Moldy Violin While in India
I've been staying in South India for 5 months and have been unable to play my violin due to my sound post falling out. After not playing it for a while, when I opened my case my violin was covered in mold. I was able to wipe it off, but it still smelled. Then a few weeks later the mold came back. I feel so sad, is this a fixable problem? Can mold be removed or is the violin ruined once the mold gets in the wood? It is not a very expensive instrument, $2500, but I really love it. I would appreciate any advice, thanks!
Discard the case, save the violin. Go see a good luthier to inspect the damage.
Thanks for your response Rocky, I was able to find a new case here, but no good luthier. I may have to wait until I get back to the US. It's good to hear that you think it's worth getting looked at and not totally ruined!
I lived in North India for three years--and while I never took care of a violin during that time--I have some experience with mold on bedding, books, and practically everything else. I wonder if it might be best to leave the violin out of the case under a slowly moving ceiling fan, at least until the end of the monsoons? Then put it back in the case for the dry season. I presume you don't have AC where you are living. You'll have to dust it off frequently, but, if you leave it in the case--even a new case--I would expect the mold will reoccur. Did the folks who sold you the case have any suggestions?
When I went to Brevard half a lifetime ago, I was advised by my teacher to put orange peels in the accessory compartments of my case and swap them out every couple of days to protect my violin from the humidity. I'm sure the humidity problems are worse in India, but those orange peels did keep the humidity from getting too high inside my case. I imagine that another absorbent material would work just as well.
Thanks for the replies! Wow Jocelyn, so you understand the mold issue in India, it's crazy how fast things mold here! Yeah no AC, only a fan, but that might be a good idea to take it out under the fan during this time! The person at the music shop didn't have any advice, he didn't know much about violins and they had a dehumidifier in the store. He thought I would have to go to a city, 2 hours away, to find a luthier. And thanks Jennifer for the orange peel advice, I've never heard of that, I'm definitely going to try it! And thanks for the kind words!
Depending on how long you have left in India, Silica gel packs are widely available online from hundreds of suppliers dirt cheap. These will keep the humidity in the under control. Some (made for gun safes) also have simple humidity indicators which give an indication of when the pack is exhausted. Good luck
I'll chime in to say--I work in a museum. If art is water damaged, or has active mold, the first thing to do it render the mold inactive. two things mold thrive on are warmth and moisture. Get the humidity taken care of Right away to render the mold inactive. This will help prevent more damage. Whether that means for your particular case to keep dry air flowing over the instrument, or enclosing in a micro climate that is between 30 to 50% relative humidity--shoot for 45% and keep it stable. Be careful not to dry it out too much, and not to change the humidity (or temperature!) too suddenly. good luck with that!!!
Can you put it in a small room, with a fan and a dehumidifier? That would seem to be the only way to control the humidity. I keep a small room in my barn at low enough humidity to keep the tack from molding with a $200 dehumidifier. That seems like something that would be easy to find in India, as everyone has to deal with these issues. Maybe ask a museum?
Since you can't play it currently anyway, why not ship it back to your home, or arrange to have it stored in a place that does have climate control?
I'm not seeing how a fan controls humidity.
A fan increases air movement, which can help prevent mold. But the dehumidifier in a small area is the best way.
Use a cup of dry (uncooked) rice to clean the violin inside. Also consider wrapping your violin into pure silk. I do not know if someone can confirm that using tea leaves (bagged) is safe to absorb humidity inside the instrument?
Mold thrives in damped area. Damped area has these 3 characteristics:
Ugh, India. The place is always humid, so in order for the violin to not mould, it must be either in an AC scenario or you need a dehumidifier somewhere.
Thank everyone for your replies and great ideas! I'm just happy to know it may not be totally ruined, I'm going to try what everyone suggests and hope for the best, thanks again!
I am just starting out on the violin and live in a hot and humid area. I'm so glad I came across this thread - otherwise I wouldn't have learned all these great tips on caring for my violin! Thank you all so much!
I agree that using a dehumidifier in a room where the instrument is kept is best, if that's something you can swing, and you have a reliable power supply that isn't horribly expensive. Other humidity sensitive item can go in that same room. About $180 here in the US.
We know very little of where the OP is living, but if she doesn't have AC, I suspect she is in a relatively cheap "paying guest house" with a drafty room in which a dehumidifier would not be very helpful. She'd probably have to clear the installation of the dehumidifier with the owners, who might balk at something they assume is going to increase their energy bill. Then she probably needs to get a surge protector, so the thing doesn't blow out the first time she plugs it in--and no--those surge protectors here in the US are way too wimpy for the electrical spikes in India. Then, if there is a lot of "load shedding" (scheduled power cuts) where she is living, she will also need an inverter, which used to be a truck battery--but that was years ago. And if she has an old fashioned truck battery, she needs to hire a handyman to come every month and fill it with distilled water.
I am currently in the wet season in Vietnam and for that reason I try to have the violin out of the box "to breathe" as much as possible, and it stays in an A/C room most of the time.
I wouldn't advise using salt, because the tiny amount of residue remaining inside the instrument will attract even more moisture.