Is lemon Old English wood cleaner safe for instruments?

Edited: June 19, 2018, 5:25 AM · My mom wants to use lemon old English cleaner designed for wood on my piano. If it's safe, I'll probably use it on my violin, as well, to get rid of excess rosin.
The bottle just says it's used to clean wood and prevent stains. It isn't safe to ingest, nor to get in the eyes, but that isn't surprising. It doesn't say anything about being safe specifically for musical instruments, just wood. I don't see why it wouldn't be, if it's for wood, but I wanted to check first before applying.
Also, as a side question, I've heard that lemon oil (I'm assuming ESSENTIAL oil, not just oil) is used to clean the fingerboard on stringed instruments, but no more than one drop a year. I'm assuming that it is diluted a bit with water to go farther? I know it is commonly used in cleaning.
As another side question, do we clean the bows? My teacher never said anything about it. I know the actual hair isn't to be touched, but should the other parts be cleaned? Mine is graphite, so can the above cleaner (assuming it's safe) be used for that?
Thanks in advance.

Replies (14)

Edited: June 19, 2018, 6:40 AM · It's OK for the piano NOT OK FOR VIOLIN. Clean solid parts of violin and bow with microfiber cloth. You can use a slightly damp cloth to remove stains (like dried sweat residue) from your violin.

"Deep cleaning" of violins should be left to professional luthiers. It is best not to use even the products marketed as violin cleaners or polishers.

June 19, 2018, 6:45 AM · Furniture cleaner will wreck your violin.

There are only two ways to clean your violin. (1) Use a soft cloth to wipe off fingerprints and rosin dust. (2) Take your violin to a luthier for professional cleaning. That's it.

I used to use Hill Polish and Cleaner (available from Shar), very sparingly, but I decided it wasn't really doing that much for me. I even learned what pro luthiers use for cleaning violins and it's not all that different from what is in the Hill preparation. But would still rather have the luthier do it should it be necessary.

Professional cleaning should not be necessary more than once in a blue moon. Preventive care is essential. Always wipe off rosin dust as soon as you're done practicing. And learn how to handle your violin so that you are not putting fingerprints all over the bouts. You really shouldn't have to touch your violin anywhere but the neck and accessories (pegs, tailpiece, button, chin rest). If you get in the habit of handling your violin carefully, you will have far fewer fingerprints to remove afterward. Keep the inside of your case free of dust and dirt -- vacuum it out once in a while.

Edited: June 19, 2018, 7:07 AM · Good violins have delicate varnish finishes that are not the same as the finishes used on furniture or pianos. Violin varnish is designed to remain somewhat soft so that it doesn't constrain the vibrations of the the wooden parts. A product made for furniture finishes should not be considered safe for violins. Such a product could also be absorbed into the wood and/or glue joints causing problems with future repairs. It's good that you asked about this first. Tell your mom that violins and bows are not furniture!

If you develop the habits of wiping your violins off after use, washing your hands before handing them, and only touching them bare handed on the places designed to be touched like the neck, you really shouldn't need any aggressive cleaning ever. And if/when it does need cleaning beyond wiping off with a soft cloth, you should let a violin maker do it.

If you already have "excess rosin," as you said, then it's time to take it in for professional cleaning. Then get in the habit of wiping it off after each use.

(I was going to say that Lemon Old English Wood Cleaner is only safe for old English violins, but then you might not know that I was kidding.)

June 19, 2018, 8:14 AM · Thanks, everyone!
Mark, my mom just wanted to use it on the piano. The question about using it on my violin was my own. Thanks for responding so soon.
June 19, 2018, 3:52 PM · Make sure your piano finish is varnish and not a polyurethane or polyester finish before using. The products you reference will make a mess of the piano; not damage, just an oily mess that will attract dust and more fingerprints. Most pianos built over the last 40 or so years have these finishes. Consult your piano qualified technician.
June 19, 2018, 6:00 PM · For pianos with polyester finishes you can use a spray glass cleaner such as "glass plus" but you need to make sure that it does NOT contain ammonia.
June 19, 2018, 6:21 PM · I'm registered piano technician. I'd stay away from the product the OP mentioned. Or any other products that have wax or silicone.
Edited: June 19, 2018, 10:33 PM · Rosin dust should be brushed off the violin daily via a clean painting brush. (The small kind, not the kind you'd use to paint a house). "Clean", in this context, means never used for painting in the past.
June 20, 2018, 12:28 AM · NooOOO! No, no, no, no! Not on the piano, definitely not on the violin!
June 20, 2018, 3:27 AM · The best violin polish/cleaner is that one the player NEVER USES!!!!
June 25, 2018, 9:04 AM · This is funny.
Edited: June 27, 2018, 6:46 PM · Yeah, you want to give nightmares to the good people on, you mention using furniture polish on a violin. Pretty funny.

But really, if it's just a cheap student violin, I'm not sure I see the harm. Just try a drop of it on an inconspicuous rib and see what happens. There are many different varnish formulations. Some will be dissolved by lemon oil, some will crack if exposed to lemon oil. It just depends.

For cleaning your fingerboard you can use a cotton ball and little rubbing alcohol, but be careful not to drip any on the varnish because alcohol will dissolve shellac-type finishes.

I agree with the general thrust of the advice which is -- don't get in the habit of cleaning your violin with chemicals. Best thing is just a dry, soft cloth to gently take care of rosin dust and sweat and fingerprints. There are microfiber cloths made for this purpose.

June 27, 2018, 8:22 PM · The Music Nomad Tool has a brush at one end and a fuzzy string cleaner on the other. The brush is perfect for cleaning rosin off the surface and the other end does a decent job of cleaning the strings.

is one example of an on-line source.

July 3, 2018, 9:47 AM · Paul Deck's first post was spot on. I'm surprised how many violinists don't know they shouldn't touch the body of the instrument with their fingers. (I was enlightened by my luthier.) And vacuuming: not only to remove dust but to remove bow hair beetles that may have snuck in.

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