Storing/cleaning strings in denatured alcohol

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by scatbass, Jan 18, 2013.


  1. scatbass

    scatbass

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2009
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    In short - I change my strings often, preferably every 2-3 weeks (hey, I like that sound). I typically keep one set of strings stored soaking in denatured alcohol while the other set is on the bass...and then I rotate them out every few weeks as needed. The storage container is a long PVC pipe I put together for this purpose.

    My question/issue is this: I used to play stainless steel (La'bella) for many many years and this was never a problem. I recently switched to Circle K Nicklewound and have noticed that the strings develop some rust spots when I take them out of the tube. Usually the spots are around the ball at the end, but sometimes I'll find spots along the surface. What gives? Is there something about the composition of nickle that causes this? This is the stuff I'm using:

    http://www.homedepot.com/catalog/productImages/300/49/4908fdb0-1811-4765-b1bf-1321b429503e_300.jpg
  2. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2002
    Location:
    Seattle
    Disclosures:
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    The outer wrap is a nickel plated straight steel on my hybrids, not plated stainless. I suspect most plated strings will behave similarly.
  3. scatbass

    scatbass

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2009
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    Hmmm...wonder if there would be a better solvent? Acetone perhaps?
  4. knuckle_head

    knuckle_head

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2002
    Location:
    Seattle
    Disclosures:
    Owner; Knuckle Guitar Works & Circle K Strings
    Acetone will eat the tubing you're using - it'd work if you got aluminum tubes and soldered the caps. Denatured is about as good as you can ask as it has zero water content. A guess, but I bet acetone would yield a similar result.

    What causes the rust is that even on brand new strings there is a slight coating of oil from the manufacturing process that gets washed away with the alcohol. The rust is unsightly but you can still play them - you reintroduce oils as you play them again. You could run the strings through your fingers once the alcohol has completely evaporated to wipe away surface rust.

    I guess it all depends on how rusty they become.
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  6. scatbass

    scatbass

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2009
    Location:
    Atlanta, GA
    Good to know, thanks for the info!
  7. FunkMetalBass

    FunkMetalBass

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2005
    Location:
    Phoenix, Arizona 85029
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: J.C. Basses
    Interesting. I've been cleaning my CK's for ages (sorry, Skip. I promise I'll order a few more sets soon) and I've yet to experience this. Then again, I'm in Arizona and our average relative humidity is about half that of most other southern states.
  8. Toptube

    Toptube

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    don't leave them in the Alcohol for so long.
  9. mrbell321

    mrbell321

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2012
    Location:
    N. Colorado
    Actually, denatured alcohol, being primarily ethanol is pretty rare to get 0 water. Usually, it's around 4%, but varies by brand.

    Also, being ethanol, it tends to absorb water pretty readily from the air and anything damp it touches, so if you're reusing the alcohol, it's probably more water content than was in there originally.

    But I am somewhat doubtful it's the dissolved water in the alcohol causing the issue.

    I know you want to get rid of the contaminating oils, but this is also getting rid of any protective oxygen barrier, so of course there will be rust spots. Even if the windings are stainless or still well nickle plated, if the core is steel, it could and would seep through.

    I'd advise cleaning the strings by wiping them down and then just keeping them as dry as you can. Maybe a desiccant in the tube? Or, if the tube is sturdy and airtight, maybe hook up a vacuum pump? Or fill it w/ nitrogen? You'll have to decide if any of that is worth it.

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