How To Clean A Violin At Home (Body, Strings & Inside)

How to Clean a Violin

If you’ve been searching for the best tips and tricks to clean your violin then I’m happy to say I can help you out.

Maybe this is the first time you’re going to clean your violin or maybe you’re just looking for some cleaning hacks to make the whole process easier.

Either way, I’ve got all the answers.

I’ve been maintaining violins since I started learning over a decade ago, so I know a thing or two about the best practices.

Don’t worry, your violin will be looking brand new in no time!

Why You Should Clean Your Violin Regularly

I know cleaning your violin can be a pretty painful process but it has to be done. If you leave the white rosin dust to build up, you will eventually have to get your violin re-varnished.

Going too long without giving your fiddle a bit of TLC will ruin its finish. The rosin residue will become sticky and, before you know it, even more household dist will start to stick to it. Plus, the longer you leave it the harder it will be to clean.

Save yourself time money in the long run by using these tips and tricks to clean your violin regularly!

How to Clean Violin Strings

You should always start by cleaning your violin strings. Tiny flakes of rosin dust will land on the body of your violin so don’t give yourself any more work. It’s just like cleaning your counter tops before you sweep the floors!

1. Dust Your Strings

As I mentioned in the FAQ, you don’t have to strip your strings with alcohol after every use. Having a little bit of rosin residue on your strings isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It allows the bow to grip easier and you won’t have to use so much rosin in the long run. Use a clean, dry microfiber cloth to dust away any excess rosin after every use to prevent the build up of rosin on your violins body.

Then, depending on how much you play, you can strip your strings with alcohol every so often. I’d say once a week is fine if you practice for an hour every day.

2. Strip Your Strings With Alcohol (or Use My String Cleaning Hack)

Some people recommend stripping your strings with steel wool but I’d steer clear of that method. It’s alright to use steel wool on instruments with thicker strings but your violin strings are very delicate and steel wool could easily damage them. Alcohol is a strong solvent, so it could damage the finish of your violin if used carelessly.

Apply a tiny bit of rubbing alcohol directly to your cloth, make sure no alcohol could drip onto the body of your violin. Then, run the cloth up and down your strings until the rosin residue is completely gone.

3. My Violin String Cleaning Hack

I know people freak out about putting pure alcohol anywhere near their violin, so here’s a hack for ya. Ever wondered what to do with the horrible perfume (or cologne, sorry lads) your gran buys you every year for Christmas?

Spray it once on your cloth then use it to strip your strings clean of any rosin. Sorted! Only use one spray at a time so you know none will drip.

You can even use a nice perfume if you’re feeling fancy!

How to Clean the Body of a Violin

The most important thing to remember is to be extremely gentle when cleaning the body of your violin. If you’re struggling, it’s better to take your violin to a professional or ask your teacher to help. Don’t risk damaging your violin!

1. Remove Any Rosin Residue

Cleaning rosin off your violin is easy if your instrument is quite new. Just grab a clean, dry microfiber cloth and gently brush away any rosin dust. On the other hand, if you’ve gone a while without cleaning your violin you might have to spend a little more time getting rid of the build up.

I wouldn’t recommend using anything harsher than a cloth, though. Just keep rubbing gently until more rosin comes loose. It will come off eventually!  Remember, you don’t have to get rid of every last bit, polishing your violin will help to remove the last bits.

If you simply can’t clean off the rosin with a cloth, you’ll have to take it to a Luthier to get revarnished, I’m afraid. This can be pretty expensive, so remember to keep on top of your cleaning habits!

2. Clean the Rest of the Body

It’s important to use a, clean, dry cloth to gently remove any dust from the rest of the body before polishing. If you use the same cloth you used to wipe away the rosin dust, you’ll only make your job harder. Flakes of rosin could easily scratch your varnish! Even if you can’t see much rosin on your cloth, any residue could end up dulling the finish of your violin.

God, it’s a tedious job, isn’t it! I recommend keeping two microfiber cloths in your violin case – one for rosin and one for the body of your violin. Color code them so you know which is which to avoid accidents as well!

3. Polish Your Violin

Now, you want to make it glow, right? The best way to get your violin looking as good as new is to use a little bit (emphasis on little) of violin polish to spruce it up a bit! Apply the polish to the cloth, not the violin itself. Then, gently polish the body of your violin in circular motions. I recommend starting from the sides and work your way in.

This way, you’ll have less produce on your cloth the closer you get to the strings. You should avoid getting polish on your strings at all costs (trust me, I’ve made that mistake before)!

How to Clean the Inside of Your Violin

Is your violin starting to sound a little muffled or scratchy? If so, it might be time to clean the inside of your violin. I know it sounds a bit scary but it’s worth it for that fresh sound!

The Rice Trick

This is the only way I’ve ever cleaned inside my violin! Put some rice (not much, a little less than a handful probably) inside your violin through the F holes.

Roll the rice around the inside of your violin, making sure it gets all around the soundbox. Now, something magic will happen (can you tell I don’t get out much?). All of the dust inside your violin will have formed into a little clump (see, I told you, magic)!

Turn your violin upside down and gently shake the rice back out through the F holes. Now, keep your violin upside down and gently remove the furr ball with some tweezers. There you go, your violin will sound as good as new!

How to Maintain Your Fingerboard

The easiest way to maintain your fingerboard is to make sure you wash your hands before you play your violin. However, as gross as it sounds, you’re going to get a build up of sweat and other grimy things on there. So, here’s my tips for maintaining your fingerboard (aside from the obvious).

1. Dust After Every Use

Aside from cleaning your hands, the best way to maintain your fingerboard is by simply dusting it off after playing. So, what do you need? You guessed it, another clean, dry, microfiber cloth. Jeez, you’re gonna have cloths all over the shop after this! After you’ve dusted off your strings, you should gently wipe any residue from your fingerboard after every use.

Make sure your cloth is clean every time you dust, or keep a separate one purely for this job. Sticky rosin is the last thing you want near your hands when you’re playing, trust me!

2.  Use Alcohol (Not the Good Kind)

A dry cloth probably wont get rid of everything if you haven’t cleaned your fingerboard in a while. So, you may need to use something stronger. You can clean your fingerboard with some rubbing alcohol as long as it’s unvarnished. Using the same technique as with the strings, you can gently wipe away the dirt.

Removing the strings beforehand allows you to be a bit more thorough but it’s not necessary. You should be able to maneuver your cloth around them! Be extremely careful that no alcohol comes in contact with the top of your violin. Now, if you notice any black residue on your cloth, your fingerboard may have been given a black varnish.

Don’t worry! This won’t affect the sound of your violin at all so you don’t have to get it revarnished. However, you may want to take it to an expert next time.

3. Treat Your Fingerboard to Restore the Shine

Okay, now that we have thoroughly cleansed the fingerboard, it’s time to moisturize! Just kidding, but it’s a similar principle. You can use a tiny drop of oil to treat your fingerboard after you’ve cleaned it. Linseed oil works beautifully and gives your fingerboard a nice shine but you can just use any vegetable oil as long as it’s good quality.

Just put a drop on your cloth and gently rub it into your fingerboard. You might want to do this after a practice session so the oil settles into the wood before you play next.

Snapshot: The 5 Best Violin Cleaning Products in 2020

  1. Stravari String Cleaner and Rosin RemoverBest String Cleaner
  2. Hill & Sons Varnish CleanerBest Violin Polish
  3. D’Addario Planet Waves Microfiber Polish ClothBest Polishing Cloths
  4. MI&VI Synthetic ChamoisBest Dusting Cloths
  5. AIDEA Microfiber Cleaning ClothsBest Cleaning Cloths

1. Stravari String Cleaner and Rosin Remover – Best String Cleaner

String Cleaner and Rosin Remover (Blue)
  • Original Old Master String Cleaner and Rosin Remover

Although you can use any old rubbing alcohol (or, in my case, my grans unwanted perfume), I tried this string cleaner from Stravari recently and it worked really well. If the thought of putting pure alcohol near your violin does gives you goosebumps, this is a great option. It’s nice to know this was made especially for violin strings, you know? It’s pretty inexpensive too. Plus, you can use it to remove rosin from the body of your violin and your bow stick.

Pros

  • You don’t have to worry about damaging your instrument
  • Non-toxic
  • Can be used on the body and bow stick as well as the strings
  • You only need a drop, so it’s long lasting

Cons

  • You have to re-wax your violin after use if you do use it on the body

2. Hill & Sons Varnish Cleaner – Best Violin Polish

Hill & Sons Varnish Cleaner, 2 oz.
52 Reviews
Hill & Sons Varnish Cleaner, 2 oz.
  • Helps keeps your instrument looking new

This is my favorite violin polish. Think of it like a two in one shampoo and conditioner. It cleans away any stubborn bits of rosin whiles polishing your violin. I have nothing more to say other than I absolutely love this stuff!

Pros

  • Cleans as well as polishes
  • Large bottle, long lasting
  • Any scratches appear less visible
  • Your violin will look as good as new

Cons

  • It comes in a glass bottle, not great for travelling

3. D’Addario Planet Waves Polish Cloth – Best Polishing Cloths

This D’Addario polish cloth is super soft and so gentle. It really makes your violin shine and works brilliantly with the Hill & Sons Varnish. If you’re like me and you’re a little bit anal about your violin, you’ll love this cloth. It’s incredibly safe and machine washable, so that’s handy! I like to keep a nice polishing cloth as well as a dusting cloth in my violin case. So, I like them to look pretty in case anyone sees. 

Pros

  • Machine washable
  • Super safe
  • Large size means you can use it a few times before washing

Cons

  • A little on the pricey side for one cloth

4. MI&VI Synthetic Chamois – Best Dusting Cloths

No products found.

Okay, you know how I said I like things to look pretty in my violin case? Well, this suede dusting cloth is my favorite addition. It’s super luxurious, looks nice and fancy, and it does the job… That’s three in one, right? You can just use any old microfiber cloth, of course. I certainly have hundreds of them lying around at home but, when it comes to being out and about, I don’t mind spending a little extra. 

Pros

  • Looks luxurious
  • Machine washable
  • Lint free
  • Microfiber suede material is super gentle and safe to use
  • Affordable

Cons

  • It’s more expensive than standard microfiber cloths

5. AIDEA Microfiber Cleaning Cloths – Best Cleaning Cloths

Sale
AIDEA Microfiber Cleaning Cloths Softer Highly Absorbent, Lint Free Streak Free for House, Kitchen,...
  • 【Ultra-soft, Scratch-free, Lint, and Streak-free】--Super soft & non-abrasive microfiber cloths prevent scratching surfaces, paints, coats or other surfaces. These cloths can be used to clean all...

A violinist can never have too many microfiber cloths. I usually keep my nice ones looking good for touch-ups on the go. However, when it comes to cleaning strings or fingerboards or anything that’s a little bit more mucky, these guys are all you need. You can use any old microfiber cleaning cloths you find in the supermarket but these are my favorites.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Machine washable
  • Can use different colors for different parts of the violin
  • Super soft
  • Lint-free
  • Quick drying

Cons

  • They’re a little smaller than the fancy cloths but they do the job just fine

How to Clean a Violin: FAQ

Can you clean your violin with water?

Using hot water to clean your violin could damage the varnish. If you don’t have time to clean your violin thoroughly, I’d recommend using a clean, soft, dry cloth to wipe away any excess rosin after every practice session. However, if rosin residue has built up around the body of your violin, you may have to spend a little bit of extra time cleaning your violin properly.

Can you clean violin strings with water?

No. That’s the simple answer! Violin strings build up with rosin very quickly, so water simply won’t be able to get rid of the residue.

How often should you clean your violin?

You should clean your violin daily to stop rosin dust from building up and damaging the varnish. Just gently remove any rosin dust with a clean, dry microfiber cloth after you play.

How often should you clean your violin strings?

It depends on how often you play/how long you play for. There’s two different ways you can clean your strings – with just a clean cloth or with alcohol. Using alcohol will strip the strings completely, so if you dust the strings regularly, you won’t have to do this often. You should dust off their strings after every use. However, if you notice a lot of rosin build up, you should clean your violin strings with alcohol.

How do I make my violin shine?

First, gently wipe the violin with a clean, dry cloth to get rid of any rosin dust. Next, take a tiny bit of polish and buff your violin gently until it starts to glow. Be careful not to get any polish on the strings as it could damage their coating and stop your bow from creating proper friction. I’ll share my favorite polish and polishing cloths later on in this article!

Can you use furniture polish on a violin?

No. As a rule of thumb, don’t use anything that’s not meant for a violin to polish your instrument. Using furniture polish won’t just damage the varnish, it could begin to affect the sound of your violin.

Make Cleaning Your Violin a Habit

Cleaning your violin regularly will save you so much time and money in the long run.

Try to make a habit of cleaning your instrument after every use. That way, you’ll never have to spend hours on end trying to polish off rosin or stripping grime from your strings. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty lazy when it comes to these things.

Treating myself to a new cloth or some violin varnish always gets me in the mood for some cleaning, though! I hope this article has taught you some useful tips and tricks to make cleaning your violin a bit easier.

Now you know how to clean your violin carefully and what you should use, it’s time to get those cloths out!

Further Reading: