Moldy Violin While in India

July 6, 2018, 4:08 AM · Hi Everyone,

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!

Replies (20)

July 6, 2018, 5:39 AM · Discard the case, save the violin. Go see a good luthier to inspect the damage.
Edited: July 6, 2018, 7:13 AM · 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!
July 6, 2018, 7:54 AM · 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?
Edited: July 6, 2018, 8:16 AM · 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.

Emma, I hope a luthier can fix the damage. I would be devastated if that happened to me.

July 6, 2018, 8:44 AM · 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!
July 6, 2018, 8:56 AM · 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
July 6, 2018, 9:46 AM · 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!!!
July 6, 2018, 11:30 AM · 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?
July 6, 2018, 12:18 PM · 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?
July 6, 2018, 1:54 PM · I'm not seeing how a fan controls humidity.
July 6, 2018, 2:29 PM · A fan increases air movement, which can help prevent mold. But the dehumidifier in a small area is the best way.
Edited: July 6, 2018, 3:51 PM · 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?
July 8, 2018, 12:15 AM · Mold thrives in damped area. Damped area has these 3 characteristics:
1. Presence of water
2. No moving air
3. No Ultraviolet (UV) or darkness

If you remove these 3 elements, the mold will suffocate and die out.

So, you just gotta use silica gels to remove the water, use ventilator, and hit it with sunlight. The ventilator must be able to move air from the inside to the outside of the room. Air carries water, and if you do not move the air, the air will condense and give out water that feeds the mold.

For the existing mold in your case, use dry cloth with a bit of pure alcohol and wipe them off from your case. Air the case with a fan under UV light (sun), then vacuum it thoroughly. Vacuum is very important to suck the remaining spores out.

For the existing mold in your violin, I would bring it to luthier asap. But if you do not have access to a luthier, use dry cloth (preferably anything that does not scratch) with a drop of distilled water and wipe them off from your violin. Air the violin with a fan and use vacuum at the lowest setting at distance. The key is to minimize contact with the body of the violin.

Just my $0.02


July 8, 2018, 9:18 AM · 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.
July 8, 2018, 10:16 PM · 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!
Edited: July 9, 2018, 12:10 AM · 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!
July 9, 2018, 6:25 AM · 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.
July 9, 2018, 8:00 AM · 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 sure there is a way that local violinists manage the humidity. Perhaps the OP might see if she can find a Carnatic violinist through her social network and get some advice from him or her? There must be some local "luthier" also that the Carnatic musician can refer her to. At least she could get the soundpost fixed. Just don't let the instrument out of your sight when you take it to a luthier. You don't want him to dip it in DDT or something equally odd...

July 10, 2018, 6:03 AM · 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.

Re: the mold you got, it is now in the wood. Even if you clean it, it will come back when the temperature, humidity and light goes to certain levels. In order to kill it, asume that there is no "one hit" DIY. You can do it but requires a long treatment.

For the outside, what N.S said: Put it in sunlight to get UV. Sun is an amazing disinffectant. Of course, don't leave it at noon or whenever is too hot, but making sure that it gets hours of morning sun, will be great.
For the inside, similar to what Rocky has said with rice, but do it with coarse (big) salt. Not only to get rid of the moisture inside, but salt also kills the mold. Put everyday a bunch inside and move it around gently to get to touch all parts. Like the gold diggers in the river...
You can leave the salt some more hours and then take it out. You may combine the salt and sunlight treatment in a daily routine.

And finally... Whether you play or not, clean with a microfiber cloth your violin everyday.

Cleaning the violin with a good cloth is like brushing the teeth. Basic daily hygiene...

July 11, 2018, 3:09 AM · I wouldn't advise using salt, because the tiny amount of residue remaining inside the instrument will attract even more moisture.

For the existing mold, if you know of a house which is to be fumigated for mold infestation, perhaps you could arrange to leave the violin inside during the process. I don't know what chemicals are used for this in India, or even if it is commonly done there, but some of the processes used in the US should be fairly safe for the instrument. It won't remove the surface residue, but should kill the mold.

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