Your instrument is an investment. Every inch of your violin and bow contributes to your performance as a musician, and every inch must be its best for you to be your best. Learn how to clean and care for your violin bow to help make sure every practice and performance is up to your standards.

Cleaning the Violin Bow Hairs

Some string players are advocates for cleaning bow hairs, and others aren’t. If done correctly, though, cleaning your violin bow hairs will not damage the bow. And if you work with younger players who forget to wash their hands before playing, you may have no choice but to clean the bow hairs. (Greasy snacks, anyone?)

You’ll need denatured alcohol (available at home improvement stores), a soft cloth like a paper towel, and a comb to clean violin bow hairs.

  1. First, tighten the bow to regular playing tension.
  2. Then, apply denatured alcohol to the paper towel so the towel is wet but not dripping.
  3. Wrap the towel around the hair and gently rub it up and down the hair to clean it. Try not to touch the shaft of the bow with the wet paper towel while doing this.
  4. Depending on how dirty your bow hairs are, you may need to repeat the process with a fresh paper towel and another round of denatured alcohol.
  5. Once the hairs are clean, let them air dry!
  6. Once dry, place a comb under the hairs and comb up, away from the shaft so that you do not scratch the bow. You can use a regular hair comb or a comb specifically designed for this purpose.
  7. You are almost done. Your bow hairs may be clean, but they don’t have any rosin on them! Before you can play, you will need to rosin your bow.

If your violin bow hair can’t be salvaged with a thorough cleaning, it might be time for a rehair. Contact CodaBow to rehair your bow if:

  • The bow won’t tighten anymore.
  • The bow sounds scratchy.
  • Hairs are breaking in the middle of the bow.
  • Hairs are breaking on one side of the bow.
  • The hairs smell bad.

Getting your bow rehaired is easy. Submit a service request and send your bow to our workshop in Winona, MN. We’ll have it back to you in about two weeks.

Cleaning the Violin Bow Stick

Wipe the shaft and frog with a soft cloth immediately after each use to minimize rosin and dirt build-up on your bow. If you do this every time you play, you will likely never need to take additional steps to clean your bow.

But if you have a crust of old rosin on the underside of the bow, you might need to use a polish or cleaner approved for use on stringed instruments. Always read the instructions and ingredients before using a cleaning solution on your bow stick, and never use a commercial or household cleaner on your bow. Sometimes even the vapors of these strong cleaners can damage your instrument.

What About Cleaning Your Violin Case?

When’s the last time you gave your violin case a light vacuum? Animal hair, rosin dust, and other gunk can float into your open case while you practice and play. And when you return your violin and bow back to the case, this same hair, dust, and gunk come into contact with your instrument.

Remove your instrument from the case and use a vacuum cleaner with a handheld attachment to vacuum out the case. A quick vacuum might be all you need to do to freshen up your case! If there are some stubborn spots or spills, use a clean rag with warm water and dish soap to gently scrub the area. Let the case air dry completely before putting your instrument back in.

While you’re waiting for your case to dry, check your current cleaning cloths. You should keep two clean ones in your case: one for wiping rosin and one for wiping down the rest of your instrument. Is it time for some new ones?

Tips for Caring for Your Violin Bow

Following a few basic violin bow care tips will go a long way in helping your bow performance look and sound amazing.

  • Store your bow and violin properly when not playing it.
  • Tighten the bow hairs just before playing and loosen them after.
  • Do not touch the bow hairs with your fingers, as this will transfer oil to the hairs and make it difficult for them to hold rosin.
  • Wipe the shaft and frog with a soft cloth immediately after each use.
  • Depending on use, consider rehairing your bow about every 6 to 12 months.

If your bow hasn’t been adequately cared for or cleaned, it might be time for a rehair or a new bow entirely. Try a brand new bow for just $35 and send it back if you don’t like it with CodaBow’s risk-free in-home trial.