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Sticky violin bow hair after cleaning with alcohol


Namila Nandi
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Someone touched my bow hair with a VERY oily hand (she was eating fries with that hand) and ive never cleaned my bow hair before so i looked up how to do it. And i got alcohol swabs but i was kinda skeptical so i didnt clean the whole bow, only the part that had an oil stain on it. I used two alcohol swabs and a dry cloth to wipe away the alcohol immediately    afterwards. The area i cleaned was like the length of a finger, starting from the frog. Now my bow hair’s kind of sticky what do i do i want to cry. It’s not too sticky, like the hairs dont stick together but it’s a little sticky to the touch. It’s also kinda of shiny at some places and i don’t remember, is it supposed to be shiny without rosin?

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I sometimes clean bow hair with alcohol.  To do it, I pour some alcohol into a dish, remove the frog from the stick, coil up the hair so it with fit in the dish and immerse the hair in the alcohol while holding the frog and bow head above it.  I slosh the hair around in the alcohol for a minute, take it out, stick it between the pages of a newspaper to absorb most of the alcohol and let it dry.  The hair then needs to be thoroughly rosined.

But I'm not sure that alcohol will remove oil.  I think oil would be removed from the hair better by cleaning it with soapy water the same way as I described above.

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To clean bow old bow hair I don’t use spirit at all. I clean it with “cif” https://www.billa.at/produkte/cif-creme-scheuermilch-classic/00-103484 which is a normal househhold cleaner for sinks or toilets etc. and a nail brush. One can also use shampoo or washing up liquid. No chance of anything getting sticky.

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Trying to spot clean bow hair with alcohol will result in the alcohol dissolving some of the rosin, and possibly fusing the bow hair together into a solid mass where the alcohol was used. Brad's method works, but if you get alcohol on the stick, it will strip the finish right off,

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Alcohol and a toothbrush works very well for cleaning bow hair.  Be careful not to get alcohol on the stick, but it's not a disaster if you do.  Just pour some alcohol into a clean dish, and you will be able to remove all the rosin, and surely the dirt and oil as well.

Make sure the alcohol does not leave a residue.  Some denatured alcohol has phenolphthalein or other denaturant dissolved in it.  In the U.S. they are allowed to omit this information from the label.  Just lest some of it evaporate on a clean glass and you will be able to see if it leaves a residue.

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As you can probably tell, cleaning bow hair and getting good results isn't so simple and probably is even more difficult if it isn't a skill you've practiced before. When I asked my bowmaking mentor about 'cleaning' / 'washing' bow hair, he said don't bother - after all, bow hair only has a limited lifespan before it is worn down by the instrument's strings. Instead of trying to prolong the life of the rehair with mixed results, just get a fresh rehair.

However, this is just what I was told - my only attempt to 'wash' hair with alcohol didn't damage the finish thank goodness, but it did cause the rosin to fuse the hairs together. I'll never do it again, but perhaps others can guarantee better results.

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18 hours ago, Brad Dorsey said:

I sometimes clean bow hair with alcohol.  To do it, I pour some alcohol into a dish, remove the frog from the stick, coil up the hair so it with fit in the dish and immerse the hair in the alcohol while holding the frog and bow head above it.  I slosh the hair around in the alcohol for a minute, take it out, stick it between the pages of a newspaper to absorb most of the alcohol and let it dry.  The hair then needs to be thoroughly rosined.

But I'm not sure that alcohol will remove oil.  I think oil would be removed from the hair better by cleaning it with soapy water the same way as I described above.

 

6 hours ago, FiddleDoug said:

Trying to spot clean bow hair with alcohol will result in the alcohol dissolving some of the rosin, and possibly fusing the bow hair together into a solid mass where the alcohol was used. Brad's method works, but if you get alcohol on the stick, it will strip the finish right off,

What about swiping with alcohol swabs? Does that not work as well as immersing in a dish of alcohol?

Cant really get alcohol in a bottle where i live.

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FWIW - I washed bow hair - just the one time  - as an experiment - with lukewarm water and a wee bit of dish soap. It worked just fine.  But it was a bit of a PITA. I've also never actually needed to do it. 

But I'm good to go if I ever have a dirty bow hair emergency!

Much easier, however,  to just keep the violin/bow far far away from food and sticky fingers...

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6 hours ago, Namila Nandi said:

Also, now that the hair is completely dry, it’s still kind of sticky but the hair still doesn’t stick together in a “solid mass”. And when i put rosin on it, it kind of appears in patches. The sound is fine i guess. But i dont know, it wont damage the strings will it?

It could be shellac that the bow was finished with that is making it sticky? In which case use more alchohol.

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55 minutes ago, sospiri said:

How do you remove shellac from a bow?

I hope you wouldn't be removing shellac from a bow while washing the hair...

That's kinda like washing your hair using nail polish remover because you want to get the nail polish off your nails...

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22 hours ago, Rue said:

I hope you wouldn't be removing shellac from a bow while washing the hair...

That's kinda like washing your hair using nail polish remover because you want to get the nail polish off your nails...

 No, of corse not.  But sometimes the shellac gets on the hair from the underside of the stick.  You can see this on old bows quite often.

Edited by sospiri
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1 minute ago, GeorgeH said:

It is entirely possible to use both alcohol and shampoo in the shower, though the alcohol is usually used before, during, or after the shower.

George likes to drink wine while luxuriating in his bubble bath...:P

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