Rusty strings?!

January 18, 2019, 5:26 PM · I changed to a brand new E string out of necessity, played it for 2 days, then went away for a week. I just arrived home and it seems to be covered in a brown rust! What could be causing this?

Replies (14)

January 18, 2019, 6:04 PM · Humidity.
Edited: January 18, 2019, 6:07 PM · And air. Just wipe it clean with a cloth.
January 18, 2019, 6:29 PM · Normal oxidation of steel by the air. As Paul said, wipe it clean. Presumably that string wasn't stainless steel, which doesn't oxidise so easily.
January 18, 2019, 7:58 PM · Get a stainless E. You can buy the somewhat overpriced Lisa E by Prim, or a stainless guitar string. The latter's dirt cheap, but you'll have to experiment with the gagues a bit. I imagine a .011 would be about right, but it's up to you.
January 18, 2019, 11:55 PM · If you prefer the way the string sounds to others, industrial hardware supplies have chemically treated paper that absorbs humidity and prevents rust. Make a few phone calls asking for "VCI paper". Wouldn't doubt that someone visiting this website has some to mail to you. Won't take much, just cut long strips to wrap around the string. I've used aquarium air tubing, sliced lengthwise on one side, lined with VCI paper chemical side out, on guitar strings that rusted. I would NOT toss VCI packages in a case and expose the entire instrument unless I knew exactly what I was doing.
January 19, 2019, 1:55 AM · Thanks, everyone!
January 19, 2019, 11:10 AM · I've never heard of a steel E becoming that rusty in so short a time. There must be more to this story...
January 19, 2019, 11:34 AM · The OP said it was "covered." That could be a thin coating of a small fraction of a micron for all we know, just enough to be visible the length of the string. If rust is not sloughing off of your E string, it's hard to imagine losing enough material that the function or longevity of the string would be significantly compromised.
January 19, 2019, 11:51 AM · Any amount of rust makes an E string unpleasant to play. Sure, you can polish it easily, but that's just another thing on your mind to worry about while you play. Plus, it'll go false.

My stainless E sounds fine and has lasted me 4 months so far, which is unheard of for my sweaty paws.

January 19, 2019, 4:05 PM · It's summer here, and although I left it in a shaded room, it's very possible the case got humid.

I wiped the string after making this post and 80% of the rust came off, though there's still some stuck to the string.

January 19, 2019, 7:03 PM · One thing to avoid when cleaning rust off strings is using hard abrasives such as wire wool. This can cause micro scratches in the string. A surface scratch is a focus for sudden failure of the string at that point. Not that failure will necessarily happen but one should avoid the possibility.
Edited: January 22, 2019, 12:37 PM · Trevor's right. Here's a Warchal link about this:
https://www.warchal.com/faq/what_is_the_best_way_to_care_for_our_strings.html
Yeah, I just use those glasses cloths to clean my strings. I have way too many.
Edited: January 22, 2019, 4:56 PM · Nina, the Warchal link seems to have been truncated by the system (it does it sometimes - I don't know why). The full link is,

https://www.warchal.com/faq/what_is_the_best_way_to_care_for_our_strings.html

[Edit. Would you believe it, it's done it to me! The thing to do is to scrub the stuff after /faq/ and replace it with,
what_is_the_best_way_to_care_for_our_strings.html

January 22, 2019, 11:14 PM · Cotton said that surface corrosion would cause the string to go false. This claim is wholly unsubstantiated and I wonder what his basis is other than assumptions and "common sense" and such.

You may have purchased a string that was made from inferior material although that's hard to imagine happening for a name-brand string too because they're pretty tough on their quality control for material. Unless you got yourself a Chinese knockoff.

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