If this is your first time to own a violin, you understandably want to care for your beloved instrument as best as you can. Dust, rosin, and sweat can take away your fiddle’s luster and even mess up with the sound. This is why you should learn how to clean a violin. We have outlined some helpful tips below.
You will need the following materials to clean your violin:
- Soft cleaning cloths
- Violin cleaning solution
- Violin-safe polish
Follow these recommendations to keep your fiddle clean and happy:
How to Clean Violin
1. Choose the right cleaner
- Using the wrong cleaning solution will damage your instrument. Avoid solutions with citrus, silicone, or high amounts of alcohol.
- There are solutions specially made for cleaning violins. If you are unsure about which one to buy, ask a luthier (a professional string instrument maker) or your local violin shop for a recommendation.
2. Use soft micro-fiber cloths
- Choose soft cleaning cloths to avoid scratching the body of your violin.
- Lint-free cleaning towels are the best for wiping the bow without leaving fibers behind or damaging the bow hairs.
- Be sure to keep at least two of these cloths in your violin case to ensure that they are free of dust, debris, and lint.
3. Clean the strings after each playing session
To increase the lifespan of your instrument, get into the habit of cleaning it after each use. Regular cleaning will prevent a build-up of violin rosin and dust, which can affect the tone and playability of your instrument.
- Using a clean, soft microfiber cloth, wipe each string at a time from top to bottom. Wipe using a gentle sliding motion to avoid damaging the strings.
- Use pure ethanol to get rid of stubborn rosin build-up on the strings. Pour a few drops of ethanol on the cleaning cloth and gently wipe down the strings.
Pro tip: Handle the ethanol away from the violin. Pouring even a few drops of alcohol directly to the violin will damage the varnish.
4. Wipe the body of the violin
Ideally, you should touch the body of the violin as little as possible when playing or handling the instrument.
Fingerprints are not only unsightly but too much touching will also wear down the violin’s patina, leave scratches, and make your instrument look more aged than it is.
- To clean the body of the violin, use a clean separate cloth to avoid transferring dirt to the surface of the instrument.
- Wipe the top, sides, and back of the instrument using gentle, circular motions.
- Be careful that the wiping cloth does not snag on the F-holes; tearing or splintering the wood around the F-hole can mess up the violin’s sound.
5. Dust off the bridge
When cleaning a violin, it is easy to overlook the bridge. This small part has a big role when it comes to the playability of your instrument.
The bridge does more than just support the strings; when you strum the strings, the bridge transmits the vibrations to the soundpost for the instrument to produce sound.
As you can see, a build-up of dust and rosin around the bridge can interfere with the playability of the strings and the sound the violin produces.
- Wipe the bridge using a clean, soft cloth. Keep in mind the bridge is particularly fragile and you should, therefore, be gentle when cleaning this part.
6. Keep the bow clean
The bow is prone to rosin build-up.
- Use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe away dirt and debris from the bow’s string. When cleaning the bow, use a gentle up and down motion and wipe in the direction of the hairs.
7. Polish your violin occasionally
A good-quality violin has a glossy patina. However, after months or years of use, this shiny topcoat will wear off. You can remedy this by applying high-quality varnish to restore the sheen and beauty of your treasured fiddle. Depending on the condition of your violin, you can apply polish at least once a year.
- Invest in a polish that is specifically made for cleaning violins. Regular water or furniture polishes will ruin the wood that your instrument is made of.
- Use a very small amount of varnish to polish the body of the violin. Do not pour or spray the polish directly on the instrument; instead, apply a small quantity of the polish to a clean cloth first.
- Use circular motions to rub the polish only on the violin’s body. Avoid getting the polish on the strings, bridge, pegs, f-hole, tailpiece, and other parts other than the front, sides, and back of the instrument.
In addition to regular cleaning, here are other care and maintenance steps you can take to keep your violin in tiptop shape:
- Consult with a luthier or violin dealer before polishing your instrument
Commercial varnishes contain some form of oil, which can cause cracks on the violin’s wood. If your instrument has lost its patina, we recommend consulting with an experienced luthier before going ahead to apply varnish, especially to an antique violin.
- Keep the violin case clean
You should store your violin in a dust-free case. A best practice is to vacuum the case at least once a week to keep dust mites and other debris away.
- Minimize contact with the violin’s body
The less you touch the body of the violin, the longer it will retain its shine. Make it a habit to lift and hold the instrument by its neck.
- Store your violin in an area with moderate temperature
Avoid leaving your fiddle out in the cold or very hot areas. Exposure to extreme temperatures is a sure way to quickly damage any instrument.
It is a good idea to invest in a humidifier if you live in an area with a dry hot or cold climate. A humidifier will help keep your violin from wrapping due to prolonged exposure to dry weather.
A little care and maintenance will keep your fiddle happy
A violin is a significant investment and you want to take all measures to care for it. Fortunately, you do not need to be a professional cleaner or to spend loads of cash to clean and keep your fiddle in top shape. Practice cleaning it after every playing session and your violin will serve you for many years to come.
Do you have any questions or comments about cleaning a violin? Please leave them below—we’d love to hear from you!