Denatured alcohol

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Jazzin', Aug 30, 2004.

  1. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    where can i get denatured alcohol? is rubbing alcohol just as effective for cleaning strings?
  2. Folmeister

    Folmeister Knowledge is Good - Emile Faber Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Tomball, Texas
    Same stuff, I thought.
  3. You can buy denatured alcohol at hardware stores or places that sell painting supplies. Rubbing alcohol is technically called isopropyl alcohol, but I couldn't begin to tell you what the chemical difference is.

    I believe the big gripe with most rubbing alcohol is that it is diluted with water to reduce the alcohol content significantly. Denatured alcohol does not contain any water. However, you can buy isopropyl alcohol at some stores that is 91% alcohol by volume.

    I've used both, but I don't really know that I can say I think one works better than the other. Denatured alcohol seems to evaporate much faster for what it's worth. My approach has been to try and keep my strings clean in the first place. I wash my hands before I play when I'm at home. I also use bottled hand sanitizer as Treena Foster recommended a while back. An ounce of prevention...
  4. Ive also just started soaking the strings in IPA isopropyl Alcohol left them overnight in a plastic tub and the next day they sound just like new.

    Good quality IPA has no water content i believe, its far better than boiling and it works.

    I got 2 ltrs ( 1/2gallon ) and i soak about 6 sets at a time !
  5. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    Here's an idea that you might find useful. Someone else posted about this awhile back and I've been doing it for over a year with GREAT results:

    Get a plastic pvc pripe tube, about 40" long and 1/4" diameter. Cap one end permantently, fill it with denatured alcohol, then cap the other end. When you want to soak your strings, its ready to go, just pull the top cap off and slip in your strings to soak in it overnight. When done, pull the strings out, put the top cap back on and the alcohol stays in, no muss, no fuss, and you can lay the pipe down under a bed, it takes up NO room whatsoever, and there is NO mess at all.

    The denatured alcohol stays effective for a long, long time. I'm over a year on the same batch in my pipe.

    BTW: Denatured alcohol is available at any hardware store (Lowes, Home Depot, etc.) and is cheaper than isopropyl/rubbing alcohol. It is purer, undiluted, and doesn't have water and sometimes SKIN SOFTENERS in it like rubbing alcohol does.
  6. Edwcdc

    Edwcdc I call shotgun!

    Jul 21, 2003
    Columbia MD USA
    I picked up the PVC and some denatured alcohol at Home Depot last week. So far the only strings that I put in were the strings off my acoustic bass. I must say that I too was pleased with the results. The strings sound like they must have when they were new. When I bought the bass it was hanging in the music store so I'm sure the strings were well broken in by the time I bought it. I bought two sets of strings for my six string a while back and just put on the second set so the first will go in the cleaner and I will have a better idea about how well this works.
    So far, so good. :D
  7. [csp]fortyniner


    Aug 13, 2004
    my freind had some it is not the same as rubbing alchohol it is much purer and much more flamable so be very careful if you find some just to let you know the flame is invisable so if it is burning u wont be able to see it till stuff dissapears or turns black
  8. Eric Moesle

    Eric Moesle Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2001
    Columbus OH
    FYI, Denatured Alcohol is the type of alcohol that is both very flammable, and can get you drunk. That's where the name "denatured" comes in, the composition was altered so that a person cannot drink it without getting violently ill. Apparently there was a problem with people drinking the stuff years and years ago . . . :scowl:
  9. 7flat5


    Nov 28, 2003
    Upstate NY
    Almost right. Ethanol is the stuff in beer, bourbon, etc. Methanol is another alcohol which is fatal in small doses (in smaller doses causes blindness--used to be an unintentional ingredient in badly made white lightening, homemade hooch, which is why it caused blindness). "Denatured" alcohol is mostly ethanol with methanol mixed in to make it poisonous. It is used as laquer thinner. If you drink it, you might not get "violently ill." You will do serious nerve damage and likely die. Like, dead. I guess that's like violently ill...
    Jipley0 likes this.
  10. In electronics..we use denatured alchohol to clean tape heads because it does not leave an oily residue like Isotrophyl.
  11. osciphex


    Jun 1, 2001
    Actually, I think denatured alcohol is pure ethanol(again, the alcohol in beer and wine) with a small amount of some ketone(or some other semi-poisonous organic.. I'd be surprised if it was methanol) added to make it undrinkable. It won't kill you to drink it, it will just make you very sick. I think this organic is added purely so companies selling denatured alcohol don't need to comply with laws applicable to drinkable alcohol.

    Rubbing alcohol is isopropanol(as has been pointed out), not to be confused with ethanol. Methanol on the otherhand is very poisonous, and to my knowledge isn't easily availible for purchase outside the chemical industry.

    There is also spectrometric grade ethanol, which is very expensive and can only be bought through chemical suppliers. It's kept completely pure and thus would be drinkable. It's used in experiments where impurities like those in denatured alcohol might disturb the results.

    At any rate, they're all polar solvents, so I'd assume they'd all be useful for string cleaning.

    Denatured Alcohol vs. Isopropanol

    Denatured Alcohol is ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, containing traces of benzene. While ethenol, in it's natural form, is a source of combustible fuel, it contains trace amounts of water making it less efficient for burning than in it's denatured form. Introducing Benzene during the distillation process drives out the water contained in ethanol creating a very pure and potent fuel source - denatured alcohol.
    NOTE: Ethanol is the alcohol consumed in alcoholic beverages. However, once denatured, ethanol becomes toxic and can cause blindness or death if consumed.

    Rubbing Alcohol is isopropanol. It has a completely different molecular structure than ethanol and often contains up to 30% water. Though it is flamible it is a poor choice for fuel.

  13. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    This is the method that I use. I can usually get five or six uses out of a set of strings. Eventually, metal fatigue sets in at the end that goes in the tuner, and they break while tuning them up.

    They literally do sound new, and keep their sound as long as a new set does, after soaking overnight in denatured alcohol.

    I just started doing this a year ago, but since I have twelve basses and prefer the sound of new stainless steel strings, I figure this has saved me at least $800 in the last year.

    Now I can keep fresh strings on all of my basses, which means that they all get played more.

    I used to replace the strings on my gigging basses about once a month. That is a four string set, a five string set, a six string set, and a twelve string set. This alone cost me around $115 a month, plus I would try to put new strings on one of my non gigging basses a month too.

    Now it is part of my monthly maintenance to rotate freshly cleaned strings onto the non gigging basses, and take those strings off and put them away until I have time to clean them.

    My gigging basses now get new strings twice a year. I clean them once a month, and after 5 or 6 cleanings, replace them with brand new strings. The old ones then go into the rotation for the other basses, as long as they are not showing too much fretwear, or too much fatigue at the tuner end.
  14. dTune


    Feb 28, 2004
    I'm not entirely sure about this, but I think even denaturated alcohol isn't 100% alcohol, it's about 96-98%. I recall hearing that 100% alcohol would evaporate so quickly that it would be hard to use it...

    Correct me if i'm wrong... :bag:
  15. osciphex


    Jun 1, 2001
    I don't think it would evaporate that fast. There are probably better cleaners out there, however.
  16. dTune


    Feb 28, 2004
    I didn't mean the kind of evaporation as when you burn a ping-pong ball... But the kind that if you leave the cap of the bottle open, it might be gone after a little while...

    ...Ah, forget it. I'm probably talking over my head (again)...
  17. jbass


    Mar 22, 2004
    I really would not recommend boiling. I just did with my Rotosound BS66 and indeed, the sound seems bright, but the strings get more tensioned with the same tuning as before. Took it out and never used it again, before it damages my neck.

    - Jake D.
  18. dlloyd

    dlloyd zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Apr 21, 2004
    Denatured alcohol is ethanol CH3CH2OH with additives such as benzene, methanol, ketones, etc. to make it toxic (as I understand it, it's a tax thing). Don't drink it.

    Isopropyl alcohol is isopropanol CH3(CHOH)CH3. I wouldn't drink it either.
  19. I'm soaking my Spector Thru Neck's strings in ethanol tonight, any tips guys? How long should I soak em for? Do I need to clean them down after they have been soaked? Can I use the same ethanol to clean all the strings?
  20. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    I usually soak mine overnight.

    You can reuse the solution over and over.
    No need to clean the strings after you take them out of the ethanol. Let them dry out for about 20 minutes, and put them back on the bass.