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Bow Cleaning


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Subguy -

I think most people use alcohol on a rag. Not a lot, just enough to wipe off the rosin buildup. Bows are usually French Polished (shellac and a touch of oil on a pad), and you can touch them up if you get too enthusiastic with the alcohol.

I've cleaned rosin with Xylol, but I'm sure some brain cells went with it. It didn't affect the varnish much if at all.

Neither methanol nor xylol is any good for you. Ethanol is better, but doesn't work as well. You might want to wear gloves and do it outside.

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Mineral spirits (not turpentine!) works well to clean bows and bow hair. Mineral spirits is largely short-chain hexanes that are not strong solvents for varnish, but will disolve rosin and grease. You can find it at most hardware or paint stores. I would not use alcohol because it will damage the finish.


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Yes, methanol will act as a solvent on the bow's finish, but you don't brush it on, for gosh sakes. Use a rag very lightly charged with alcohol. This is Henry Strobel's recommendation in his book.

Rosin, shellac, and spirit varnish are very similar substances. It may sound dangerous, but it's not if you exercise care.

If the rosin is caked on, a thick deposit, then try the other solvents. They don't cut the rosin as well as alcohol, but in this case you may have to flood the stick with solvent, and that you don't want to do with alcohol.

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You need to get the dirt and grease off the hair. Maybe a rag will work, but I just soak the hair in ethanol or isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). I run it through a bowl and brush it with a toothbrush. It's completely effective. Keep it off the stick.

I've never noticed any buildup on the stick. I just wipe the stick with a dry cloth after each use.

I can't imagine how you can get rosin buildup on the hair unless you use much more than necessary. Search the archives about this.

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A thorough job with alcohol will remove all of the rosin but then you'll have to add quite a bit of new rosin to get the bow to grip again.

My learning curve on applying rosin was fairly long and I tended to over rosin frequently. I discovered that a vacumme cleaner hose attachmet will suck the excess rosin out of the bow

Crank up the hoover (or whatever model you use) loosen the hair on the bow so it's a little floppy and just put the hose end against it, pull hose away, move the hose end down the hair an inch or so, put the hose against it, ...........keep doing this until you've cleaned the entire lenght of hair. I don't rub it on the hair; just push, pull away, move down and push, pull away, move down.

This really works. I guess if the rosin was fused into the hair you'd need to go the solvent route but I'd be very surprised if that was the case. If you go over the bow several times with the vacumme it actually cleans it so well that you could wind up having to give the hair a swipe of two of rosin to get the right grip back.

No messy solvents and you can clean a bow in about two minutes

Oh, as the end of the vacumme tube will be touching your bow hair all over it's a good idea to wipe the end off before you use it; just in case somebody was sucking up cat litter with it

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