Solutions for those poor souls with acidic sweat
Aw, man! I'm so excited about my *brand new* gut strings! They sound awesome and are reportedly super durable, and—
o h _ w a i t
My sweat has a pH of 1 (edit: obviously hyperbole) and instantly dissintegrates any metallic or organic materials present within 10 metres.
A week in, my E string snapped. Now my A string's fraying and my D's all fuzzy like and onion left out in the sun. To boot, that Goldbrokat E string I bought anticipating my E string's imminent demise has gone a nice shade of carbon b l a c k.
I've tried everything. From oiling my strings to exercising and eating plenty of greens, I can't seem to protect my strings or lower the acidity of my sweat. The only solution I can think of at this point is rubbing baking soda all over my body, but that would get my nice black performance tux all powdery. And feel real nasty.
This bites into my savings and into my sanity. What do I do?
(Curiously enough, my violin's varnish is unaffected by the 4-hour-a-day sulfuric acid bath that is my practise. In fact, I've tried every solvent under the sun–including literal paint thinner—and nothing can dissolve it. Annoying, since I had to do some varnish touch-up after the previous owner went at it with a nail file.)
Wash your hands before you practice. Practice in a cool room. And use relatively inexpensive strings because you will be changing them often.
I would have thought that with sweat THAT acidic, you'd be of interest to your local teaching hospital's research department! What ARE you excreting from those sweat glands? I'd get in touch with a biochemistry department if I were you.
hand sanitizers. they dry out your hand pretty well, which is what we want here.
pH of 1 is unlikely (which is that of stomach acid), a pH of 4 would be more likely. Notwithstanding do you eat much fruits? If not you should. You might want to consult a health specialist if your skin is THAT acidic, there may be something wrong with your physiology.
The pKa of pyruvic acid (I think the most acidic non-noxious acid) is as high as 2.5. Lower than that, you're talking about free phosphoric and oxalic acids.
Wipe your strings periodically during practice and between each piece during performance, maybe? I know a flutist who said her breath is acidic and cleans the inside of her flute often during practice and in between each piece when performing to keep the metals in her flute from getting damaged.
The other half of the corrosion chemical reaction is water. Sea water is corrosive because it is a mix of water, reactive oxygen and electrolytes (salts). So, wipe the water off of the strings frequently. Metals that should be more corrosion resistant than steel would be Titanium and Gold plating. Aluminum will quickly form a protective layer of Al oxide, but it is a soft metal that breaks for other reasons. Silver windings quickly form a thin layer of dark Silver Sulfide. Fortunately, some brands of plain steel E are cheap enough to replace frequently. E strings break for other reasons; sharp edges or too much pressure while playing too far over the fingerboard.
The tarnish gets deposited on the fingers and fingers board? And on the wiping cloth? Exposing fresh metal for more oxidation?
If you are open to explore ayurvedic approach, I would encourage you to learn more about it and get diagnosed. You may have imbalance in energies and would benefit from paying attention to what do you eat.
I had this issue as well and use gut strings. I cut down on drinking coffee and went on a much lower carb diet. That seems to have helped reduce my acidic sweat. I also highly recommend getting plain gut strings with varnish. This will protect the strings from moisture and humidity.
It's difficult to control what I eat since I still don't legally have a choice about living with my parents, but I'll have to make do. This isn't the first time I've heard similar advice; I guess I'll prepare my own meals for a month and pump some iron and we'll see what happens. Maybe in a month's time, I'll make a follow-up post for people with the same problem.
Here a thread in Maestronet on sweat and varnish,
There is a correlation between pH of sweat and urine but it is complicated.
I sure am enjoying the chemistry lessons here.
Hendrik, it's not alkalinization you treat or prevent urinary infections, but just the other way - by bringing the pH down. If you are at risk of stone formation then depends on the type of stones you eventually suffer from.
I confess I am confused about the pH needed to prevent or treat UTIs. I did indeed learn long time ago that acidification was what was done to treat or prevent UTIs; and this was done by high meat diets at the time. However E. Coli grows better in an mildly acidic than in an alkaline environment in vitro so I thought I must have remembered it wrong. Still not sure how this works then.
Whew I wish there was a way to bring down Na in sweat. I'm a terribly salty sweator, and I really have to watch my electrolytes when working out or in the heat.
I think while there might be some measures to slightly regulate sweat, have string makers and luthiers (in regards to varnish composition) come up with solutions? The human variable is usually the most difficult and unlikely (maybe also not so healthy, as in basing ones diet exclusively on a violin related factor)to control
Though changing diets can theoretically help, I would just suggest using the more resistant strings, because some individuals do sweat more regardless diet. They are not better or worse than any other violinist just because of what they choose to ingest.
If your perspiration really was pH = 1, your bed sheets would have holes in them and you wouldn't be able to wear any natural fabrics at all. That makes me curious how this value was measured.
Back in the day I used to use Pirastro Eudoxas. I liked them but they would lose their shine pretty quickly and I found I could not slide too well within a few days and eventually my hands would completely corrode the winding. I did change strings and had less of that problem but at about the same time I developed the habit of wiping my strings after every play. I don't have the problem any more. I think maybe Eudoxas are fragile strings and I'm sure different metals react differently. However, wiping the strings seems like a good idea - kind of like how if you eat candy and brush your teeth after it's less likely to decay than if you go to bed with a gobstopper in your mouth!
A PH of 1? I have some steel beams at home that need cutting. I'm wondering if maybe you could come over and hold them for awhile?
The other metal that is corrosion resistant is bronze, which used to be used as the winding of the G string. Bronze cannons pulled out of the ocean from shipwrecks can restored almost as good as new, while the iron cannons gradually disappear.
If you happen to have a guitar store nearby, look for string cleaner, such as Dunlop Fretboard 65. I have heard that they can prolong average string life
As a University student, I was told to use anti-perspirant on my hands just before bed. It washes off in the morning, but does leave a trace in your skin to prevent so much sweating. It is like the way your underarms react if you miss one day's shower! Over time, it can cut down on your sweating in your hands. Try it, and maybe discuss with a Dr. for the best advice.