Whenever someone mentions stringed instruments one quickly springs to mind: the violin. It is one of the most treasured instruments, because of the wide range of heartwarming sounds it produces.
That said, the quality of sound produced by any violin decreases pretty quickly, if the instrument is not maintained properly. The only surefire way to keep a violin sounding its best is to clean it regularly. This goes for any violin, from a simple beginner’s instrument, to a priceless antique.
How do you properly clean a violin? Here is a step by step guide.
Clean the Strings
Handling and storage are main contributors to a lot of the dirt buildup and unpleasant sticky substances that gather on a violin and, unfortunately, there is not much you can do about that. A violin needs to be stored and handled.
Much of the dirt buildup from storing and handling sticks to the strings. They get even more buildup from the rosin, which is typically used to treat the bows of stringed instruments. It slowly rubs off whenever the violin is played. All of this means that the strings should be the primary focus when cleaning your violin.
Using a clean microfiber cloth, slowly wipe down the strings. As you wipe along each string, make sure you’re removing all the rosin that has built up over time. Repeatedly wipe each string until it is completely clean. There’s no point in only doing half the job; you’ll just have to clean it again in a few days.
Clean the Face of the Violin
After wiping down the strings, the next logical step is to clean the face of the violin. The reason you want to do the strings first is that it is highly likely that some rosin will flake off when wiping the strings and land on the face, adding to the buildup of dust, dirt and oils that have likely gathered there already.
Using a clean microfiber cloth, wipe the surface of the violin in a back and forth motion, paying particular attention to the section around the F holes.’ Also, take care when wiping beneath the strings. Both the F holes and beneath the strings are sensitive areas. If they are not cleaned with absolute care, you could damage the violin.
When cleaning, never make the mistake of pulling the microfiber cloth against the bridge or the strings with any real force. The debris normally comes off pretty easily when cleaning, so there is no need to apply excessive pressure when cleaning these sensitive areas.
Clean the Area Under the Bridge
If you’ve used a violin at all, you already know that the bridge is not fixed in place. The bridge is held steady against the face of the violin by the tension of the strings. This means that it’s pretty easy to dislodge the bridge during the cleaning process. If the bridge does dislodge, we recommended you engage the services of a violin specialist to reset it.
To minimize the risk of damage during cleaning use cotton swabs, like Q-Tips, to clean the bridge. Sure, you can use a microfiber cloth, but it is very important that you take the utmost care to exert only minimal pressure, so as to not dislodge the bridge. Take your time and do not rush this, as being careless and damaging or dislodging the bridge will cost you much more time in the long run.
Wipe Down the Bow
Rosin has a habit of building up on the stick, the same way it does on the strings and violin body. For this reason, you want to wipe down the stick with a clean microfiber cloth to remove any accumulation of rosin. Debris also tends to accumulate on the metal windings located near the frog of the bow. You want to be sure to clean the windings as well.
The hairs of the bow should not be cleaned at all. This part of the violin needs rosin and removing it from here will actually damage your violin and degrade the overall sound quality.
Only Polish the Violin Wood Occasionally
Most people feel the need to polish the wood after cleaning, but this is actually not recommended. Polishing the wood every time you clean your instrument will only destroy the attractive wood finish, encourage dirt buildup, and affect the violin’s playability and sound. Instead, only polish the wooden part of your violin occasionally, like maybe twice a month at most.
When you do polish your violin, use a polish formulated exclusively for violins or one meant for stringed instruments in general. Apply a small amount of polish to the wooden surface and gently rub it in a circular motion with a clean microfiber cloth until the wood absorbs the polish.
As with cleaning, be gentle when approaching areas near the bridge, the F holes and other delicate parts. Make sure the polish does not come into contact with the strings, because it would have a negative effect on the sound quality of the instrument.
As you can see, cleaning a violin is a time-intensive process. Ideally, you want to clean it as seldom as possible. The best way to avoid having to clean your violin too often is to always make sure to store it properly.
Never store your violin in places with extreme temperature changes. They are extremely fragile and can easily break when exposed to overly high or low temperatures. You also want to have a well-made storage case where you can keep your violin when you are not using it.
Adhering to these cleaning and storage procedures will ensure your precious instrument lasts longer and continues to produce the same beautiful sound throughout its lifetime.
- Corilon: http://www.corilon.com/shop/en/info/violin-tips.html#2
- The Violin Site: http://www.theviolinsite.com/violin_care_guide/cleaning.html
- Violinist: http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?id=13148