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germain

Removing old rosin from violin varnish

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What are the best solutions from removing old rosin from a violin. Most products I've purchased do not work well and using pure alcohol seems to be the only effective method. Although I am afraid using it since one may start stripping the varnish. Any products out there that are safe and effective?

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Try baking soda and water and a little elbow grease. Safe and effective.

While there are chemicals that work, and I hesitate to mention them because although they are effective, they aren't safe, some to the varnish and some to your health.

ETOH is the wrong pathway and is dangerous to your varnish.

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You can use Xylene. 

However, take massive precautions, because it causes cancer. I would use it only outside using rubber gloves and a mask.

Otherwise Luke warm water and soap might work too but takes longer. Sometimes you can soften the layer by putting a wet kitchen paper on it and let it absorb some water (maybe 10-20 minutes) 

Using alcohol is extremely dangerous because it will certainly attack the original varnish. 

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4 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

You can use Xylene. 

However, take massive precautions, because it causes cancer. I would use it only outside using rubber gloves and a mask.

Otherwise Luke warm water and soap might work too but takes longer. Sometimes you can soften the layer by putting a wet kitchen paper on it and let it absorb some water (maybe 10-20 minutes) 

Using alcohol is extremely dangerous because it will certainly attack the original varnish. 

Andreas, No disrespect intended,  but we really should avoid sending people down this pathway.  Rubber gloves do not adequately protect you from Xylene. It isn't necessary or appropriate to risk your health and well being for an average instrument. 

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Long discussions about this recently and in the past. I am currently trying Deionized or softened water first and then a long list of increasingly harsher or toxic methods until I get to one which works on the particular crud in question.  Always test a small area in a less visible spot and give it a little time so you can judge the after effects of the treatment on the varnish. Dirt and dissolved rosin should show black or green on the cloth or cotton swab. Any other color may mean you are removing varnish so check frequently as you clean. My current nuclear options are naptha products designed to remove tape residues. Also crud which has been polished over may need a light and judicious sanding to break through the polish and let whatever cleaning solution you are trying  get to the crud.

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2 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

My current nuclear options are naptha products designed to remove tape residues. Also crud which has been polished over may need a light and judicious sanding to break through the polish and let whatever cleaning solution you are trying  get to the crud.

I have found that vegetable oil works well on most tape glue residues on necks and FBs. A plastic "wool" sponge or something similarly gentle helps, too.

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3 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

...My current nuclear options are naptha products...

Could you be more specific?

When I look up naptha on the Google, I see that "Naphtha is a general term that has been used for over two thousand years to refer to flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixtures."

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10 hours ago, duane88 said:

Andreas, No disrespect intended,  but we really should avoid sending people down this pathway.  Rubber gloves do not adequately protect you from Xylene. It isn't necessary or appropriate to risk your health and well being for an average instrument. 

I guess you are right but we shouldn't risk our health regardless the price of the instrument. (Or would a 10 million dollar fiddle make an excuse to risk your health?)

Ouch, I thought rubber gloves are good enough. :o

 

Anyway, cleaning instruments properly is a much neglected topic in violin maintenance and restoration.  Not only for a rosin crust. 

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I'm kind of amazed at the mindset of the modern, violin school educated people.

I cleaned a lot of instruments in the shop (new guy crap job) using acetone w/out any kind of "protection" from it. And generally while smoking a cigarette.

Not saying you should Do That, but people have done it and lived to tell of it.

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34 minutes ago, A432 said:

I'm kind of amazed at the mindset of the modern, violin school educated people.

I cleaned a lot of instruments in the shop (new guy crap job) using acetone w/out any kind of "protection" from it. And generally while smoking a cigarette.

Not saying you should Do That, but people have done it and lived to tell of it.

Lots of people have washed greasy parts with gasoline while smoking a cigarette, and some have gotten badly burnt; it's not really good to tempt fate by throwing caution to the wind.

Any statistics on how those people fared over time? Besides, acetone is a pretty aggressive solvent. It could easily remove some varnishes completely.

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2 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

I guess you are right but we shouldn't risk our health regardless the price of the instrument. (Or would a 10 million dollar fiddle make an excuse to risk your health?)

Ouch, I thought rubber gloves are good enough. :o

 

Anyway, cleaning instruments properly is a much neglected topic in violin maintenance and restoration.  Not only for a rosin crust. 

All that you need to know and then some...:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996004/

Nope, plain old latex or nitrile gloves don't help, and actually hurt because the xylene penetrates the glove and keeps the xylene from evaporating, keeping it on your skin! I know a couple of people who always have, and still do, use it bare-handed.

Yes, I drag it out for a handfull of instruments that I see once a year, but don't keep it in the shop and I think that we really should better educate ourselves. I came to violin making after being a Nurse, so I had some knowledge of chemistry, but I have friends in the trade who were told by shop owners and other makers that xylene was safe and wouldn't harm you. They were shocked when I told them what the risks actually were.

Xylene, naptha, benzene(lighter fluid), kerosene, ect, work, but they are dangerous. Always have been. There is a long list of surface interventions that you can use before resorting to these substances. 

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8 hours ago, duane88 said:

All that you need to know and then some...:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996004/

Nope, plain old latex or nitrile gloves don't help, and actually hurt because the xylene penetrates the glove and keeps the xylene from evaporating, keeping it on your skin! I know a couple of people who always have, and still do, use it bare-handed.

Yes, I drag it out for a handfull of instruments that I see once a year, but don't keep it in the shop and I think that we really should better educate ourselves. I came to violin making after being a Nurse, so I had some knowledge of chemistry, but I have friends in the trade who were told by shop owners and other makers that xylene was safe and wouldn't harm you. They were shocked when I told them what the risks actually were.

Xylene, naptha, benzene(lighter fluid), kerosene, ect, work, but they are dangerous. Always have been. There is a long list of surface interventions that you can use before resorting to these substances. 

Thanks for the information! I appreciate it. 

I came the first time across Xylene in th workshop of Rene Morel. And believe it or not I remember that we used once a gallon kanister of Xylene within 6 month with 4 people in the shop. (Something like an average of 5ml per day per person. I hope this didn't already damage my health too much. 

I actually have a restorer handbook which lists solvents with an index of toxity in ppm. Xylene is 100 methanol is 200 and acetone is 750. Unfortanetely the book didn't  make any comments on how to use those solvents if really needed. 

 

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On cheap, shiny Instruments one could use super nikco. Safe to use anywhere, as far as I know, and success is guaranteed. But it might make the varnish shinier than you like, so youll have to slightly do the whole Surface, and it is a mild abrasive so theoretically it Sands off some of the top layer of varnish. That is why I say on cheap Instruments.

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5 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Thanks for the information! I appreciate it. 

I came the first time across Xylene in th workshop of Rene Morel. And believe it or not I remember that we used once a gallon kanister of Xylene within 6 month with 4 people in the shop. (Something like an average of 5ml per day per person. I hope this didn't already damage my health too much. 

I actually have a restorer handbook which lists solvents with an index of toxity in ppm. Xylene is 100 methanol is 200 and acetone is 750. Unfortanetely the book didn't  make any comments on how to use those solvents if really needed. 

 

Actually it isnt all that clear what xylene makes with our bodies. Generally the main factor is the peirpheral and central nervous system - polyneuropathy and headaches being the most common symptoms. Using xylene, i wouldn't bother too much about the skin contact if you dont wear a AX class filter mask which is the most important protection against xylene induced diseases.

If one use it in cooking varnish, there is not other possibility to avoid inhalation but a 100% close cooking hood, since no filter system will clean the air sufficiently.

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17 hours ago, Andreas Preuss said:

I guess you are right but we shouldn't risk our health regardless the price of the instrument. (Or would a 10 million dollar fiddle make an excuse to risk your health?)

Ouch, I thought rubber gloves are good enough. :o

 

Anyway, cleaning instruments properly is a much neglected topic in violin maintenance and restoration.  Not only for a rosin crust. 

For whatever chemical you're using it's best to check the MSDS (Material safety data sheet).  There will be a section on personal protective equipment that will tell you the appropriate gloves, respirator, etc., that should be worn.  For example, for xylene: Use respiratory equipment with gas filter, type A2., Gloves of nitrile rubber, PVA or Viton are recommended.  Exposure route, concentration, and frequency are the most important factors.  Figuring out health risks can be somewhat convoluted.  You can PM me if you want to go into the weeds. 

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I still reckon bodily fluids work pretty well - spit, elbow grease and the milk of human kindness. OK, I had to work on that a bit but I mean patience

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20 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

Could you be more specific?

When I look up naptha on the Google, I see that "Naphtha is a general term that has been used for over two thousand years to refer to flammable liquid hydrocarbon mixtures."

Specifically" Goo-gone" or "Goof-Off" which I have used thinking they were some what less toxic than xylene. That may have been a misconception on my part.

Every trade has it's dangers and in my opinion the occasional use of nasty chemicals is just part of being a violin restorer. When people in the shop would object to using xylene Rene would say "What? Are you afraid to Die? None the less all reasonable precautions should be taken which in regards to xylene include the use of a pad wet with water between skin and the xylene pad, keeping the bottle tightly closed when ever possible and discarding the used pads or cotton into an airtight container immediately.

Also charge enough for cleaning that your customers learn to wipe off the instrument after playing.:)

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37 minutes ago, matesic said:

I still reckon bodily fluids work pretty well - spit, elbow grease and the milk of human kindness. OK, I had to work on that a bit but I mean patience

Water based cleaners are useful on dirt from handling or perspiration etc. They have no effect what so ever on crusted rosin or chemical changes in the varnish from environmental acids or previously applied polishes. If you are rubbing so hard that water takes off crusted rosin you might as well use an abrasive. Not kidding about that. Both Charles Beare and Karl Becker Jr. have used the phrase "cold steel" when advising me on the removal of some types of varnish damage by which they meant painstaking use of a sharp scraper.

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2 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

...When people in the shop would object to using xylene Rene would say "What? Are you afraid to Die?...

Hans Nebel said "Pretend that you're Bill Clinton -- Don't inhale."

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3 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

Hans Nebel said "Pretend that you're Bill Clinton -- Don't inhale."

haha yes I've heard that one from him as well... The baking soda/ elbow grease mixture sounds interesting if trying to stay away from the cancer causing chemicals. Could you elaborate on the mixing ratio etc., That's also a Hans Nebel recipe isn't it?

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Jacob S. posted an excellent cleaning solution long ago, with camphor as an ingredient as I recall, perhaps he'll chime in with the recipe.

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I wouldn't worry about the occasional use of xylene, although I would avoid unnecessary skin contact and use it in a well ventilated area.  Nitrile gloves are better than no gloves, but they will be eaten over time.

If you want something to worry about, worry about the CFCs in nonstick pans, fabric treatments, and household cleaners.  That stuff is nasty: fat soluble and never breaks down

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1 hour ago, germain said:

haha yes I've heard that one from him as well... The baking soda/ elbow grease mixture sounds interesting if trying to stay away from the cancer causing chemicals. Could you elaborate on the mixing ratio etc., That's also a Hans Nebel recipe isn't it?

I got it from a Becker trainee. Just make a slurry and don't take of varnish, don't worry about the ratio of the mixture. It is appropriate for most instruments and won't kill you unless you have renal issues and choose to drink the slurry.

 

Some of the posts regarding the lack of concern about things like Xylene are a bit disturbing, and while I agree that there are things in the house that are quite dangerous, exposing ourselves to one more chemical that is known to cause damage seems foolhardy when there are alternatives.

Asbestos was safe. My father and his father worked in Oak Ridge TN, where exposure to radiation was common, and although well understood, still minimized, and has still caused health problems and continues to cause problems. Some of the reasons why I was hesitant to mention things like Xylene are illustrated here.

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I am not sure of the ingredients of what is sold as the "Weishaar" polish, but it has the scent of Xylene. I am not sure anyone can answer if it might be or not, but i have used it occasionally for particular results.

I use Xylene about once a year on average and often save up items for that fateful day, spending a total of 10 - 15 minutes, but have not touched it the last 3 or 4 years as the citrus cleaners have been generally effective. The citrus cleaners can take off touch up work, so one should be cautious.

As for the citrus cleaners, i was told that the smell alone does not indicate non-toxicity. I remember first hearing about the citrus cleaners about thirty years ago where truck drivers were using it clean off pitch, asphalt, and other sticky road materials of their trucks, as it would not ruin the vivid paint on their cabs. And about fifteen years ago when I was at a demo for industrial cleaners, the salesperson took a drink of the citrus cleaner he was selling. 

 

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