM · Just out of curiosity, does anyone know why my last post was kissed by a dementor? I guess that Patronus wasn't strong enough, Buri. A puff of silver vapor and that's all she wrote...

Sometimes it can be very disturbing for performers to find out what luthiers do with their instruments. I remember scaring people to death many times while working in Indianapolis, just telling them that oil and alcohol is used to polish their violin. I guess it's much less frightening to call it French polish.

So if I offended anyone's sensibilities with my suggestions, I apologize. As I said, I wouldn't suggest them if I didn't know they worked.

November 9, 2004 at 02:06 AM · From Laurie Niles

Posted via 209.178.190.60 on November 5, 2004 at 11:51 AM (MST)

I had a luthier tell me to use dry ivory soap and baby powder instead of peg dope for pegs. It works great.

Laurie, I feel rather dubious about using any kind of soap on the pegs. Soap is made from lye, a corrosive substance. That's got to cause damage over the long run. I've even seen some luthiers use Lava soap. Corrosive + abrasive, that can't be good.

November 9, 2004 at 05:33 AM · The soap (applied dry) is a lubricant, baby powder is for helping the peg stick. My luthier is aware of such things, so I'm not worried. He recommended using a mild soap like Ivory.

November 9, 2004 at 05:49 AM · Greetings,

do any pastes or unctions manufactured specifically for violnistic problems have a good effect on body parts?

Cheers,

Buri

November 11, 2004 at 01:52 AM · Just get a bottle of rosin remover from one of the major supply places. I won't give their names because I do not advocate one over the other. This stuff works great. Its OK to use on any instrument even with fragile varnish.

November 11, 2004 at 09:01 AM · Try using computer cleaner; it usually looks like white cold cream.

Dunno what brands are available elsewhere, but in the Philippines I used WipeOut (TM). It flawlessly removed approximately four years' worth of rosin buildup without any damage to my violin's finish

November 11, 2004 at 09:49 AM · ...a mixture of Turpentine and linseed oil...about 2pts. oil X 1 pt. turps makes a satisfactory cleaner...

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