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Too many myths about boiling guitar strings?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Zvonimir, Aug 3, 2016.


  1. Zvonimir

    Zvonimir

    Jul 24, 2016
    I kept reading many pages on this site about the practice of boiling your bass strings to prolong their life.

    I read strange things about it and I'd like to take some of those claims out here for scientifically-minded scrutiny.

    Here are some of the things people here believe:

    1) When you boil strings, you do get fresh new-strings sound, but this goes away in a matter of days, and the strings will sound as dead as they were before you boiled them.


    What kind of superstition is this? If boiling the strings you remove all the dirt and skin oils and give it a fresh brand-new-string sound, then why would that sound last any less than it would if they were indeed brand new? If all the unwanted dirt is cleaned and the strings aren't rusty, aren't they essentially brand new?

    2) Boiling should only be done one or two times. After that, it will be so ineffective it won't be worth it.

    What is it that you're taking away from the string and its quality by boiling that it gradually degrades its usefulness?

    3) Boiling weakens strings and they will break easily.

    Is steel that fragile for boiling water to affect its strength in 5 minutes?

    4) Boiling should be considered a desperate measure when you're out of cash. It's not a professional thing to do. You should get a proper set of new strings if you want to get really great sound.

    For this to be correct, there must be a real disadvantage about this whole practice of boiling strings. There must be at least one negative impact which the process of boiling has on the strings, because the proof that it does indeed bring back the new-strings sound is abundant.

    Any comments?
     
  2. Yes, way too many, including this one.
     
  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    So, do you think a tiny strand of metal can be struck and vibrated for months and heated to extreme temperatures and cooled several times with no affects whatsoever to the integrity of the metal?

    Tell you what. Go buy a flat piece of steel from the hardware store. Just a big old metal bar. Sit it at your desk while you work. For several hours a day just do a plucking motion on it. Rub the same spot as if you were plucking a string for quite a while every day. Then stick that sucker in boiling water every few weeks. And keep rubbing it with a plucking motion in the same spot every day. In a few months you would have a worn spot in a flat bar of steel.

    If you can get a worn spot in a BAR of steel (and you most certainly can), what makes you think you can't wear out a tiny stand of it?

    Short version: No, your cheap butt can NOT buy one set of strings, play them all the time, boil them every few weeks, and never ever buy another set.

    But good luck trying it. :D
     
  4. Zvonimir

    Zvonimir

    Jul 24, 2016
    If only you had a bit more to say than that! I just boiled a set of really old and dead sounding strings and the recording of before-and-after speaks for itself. One sounds old, the other sounds brand new. Lots of videos on YouTube document that as well, and you could clearly hear it for yourself. Why would you say it's a myth?
     
    Blind Lemon Sam and El Pelusa like this.
  5. I'm not saying there is no validity in some of the things you're saying.

    I'm simply saying it's a waste of time reading yet another thread about boiling strings.
     
  6. Zvonimir

    Zvonimir

    Jul 24, 2016
    The dude in my avatar kept rubbing it and plucking it daily for 20 years and I guess the tiny strands were OK. Pretty sure he never boiled 'em, but it looks like rubbing and plucking don't do all that much.
     
    Major_Rager_4MF and hobosong like this.
  7. Biggbass

    Biggbass

    Dec 14, 2011
    Planet Earth
    Best part of boiling strings is the soup that you get from the process! Just add some onions, carrots,
    bell peppers, celery, and spices and you've got dinner!
     
  8. Zvonimir

    Zvonimir

    Jul 24, 2016
    This thread would be far from useless if the questions I raised were addressed properly by people who might have documented their experiments. There's a reason I had to start it. The other threads were pages of boiled-strings-soup jokes and snarky comments like the ones you see above. I'm hoping to get a rational conversation going.
     
  9. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    I did boil strings back in the days and it last a few days. Like it or not, you put this metal wire to some pression, attack it and put dirt and oil and whatever that will corrode it a little. Even though you clean the string by boiling it, you don't remove all the action the string got.

    Yes it becomes less effectives because of what I said ... just like the Dunlop strings conditionner it works but the effect are limited over time
     
  10. Fair enough. Good luck...
     
    organworthyplayer337 likes this.
  11. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    they were flatwound and I doubt the guy trully played the same string for 20 years ... I guess it is more to boost the legend
     
  12. miles'tone

    miles'tone

    Feb 26, 2008
    Wales, U.K
    I used to boil my strings alot when I was young, it does work for a while. The strings do get weakened but only really where they wind around the tuner as strings don't like being taken off then on multiple times.
    I don't have to boil them anymore since I stopped being a dirty hippy and started washing my hands properly before picking my bass up!
     
    Sunset Shalom and markoc like this.
  13. wintremute

    wintremute mediocrity at its finest

    Oct 16, 2014
    Vegas
    Endorsing Artist: Langstrom Carrot Farms
    No. I think we could use a few more.
     
    Scott C. and Helix like this.
  14. wintremute

    wintremute mediocrity at its finest

    Oct 16, 2014
    Vegas
    Endorsing Artist: Langstrom Carrot Farms
    This has been my experience. Also, I switched to flats. They seem to stay cleaner.
     
  15. Maybe we should start up a "legend" that Jamerson boiled his strings to keep them fresh so this string-boiling thing can finally get the respect it deserves. :D
     
  16. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Well, he never wanted his strings to sound anything but dead. And he never heated them to extremes and then cooled them. So no metal fatigue I suppose.

    I hear Duck Dunn did the same thing. So, I suppose if you want dead flats for the next 20 years, you'll be fine. If you want live rounds, you'll have to come off the hip pocket every now and then for a fresh set. Just my two cents. I don't think your questions are/were stupid or anything. It's just common sense to me. You aren't going to be able to play the same rounds for two decades and get a bright tone from them. Something will give eventually. Either you leave them alone and they will sound dead. Or you boil them and constantly wipe them down and metal fatigue will have to set in at some point. I'm no expert in alchemy, but it just strikes me as making sense.

    I am perfectly willing to submit to someone who may chime in later with more knowledge than I possess on the subject. Not trying to be argumentative. Sorry if it came across that way. Just offering up mu opinion on the matter. Hope you get the answers you're after.
     
    Klonk likes this.
  17. groovaholic

    groovaholic The louder the better. Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2004
    Mount Prospect, IL
    Boiling is bad; water + metal is not a recipe for longevity.

    Soaking in denatured alcohol, however, will let you greatly extend the life of your strings.

    Eventually, the metal will get fatigued and the strings will sound dead, but I've kept sets in rotation for YEARS before that happened.
     
  18. jubl

    jubl

    May 26, 2015
    This thread reminds me of my brother-in-law. He was the idea man and others should prove his ideas.
     
  19. callofcthulhu

    callofcthulhu

    Oct 16, 2012
    I boil every 6 months or so.

    For sure it effects the integrity of the strings - I've yet to have a string make it to it's 3rd boiling before it breaks.

    A week seems a little disingenuous. IME the "new" sound lasts as long as the sound of truly new strings.

    I also use Bassbrites and FastFret periodically, but my strings do reach a point beyond which even those products cannot revive them, and that's when I boil.
     
    BeardedFrog and Honch like this.
  20. Mvilmany

    Mvilmany

    Mar 13, 2013
    Upstate NY
    I use a set of rounds for several months. I use a set of flats for years, until they won't intonate.

    I'll boil the rounds usually once, after they've gone dead. Then i'll use them for another month and then change them. Boiling the rounds makes a noticable difference in brightness, and this seems to last for a few weeks. Rounds seem to accumulate more crud than flats. After boiling, i notice that most of the crud has been boiled away.

    I boil flats about once per year, just to get the crud off of them, not to make them brighter.

    I can't perceive any negative structural chages in the strings from boiling. I haven't broken a bass string in over 15 years. Boiling does cause the threads of the string wraps (if they have them) to fray considerably.

    The physical issues that i have with the strings result from fretting. When the strings develop fret wear, i can notice the worsening of intonation. I think I notice worsening in sustain as well, but of this i'm not sure.

    I wouldn't attempt to keep rounds around for more than a few months. I like the sound of them better after they've been played for a few days, so I'm not into changing strings for every gig. Once I notice considerable wear from fretting, out they go.
     
    El Pelusa, chivsjawn and Honch like this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
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