How to Clean Your Violin, Viola & Cello

How to Clean Your Violin, Viola & Cello

Violins, violas, and cellos are fragile and costly musical instruments that require special care if you want them to survive a long time. String instruments need to be cleaned on a regular basis to keep them looking and sounding their best. When it comes to string instruments, dust, rosin, natural oils from our fingertips, and other gunk accumulate on their surfaces over time and use. So, what can we do to avoid the accumulation of sticky rosin residue and maintain a shiny appearance?

You may have a long and healthy relationship with your instrument and safeguard your financial investment with only a little consideration and simple and periodic cleaning. This guide will explain to you how to thoroughly clean your violin, viola, and cello.

Let’s begin!


What You Will Need

Cleaning your instrument isn’t going to need a lot of supplies, time, or effort. However, there are a few professional cleaning agents that we’d recommend, notably for removing rosin dust and shining the wood.

  • Rosin remover
  • A pair of microfiber fabrics
  • Violin polish
  • Some cotton buds
  • A box of tissues

You can buy this stuff on their own, or you can get a cleaning kit that includes everything you need.



Before you begin the cleaning process, please wash your hands thoroughly and dry them completely.  The last thing you want to do is add more effort for yourself by skipping this step. Body oils found on our palms and fingers can produce unsightly grease smudges on the violin’s varnish.


Wipe Down the Body

Remove extra rosin from the violin’s body with one of your cleaning towels after you have cleaned your hands.

A dry, lint-free, microfiber cloth should be used to clean your violin thoroughly. It’s recommended to softly dampen the towel with water to remove stubborn stains from the body of your instrument. Keep an eye on how smudged the cloth is and whether you need to use a different part if it’s too dirty.

If you observe any varnish color smearing on the fabric, stop immediately and re-check your work. It’s fairly uncommon for the varnish on brand-new student instruments to be so thick that it won’t come off easily when cleaned. Given that these are the instruments that require the greatest attention, this is a fantastic design element!

The varnish on some instruments is extremely delicate, making it more susceptible to being cleaned. If this is the case, the polish on your instrument will be more vulnerable to dings, scratches, and cracks. The most extreme forms of soft varnish can appear to collect dirt, resulting in a slightly sticky top layer of a deeper color in some areas. Specially delicate lacquered instruments, as well as expensive instruments, should be left to the luthiers.


Wipe Down the Strings

Strings are next on your list of things to wipe clean. As the rosin from your bow hardens, you’ll find that the strings won’t resonate as well because of the buildup. Other signs that it’s time to do some cleaning include the appearance of a white film on the strings. We recommend using a microfiber fanric to remove rosin from the strings, too.

After wiping down the front and back of the body of your instrument, slide some clean cloth under the strings. The rosin on each string can be brushed off by gently pinching each string with the towel and sliding it up and down.


Wipe Down More of the Rosin

A rosin remover and a fresh cleaning fabric should be used now to guarantee that all of the rosin dust has been removed from the body. Use only a few drops of the rosin remover at a time, and apply it with light strokes to the afflicted regions.  This product can also be used on the wood area of the bow, but be careful not to get any substance on the bow hair.

Using rosin remover on the strings of your instrument is not recommended, as frequent wiping of the strings should remove the rosin from them.  After every wiping, check your cloth or tissue to see whether it needs to be replaced with a new one.

Rosin remover may not be able to remove heavier layers of rosin, which will appear as a grayish, sugary remnant. A professional luthier should be contacted to clean your instrument if you see this. You’ll have to spend more money in this case, but you’ll get the best care for your violin, viola, or cello in the long term.


Clean a Violin or Viola Chinrest

Unfortunately, the chinrest of an instrument is sometimes overlooked when it comes to routine cleaning, but it can accumulate considerable grime over time. Because it comes into contact with your face, it’s critical that you wipe the chinrest after each session with a clean cloth. To extend the durability of your strings and keep your chinrest clean, make it a habit to wipe it and the strings before storing your instrument.

When cleaning the chinrest, we recommend taking it off the instrument first and using a moist towel dipped in hot, soapy water to do the job. Once you’ve dried it, make sure the cork on the bottom is totally dry before connecting the chinrest to your violin or viola.

In addition, keeping the chinrest spotless can help violinists and violists prevent the uncomfortable red mark on their necks. If the chinrest is troubling you, you may want to try a new fit, a different material, or even a chinrest with titanium barrels to see if those solutions help.


Clean the Fingerboard

Grime can build up on the fingerboard of your violin, viola, or cello over time. When wiping the fingerboard, the strings often get in the way. However, by carefully tucking them away, a clean, dry towel can be used to cleanse the fingerboard.

Using the peg, loosen the tension on one string at a time and then place the loosened string on top of its neighboring string. The fingerboard should be cleaned, and the string should be tuned before the other strings can be tuned. It may be tempting to loosen all four strings at once, but doing so could cause the bridge and soundpost to fall out of place.

To remove the sticky residue left behind by old stickers on student instruments, use a very little amount of adhesive remover, being careful not to get any on the instrument’s body. A more valued instrument should only be exposed to cleaning chemicals in a luthier’s workshop, not on a current student instrument.


Polish Your Instrument

If you have successfully cleaned the violin’s surface, you can now polish it.

Before polishing your violin, make sure it is well cleaned to avoid smearing dirt into the fibers of the instrument. Furniture or other wood finishes should be avoided at all costs while doing this procedure.

Take a new cloth or tissue and add a few drops of polish before gently wiping the violin’s front and back to restore the gloss. Avoid polishing the bridge or strings of your instrument since this might cause harm and alter the tone.



Hopefully, this guide has boosted your understanding of the limitations of cleaning your instruments, what you can do on your own, and when it’s time to call in the professionals. You can keep your violin, viola, or cello in top shape for many years by following these general cleaning guidelines.

Keeping your instrument clean is a lot easier if you use the right supplies, so be sure to use them on a regular basis and ensure wiping it down after each usage.

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