How Best to Clean Metal Strings?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Pete G, Mar 6, 2002.

  1. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    Mine are getting pretty groaty, and I imagine some cleaning/lubrication wouldn't hurt.

    I recall once being told by a bass luthier that mineral oil on a cotton cloth was a good bet.

    Is there anything better that any of you would recommend?
  2. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    I use extra-fine steel wool and a soft cloth.
    But I don't play with a bow, so there's no rosin on my strings.
  3. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    alcohol on a soft cloth; be careful, just moisten the cloth and don't drip any on the bass' finish.
  4. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Anybody here ever try String bass string soup? Just boil for 10min. Mmmmmmn.
  5. I think I remember Mr. Higdon mentioning that he boiled some of his strings.
  6. I used to boil my aging BG bass strings all the time and it brought back the brightness for a couple of gigs.

    I tried it once with a set of Spirocores and, other than getting them really clean, it didn't really restore the tone.
  7. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    Double Bass strings typically have organic material wound in with the metal (assuming 'metal' strings like Spirocores) to help keep it from ringing and sustaining too long. Generically speaking, Pizz, Hybrid, and then Orchestra strings have more dampening material as you proceed through them.
  8. I boiled a Thomastik. The rejuvenative effect lasted 10 minutes, maybe 12.
  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Same here; not worth the effort for the payback.
  10. heliotrope


    Dec 20, 2007
    Wow! I am complete string bass novice, kind of uncomfortable even to be in the room with you guys, but I think I may have something good to contribute.

    My boss (my brother) gave each of his employees a pack of micro-fiber cleaning cloths because they were the first thing that got the windows on his extravagant house sparkling clean. These things are a fad nowadays, sold Tupperware-style at parties hosted at someone's home. But they really work to clean things with no chemicals or soap.

    Yesterday I borrowed the local high school's upright bass. It sits around unrespected in the band room except when the band director plays it for kicks now and then. The strings are Super Sensitive Red Label, and I noticed the A string just seems dead somehow. Then I got the idea to clean the strings and fingerboard with this cloth, slightly moistened.

    OK, the A string still has serious issues and my ear isn't good enough to hear much difference, BUT I was easily able to remove all the black finger-grease stains on the fingerboard plus any gunk on the strings. Now everything up there feels nice and smooth and slippery--like when you finally take a shower after three days and the whole world just seems better somehow.

    I think these cloths are also perfect for cleaning the body of an instrument, because they are soft and gentle yet the microfibers can pick up grease and oil without the use of soap or alcohol.

    Anyways, the brand is Norwex...

    So...should I buy a set of Obligato's to put on this bass? I've recorded with it in the past and the D string is problematically louder than the A and E. All pizz, but there is a chance in a hundred that it might one day be bowed. I can't afford to spend a month breaking in the strings, as some people have mentioned happens with some brands.
  11. eadg57


    Sep 7, 2005
    SF Bay Area
    I use little individually wrapped alcohol pads from the drugstore. No spilling, and I keep a few in my gig bag.
  12. bribass


    Jan 25, 2006
    Northern NJ
    Endorsing Artist; Arnold Schnitzer/ Wil DeSola New Standard RN DB
    Often when I'm going out of town for a gig and I'm borrowing or renting a bass I'll make some Spiro soup w/ an older set. Gives me a broken in set that still has some life to them to put on an unfamiliar instrument. I just boil em up w/ a small amount of dishwashing detergent. Wrap them into a circle w/the silks ends bound together. Submerge the metal while trying to keep the silks dry. Boil 10-20 min. then grip each string tightly w/ a paper towel and wipe down the length of it several times. Gives them new life for a gig or two.
  13. dkziemann

    dkziemann Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 2007
    Rochester, NY
    Blogger for D'Addario
    I usually keep a bottle of rubbing alcohol with me in my case all the time (except airports.... bad bad bad idea). I also keep a cloth with me- I whipe down my strings by the bridge to get the rosin off and the finger oils off every 5-10 minutes to PREVENT buildup. When I do end up using the rubbing alcohol, it's just for a quick rub down as opposed to showering the strings.
  14. My teacher swears by lectric shave for cleaning her strings, but she uses rubbing alcohol when she doesn't have any. Put a rag over the top and quickly flip over the bottle to get a bit on it, and then rub down the strings. I tend to just wipe down the strings with a rag when I'm done playing and that keeps 'em pretty clean, and I don't need to use solvents that might harm the finish.
  15. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Jeff, I am never going to eat in your house? Eating out with you is just fine, thank you!