How to clean a violin


Violin cleaningWhat is the best way to clean your violin? This is a question that I often encounter. Most players only want what is best for their violin. They are faced with a myriad of 'cleaners' and 'polishes' sold by music stores and violin makers. The answer to the question is deceptively simple and might surprise you.

The best and safest way to clean your violin is simply by wiping it after every playing session with a soft, dry rag! If you follow this simple routine, you will never need any fancy preparations or polishes.

But what your violin has some old grime and dirt that doesn't come off with a soft rag? One thing you can try is to use lukewarm, soapy water on a soft rag. This will remove a lot of the nasty stuff with very little risk. One precaution: check that there is no exposed wood (without varnish), gaping cracks or open seams first -- you don't want to wash oily bits into any openings or cracks. Players are often surprised that I recommend them to 'wet' their violin, but if you think about it -- the varnish is preventing the water from touching the wood. If the water treatment also does not work, it is time to call your local violin repair person and ask for help.

There are two main reasons for staying away from any cleaners or polishes.

  1. Firstly, over the years violin makers have used many different types of varnishes. Some of them are very vulnerable and can be dissolved (!) by commercial cleaners. Therefore, if you insist on using a commercial cleaner, try it out first on a hidden part of the violin like under the chinrest or fingerboar. If there are any coloured stuff sticking to your rag after a few wipes -- STOP!
  2. Secondly, most cleaners actally leave a residue behind, that is like a new layer of varnish. This is probably fine the first or second time, but over the years you will effectively change your violins varnish. This new layer will also probably never dry properly and trap more dirt and grime.

Always: when in doubt, ask your violin repair person.

Here is more information on how to care for your violin.

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