How s and whys of string cleaning
iamnycellist shared this on another site and I thought many of you might find this useful. My personal preference has been low abrasive gray or non-abrasive white Scotchbrite pads and a cotton kerchief.
What is your favorite method?
I just use a dry cloth.
I use denatured alcohol, I've heard it's not good for a synthetic string, but I've not noticed any negative effects and it's the only thing that ACTUALLY gets all the caked up rosin off.
I just wipe with a cloth and sometimes rub my fingernail along the bowed area of the strings. I used to use an old wine bottle cork occasionally until Mr.Warchal said it damages the string winding.
Christopher, the Warchal site has some pretty convincing evidence of what happens when you use a liquid hydrocarbon to dissolve your rosin. Now, if you don’t notice a difference, then I guess it works for you.
I'm with Jeff. I stopped using alcohol after looking at the report on the Warchal site. I'm still not 100% convinced by the evidence against using a wine cork, but to be on the safe side, I'm sticking with a cloth and fingernail. And as for Scotchbrite or steel wool (as some have reported), they're great for scouring cast iron frying pans, but not such a good idea for something as delicate as silver or aluminum wound violin strings. With steel wool moreover, apart from abrasion on the strings, you'd probably end up releasing a load of tiny metal particles into the air, and therefore straight up your nose.
Again, not the green Scotchbrite. Green would most assuredly damage your strings with little effort.
Rachel Barton Pine had an audio program in which she interviewed the head of Otto Infeld (maker of Dominant and other strings). When talking about when to rosin the bow, the gentleman said that when you feel the bow needs rosin, instead of rosining, take a piece of 0000 steel wool and use it to clean the caked-on rosin off the strings. At that moment, the bow will probably draw correctly without needing more rosin. So, a string manufacturer suggests 0000 steel wool as a string cleaner in some instances.
I find the advice to use steel wool, even 0000, to be odd. Steel wool removes material, and when you remove material from a string, even a minuscule amount, you change the distribution of mass. You could be removing mass from the top of the string instead of the bottom, and at one end more than the other. And that's part of what makes strings false. Maybe not the first or second times, but eventually.
Soft cloth advocate, because generally the string dies faster by overzealous cleaning than rosin build-up. Just do not ever let it ever build up in tbe first place. I am not even too worried about my gut A, and just make sure all strings are "clean" without too much undue rubbing (I do not use cleaning agents at all.)
The Warshal article clearly show that alcohol does get in the winding, a foregone conclusion. What I don't remember being discussed is how it actually (if at all) degrades the string's properties, so the question remains open on that one.
I've never experienced degradation due to alcohol. It's volatile anyway and evaporates in minutes, which is why the pitch can go up a bit. Now acetone? That could affect the polymer core.
Scott, most of the major string manufacturer engineers I've spoken with agree that the main cause of initial degradation in sound quality is from contamination. Initially, that will be on the surface of the string, which isn't a big deal to remove. But solvents will take that into the core of the string. The solvent will evaporate, but what has been dissolved and taken into the core of the string by the solvent will remain. I have not done any sort of exhaustive tests on this myself.
All this talk about ruining your strings with solvent coming from the folks who would dearly love you to replace them frequently -- the manufacturers.
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