Using Alcohol To Clean Strings
I was wondering if using 70 percent alcohol prep pads are ok to clean my strings. My main concerns are that it will damage the synthetic core or that the trace ammounts of oil in the alcohol will transfer to my bow.
On synthetic strings it’s okay. Just dry off any excess alcohol before you play. Do not use alcohol however on gut or gut core strings. It will erode the gut. When cleaning your strings with alcohol, please put a clean towel under the fingerboard that will protect the varnish on the body and ribs of your violin from any spilled alcohol.
Don't go overboard. If your cloth is more than just damp then rhe excess alcohol could just pick gunk up from the surface and deposit it deeper inside the string.
The cloth absorbs by capillary action. The strings' cores absorb by capillary action. The smaller capillaries will be more absorbent. Hopefully, the cloth wins out.
If you are talking about 70:30 Isopropanol:Water (typically called 70% Isopropanol alcohol), you'll be fine for synthetic and metal string. As Nate says, you should let it dry before you play (it will take a few seconds to evaporate on their own) and be sure to keep the pads away from the rest of the violin (other than neck, fingerboard and chinrest) because it can also erode the varnish off of some violins.
One of my colleagues wrote a good article about cleaning strings here:
I've never seen a box of drug-store prep pads with any kind of fragrance or essential oils in it. "Prep" means "preparation" and what you're meant to be preparing for is an insulin injection.
I have I been using alcohol (specifically the "prep pads") to clean rosin off my strings for (possibly) 50 years. I always hold the instrument vertically so any dripping (which does not seem to occur with the prep pads) would not hit the instrument. I immediately clean the alcohol off the string to avoid (possible) solidification of the dissolved rosin in the winding grooves as the alcohol evaporates.
Steven J wrote in another thread that synthetic strings oxidize, and alcohol should be used to clean them. This doesn't sound right at all, to me... Do synthetic strings oxidize? Anyway, alcohol is not a good idea for removing oxidation.
Clean your string as you choose, and if they work better afterwards then you can ignore Dr Internet's conflicting bits of advice and theories.
When using alcohol pads, I hold the violin upside down for added drip protection...
Ha, Peter (above) beat me to it! I have read advice from Warchal several times about alcohol cleaning being a bad idea, that the alcohol seeps past the windings easily and gets into the core and bad things happen. So I stopped doing it, but... I never had a problem. It seemed to extend the use of the expensive strings, and I don't see what problem it would have with my plain (Warchal Amber) e. So, I will go back to it today, since things have been a little sticky there.
I will agree with the advice of holding an instrument upside-down when cleaning the strings with alcohol. We professional luthiers have seen many disasters stemming from the use of alcohol in proximity to violins.
I used to use alcohol as it seemed to be the only way to clean then strings properly. That was until I realized I was using too much rosin. I just use a microfiber cloth now. Does the job OK. I wouldn't risk putting alcohol anywhere near the violin.
Erin, everything oxidizes. Everything left of Oxygen in the periodic table as well as many compounds. There are very few synthetic materials such as Teflon that doesn't react with oxygen. You may find more on Nylon, which apparently is typically used as the base for synthetical material for our strings
Because cleaning my strings occasionally, using the alcohol prep pads as described has worked to improve my sound when microfiber has not sufficed, I have hypothesized that too much rosin had become caught and trapped between the metal string windings and the alcohol dissolved it so an absorbent, soft cloth could remove it and restore better string response.
Warchal have written an interesting guide about this.
Thank you Stewie, that Warchal link is very informative. I use tiny bit of 99% Isopropanol on microfiber cloth to wipe my strings. It seems to work well for me because if I try just the microfiber, I basically cannot wipe the string because the grip is too strong.
I use injection swabs.
I wonder if you could use ECG electrodes to rosin a double bass.
If I remember correctly, Mr. Warchal (the string maker) gave the definite answer to that question some time ago.
Injection swabs are the same thing as prep pads.
Of course, we have no idea how long the alcohol was on the string in Mr. Warchal's example before he wiped it off, and if he did and opened it up for examination.
I must confess I wipe my student's strings/necks etc. with alcohol if I have to touch them (since the virus).