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How to Clean String InstrumentsString instruments have brought us everything from Mozart’s violin concertos to Jimi Hendrix’s “The Star-Spangled Banner.” These instruments are tough to beat when it comes to versatility of sound, but are delicate when it comes to cleaning. Learn the correct way to clean string instruments with our following cleaning tips.

Note: Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for care and cleaning. If our recommendations and the manufacturer’s instructions conflict, defer to the manufacturer.

Clean String Instruments

Violin, Cello, Bass

Use a clean cloth to gently wipe down the strings. If deeper cleaning of the strings is needed, apply rubbing alcohol to the cloth and wipe with that. You can also clean the bow by wiping it with a clean cloth. Do so very gently.

To clean the body of the instrument, use a clean cloth to wipe down the instrument exterior. Don’t get your cloth caught in the sound holes! Use a cotton swab to clean hard-to-reach places. Polish the instrument with a product designed specifically for that purpose.

Guitar

For a light cleaning, clean the strings by folding a paper towel or cloth over them (so that the strings are sandwiched in between two sides of the cloth) and sliding the cloth up and down. Wipe the body of the guitar with a lint-free cloth.

Clean your guitar thoroughly every time you swap out the strings. Remove only two or three strings at once. Wipe the fretboard with a barely damp cloth. Polish with oil and wipe away excess liquid when you’re done. To clean the body, buff with a dry cloth or a cloth that is barely damp. You may want to polish your guitar, too. Use a polish that will work with the finish on your guitar.

Banjo

Wipe your banjo down with a lint-free cloth frequently. To clean the head, spray a clear grease-cutting cleaner onto a paper towel and use that to gently rub the banjo head. To clean the fretboard, rub it down with a clean cloth that has a light coating of oil, such as almond or sesame oil.

Does your banjo have a scratch or two? You can remove shallow scratches by rubbing toothpaste into the scratch. The toothpaste will lightly sand the area back to a smooth finish. It’s the same method people use to clean CDs!

Good tips for maintaining your banjo are to always wash your hands before playing the banjo and to change your strings when they lose elasticity.

Piano

We have a whole Cleaning Tip on How to Clean a Piano.

Harp

Use a soft cloth that is either dry or slightly damp to gently wipe the surfaces and strings of the harp. Use a cotton swab to remove build-up from hard-to-reach places.

Strong Sound from Clean Strings!

String instruments are often expensive and represent a large investment. Keep your valuable instrument looking good and sounding beautiful with regular cleaning and maintenance. Again, we do recommend discussing any care and cleaning questions with an expert on your particular instrument.