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If you own a cello or you are just getting started and about to invest in your first cello, you are responsible for keeping it in good working order and that includes finding a case in which to store it, having the proper rosin for your bow, and knowing how to clean cello strings after all that rosin starts to stick where it doesn’t belong.

It’s normal to have things like grime, dust, and extra rosin dust in particular stick to the strings on your cello (and even other parts of the cello) and knowing how to clean it will go a long way toward keeping your cello in good working order and keeping the lifespan of your strings on point.

To help you with this week put together a quick informational guide on how to clean your cello strings no matter which type of string you have.

Contact material

When you play the cello, if you don’t wash your hands before every practice or every handling of the instrument the oil and the dirt on your hands can eventually deteriorate the cello strings.

Even if you do wash your hands before you sit down with your cello, if you forget to wipe it down after each rehearsal this could still happen because you might sweat during your rehearsal.

Things like this can go a long way toward keeping your strings in good working order for longer and reducing how often you have to clean your strings.

Why do I have to clean cello strings?

If you are a beginner, one of the things you will have to learn to do is apply rosin to your bow strings.

Rosin is a sticky substance that is dried and creates a lot of dust when you run it along the length of your bow.

It helps the hairs on the bow stick to the strings on your cello. But it can be a messy process.

More importantly, it can leave behind a lot of rosin on the strings that eventually affects how much it sticks to things like the bow and too much sticking can interfere with the sound you make.

There are other things that can get on your strings.

If you play with your fingers and you use styles where you pick, even if you wash your hands before you play, you can still leave behind things like acidic fatty compounds from your sweat. Sweat will cause the string to degrade faster and will remain on the strings if you don’t wipe them down.

Then of course you have to clean the cello. Don’t forget about the body, where a lot of rosin dust can also accumulate, or the varnish.

How to clean rosin off cello strings

Your cello should be cleaned regularly and the strings even more so.

One of the most rudimentary things you can do is keep two separate cloths in your cello case, one that you use to wipe down the strings of rosin and one that you use just to wipe down the strings of anything else and to wipe down the rest of the cello body.

You don’t want to use one cloth for all of this because you could accidentally wipe away rosin from the cello strings that you then spread to other parts of the instrument.

Every time you rosin your bow and start to play your cello, you should wipe away the dust from the rosin after each playing session so that it doesn’t linger and damage the varnish or the strings.

Again, even if you wash your hands before you sit down and hold your cello, you might practice so hard that you end up sweating which means that the strings have to be cleaned all over again.

What to use to clean strings

In addition to the cloth, there are different things you can use to clean the strings.

Pure alcohol, known as isopropyl alcohol, can be used to get stubborn rosin build-up off the strings.

You have to be careful using rubbing alcohol though because you don’t want to put it on the strings and allow it to drip anywhere else on the cello as it will damage the varnish.

What you want to do instead is place a few drops on your cloth and then run the cloth along the length of the strings without letting any excess drip off the cloth.

If you are trying to get your fingerprints, dust, grime, or sweat off of the strings, you can use a plain cloth right after you remove the rosin to try and wipe that away.

This is something you should do on a regular basis.

But on a slightly less regular basis you should use hello products that are designed to specifically clean the different parts of your instrument including the strings.

Cleaning your bow

If you have a horsehair bow that you use with your cello, you will need to wipe that down just as you wipe down the strings on the actual instrument.

Even if you have a synthetic bow you will need to wipe that down.

Think of the hairs on your bow like the hair on your head.

It can accumulate oil and if it’s not properly washed it becomes too slick but if it’s washed too much it gets dry and damaged.

The horse hair and synthetic hair on cello bows might have to be adjusted in terms of how often you clean them versus how often you put rosin on them if you are living in climates that have extreme temperatures for winter and summer.

Weather can cause structural changes to the hair or the synthetic fibers of your bow leaving them more susceptible to breakage.

By paying attention to these things and cleaning the right way, regularly, you can extend the lifespan of every part of your cello.

How to clean cello strings

Cello cleaning products

Given that there are many things you will have to clean in addition to the strings, there are a lot of cello cleaning products that you might invest in, things you can keep in your cello case so that they are on hand whenever you need them.

Different products can go a long way toward cleaning things like rosin or dust and grime from the strings without running the risk of damaging the varnish, like rubbing alcohol does.

Now you know how to clean cello strings, but that’s not the only thing you need to concern yourself with.

Making sure that you clean your entire cello including the strings will go a long way toward improving how it looks and how well it plays.

There are a lot of products on the market that can help you clean different things off different parts of your cello including the strings.

To help you decide which one is best for your situation we’ve highlighted some key information on the top cello cleaning products.

It’s important to always consult an industry professional before using any new product with your instrument.

Dunlop 6592 Orchestral 65 Polish and Cleaner

This orchestral level polish and cleaner is designed for uses on cellos as well as violas and violins.

It comes in a spray container so you can simply spray it along the strings and wipe it off or spray it around the entire cello and wipe that off.

Conversely some users prefer to still spray on a cloth and then clean using the cloth which prevents it from getting anywhere you don’t want it to be.

It will immediately remove grime or fingerprints and leaves behind a micro thin protective layer which is designed to prevent things like additional rosin dust or fingerprints from accumulating. The more you use it, the more levels of protection you get.

It is made in the United States and it does not come with a cleaning cloth so you will have to provide that but you can use it every day if necessary.

View at Amazon for more information on how this product might work for you.

Pros:

  • Sprays on and can be used for stringed instruments beyond cellos
  • Made in America
  • Has micro layer of protection which remains on your cello strings
  • Can be used daily

Cons:

  • Doesn’t come with cleaning cloth, so you will have to buy that separately
  • Not meant for French polished or shellac finish on antique cellos

Super Sensitive Orchestral String Instrument Cleaning And Care Product

This is a more sensitive cleaning product, one which can clean the strings and the body of your cello.

It is an orchestral level which means you can use it on a regular basis without degrading your instrument.

It has everything you need to care for the entire cello including the instrument polish, an application sponge, and a polishing cloth.

The polishing cloth is very soft and lint-free so it won’t leave any lint behind when you run it up and down the strings, which is very important because if it does leave lint, you run the risk of the lint falling into the inside of the body.

It will give your cello a bright shine if you use it on the body. It will remove fingerprints, smudges, and rosin dust.

When you first apply it you may need to wipe it down multiple times to make sure any residual polish is removed and it will take a minute to dry before you should play it or handle it.

View at Amazon to learn more about how this product could work for you.

Pros:

  • Can be used on the strings and the body of the cello
  • Comes with the instrument polish and the application sponge meant to be used with it
  • Removes fingerprints, smudges, and rosin
  • Has a polishing cloth if you don’t want to use the sponge

Cons:

  • Is a bit sticky when first applied, and must be allowed to dry before you play on the cello, which not everyone likes

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