Instrument Insight

How To Clean Bass Strings? (Any 1 Of These 5 Methods Will Do The Trick)

Wondering how to clean bass strings? Check out this comprehensive guide with 5 different methods that you can trust.

So, your bass guitar strings have got some dirt- maybe from playing session or maybe by just being there unused for a long period of time. But, do you know how to clean your bass guitar strings?

You might have been playing for a while and never thought about cleaning your bass strings. But it’s actually really important if you want them to last longer.

If they get dirty, the sound quality will be affected and they won’t play as well. So today I’m going to show you 5 different ways that you can use to keep your strings clean!

As a matter of fact, I’m not going to stop there. I will dig deeper into the true facts like how they get dirty. Why you should clean your bass guitar strings in the first place anyway? How often should you clean with things to do before start cleaning and much more?

By keeping going, you’ll discover more insights and tips from the experts as well. So, without wasting any more time, let’s begin right away!

How Do Bass Guitar Strings Get Dirty?

Your hands are not the only things that contact bass strings. When you play, oil and sweat from your fingers seep into them and dead skin cells wick away excess moisture. This combination will cover or even corrode some of those same windings causing less responsiveness than before!

Some hand formulas are available to help prevent tarnish buildup; if applied regularly it may reduce reflected sound quality (less high frequencies) while providing more sustain by cleaning off the residue left on bridges over time.

You can get your tone back by either installing a new set or cleaning your bass strings.

The winding crevices of roundwound strings are more likely to collect oils and gunk, which can make them sound old after just one or two performances. Flatwounds won’t have this problem as they’re less bright by nature which allows them to stay newer for longer.

There are several fretboard cleaners available to help maintain the right amount of moisture in non-finished woods. They can also make your guitar feel “faster.”

Finished boards should be cleaned with a standard cleaner for bass guitars, but it’s important not to use anything acidic or petroleum-based because this could damage them over time!

Learn more about fretboard cleaners and conditioners.

Why You Should Clean Your Bass Guitar Strings?

When you put on a new set of bass strings, their warm, crisp, and bright tone are due to the fact that they’re completely fresh.

Over time with use, however, it becomes dirty which causes different properties in how these instruments vibrate as well as affects what sound comes out when playing them. This can lead you back towards having an unpleasant-sounding bass rather than one you are proud enough to call yours!

There’s a lot going on with stringed instruments that we don’t really think about. For example, how dirt can build up over time and cause problems for either tuning or performance quality if left unattended.

Oils from skin degraded by sweat play their role in reducing tension stability just as much (if not more) than anything else could do so at some point during use.

When you regularly clean your bass strings, not only will they sound better but the life of these important musical instruments is prolonged too.

How Often Should You Clean Your Bass Guitar Strings?

Bass strings are really fragile. If they’re not taken care of, they could snap and render your bass unusable. I’d recommend cleaning your strings after every 1 or 2 playing sessions to get the most out of them!

This will prevent the strings from breaking and poor sound quality, which is common in those who don’t clean their strings regularly.

Things To Do Before Starting Cleaning Bass Strings

While it’s important to keep your bass clean, you can also make sure to do these simple steps before starting the cleaning process:

First of all – before anything else- I’d recommend washing your hands with warm water and hand soap or trying another type of cleaner for people who don’t want oils on their hands when playing music.

You can also use hand sanitizer to get the most result. Once cleaned in this manner, just dry off immediately afterward.

Now, let’s move to the main segment of methods of cleaning your bass strings.

5 Methods To Clean The Bass Strings

Method 1. Using White Vinegar

White vinegar is one of the most versatile and powerful cleaners/stain removers out there. You probably have it in your household, If you don’t, have a look at this:

Best For Cleaning Purposes
Lucy's Family Owned - Natural Distilled White Vinegar
9.9/10 Expert Score
  • Why Customers Choose Lucy’s Vinegar – From cleaning to cooking, Lucy’s 5% Distilled White Vinegar is simply the right choice! Because of this Vinegar’s bargains, absence of preservatives, durable bottle design, secure seal, and Kosher Certification, customers around the country have fallen in love with Lucy’s vinegar!
  • Cleaning – Yes! White Vinegar for cleaning works fantastically. Check out some of its customer reviews on Amazon to see how they’ve applied this for their cleaning needs.
  • They Love What They Do – One of the sweetest “fruits of our labors” are the responses they receive from their customers all over the country. Whether it’s simply to dress up a vinaigrette, enhancing pastries, cleaning guitar strings, or even cleaning the restaurant counters, they stand amazed at the usefulness and enjoyment that Lucy’s White Vinegar brings each of the neighbors. 
  • Family Owned & Family Run!

Vinegar is a powerful cleaner that can be used on every surface. It has anti-bacterial properties, which kill bacteria and loosen up grease or dirt stains without damage.

Mix equal parts of water and white vinegar together. After you’ve prepared the vinegar solution, place your bass strings in it and let them soak for at least an hour. Before you soak them in water, roll them properly so they don’t get messy.

Swish them around in the mixed solution for a few seconds. Let them soak in the solution for about ten to fifteen minutes. After the time is up, it’s time to dry them. Untangle each one and give it a good shake before placing it on top of the towel so that all sides get equal exposure.

When you’re finished, leave the strings overnight to dry completely. You don’t want them to have any water or excessive moisture on themselves as this can cause problems with durability over time!

Method 2. Using Denatured Alcohol

You can use denatured alcohol to clean your strings as well. However, you need to be extremely careful when doing so. You can find them at the local stores or from Amazon below:

Best As A Solvent
Laboratory-Grade Denatured Alcohol, 500mL
9.8/10 Expert Score
  • 500mL bottle of denatured ethyl alcohol
  • Laboratory-grade material for lab and research use. Cap may be red or black, depending on availability
  • Used as a solvent (Good for cleaning strings)
  • Each bottle has safe handling and storage procedures printed directly on the bottle
  • This chemical is designed for lab or educational use – not for food, or drug
  • DO NOT USE IT ON THE SKIN OR BODY. Please see MSDS for details

Denatured alcohol has the ability to remove paint without any water. It can be very flammable and poisonous if not used correctly, so make sure you always take precautions when handling it.

Precautions

  • Keep cigarette ashes and smoke away 
  • Keep pets and kids away
  • Use high-performance safety gloves

Bass strings are an especially delicate instrument; just one string with improper cleaning techniques could create problems for your whole outfit during performance time – so clean wisely!

My Recommended Method for Cleaning with Denatured Alcohol:

The best way to clean your strings with denatured alcohol is by applying a few drops of it on an old cloth and turning it upside down. Then rub the cloth on each string thoroughly from one end to another and leave it overnight. The best part of following this method is you don’t need to take off every string from your bass guitar.

My Non-Recommended Method for Cleaning with Denatured Alcohol:

Another way to remove residue from strings is by soaking them in a denatured alcohol solvent. You can leave your bass strings for 12-24 hours, but I wouldn’t recommend it because getting messy could be inconvenient at times!

Method 3. Using PVC Pipe

One of the most interesting cleaning methods I have come across ever is using PVC pipes. You’ll need one pipe for each bass guitar string, and they’re easy to find at your local stores as well. Make sure it has an inside diameter of less than 1 inch.

Best For Convenient String Cleaning
PVC Pipe Sch. 40 1 Inch (1.0) White Custom Length - 2FT
9.7/10 Expert Score
  • PVC pipe is a widely recognized modern alternative to metal piping. It’s known as a low-cost solution with the strength, versatility, durability, and easy installation process to back its popularity. PVC is made of polyvinyl chloride, a widely used thermoplastic material that can be molded into different shapes.
  • PVC SCHEDULE 40: Pipe and Fittings are for pressure applications that have high impact strength and are intended for systems that will not exceed 140° F.
  • MADE IN THE USA: For over a century, Ventral has been fabricating pipe and fittings, employing more than loyal, hard-working Americans. All of our products are proudly made and/or designed in the USA.
  • KEY FEATURES: They are highly resilient, with high-tensile and high-impact strength. PVC Schedule 40 has better sound deadening qualities than PVC Schedule 40 DWV Foam Core and ABS Foam Core.
  • Convenient For Strings Cleaning

The type of cap you use on your PVC pipes is important. One side should have a permanent, unchanging cap while the other holds one screw cap in order to hang strings.

Now, you’ve to fill the pipe with denatured alcohol and get it ready for use but first put one string on each side. Then close off with screw caps and leave it until 24 hours.

You have to be patient when cleaning your bass strings with this procedure for the best result. Let the strings air-dry overnight and it takes at least two days from start to finish to properly dry out so that all moisture evaporates away before putting back into use!

By far this is the best cleaning method. But, you have to take the following precautions with this method: 

Precautions

The first thing you need to do before filling any denatured alcohol pipes is to wear protective gear. You’ll want some safety goggles or glasses that will cover your eyes and protect them from any spills of this potent liquid.

As well as you need to take care of anyone else nearby who may accidentally walk into the beam while smoking cigarettes (which I’m sure happens more often).

If you wear prescription glasses already, the Solid Safety Goggles will come in handy. It’s equipped with wide polycarbonate lenses which provide scratch resistance as well as consist of other benefits.

Best For Protecting Eyes
Solid Safety Goggles | Protective Eyewear Lenses | Use Over Prescription Glasses
9.9/10 Expert Score
  • DESIGNED TO FIT YOU – The goggles’ soft rubber sealing molds perfectly to the shape of any face, eye protection from all sides. Smartly aligned ventilation slots, which are covered by the lens, ensure good airflow and prevent flying particles from entering the inside of the goggles. An adjustable headband provides individual and firm fit.
  • SOLID. RETINA EDGE COATED LENSES – Due to the special coating, our protective eyewear is highly scratch resistant, will not fog up and protects against harmful UV rays. Our Safety Goggles are certified according to US ANSI Z87+ and German DIN EN 166 & EN 170.
  • MOST COMFORTABLE – Ultimate wearing comfort is created by a soft rubber sealing, so say goodbye to painful pressure points. Safety goggles over glasses that combine complete protection with a panoramic view – protection from all sides without limitations!
  • BEST MATERIALS, BEST CHOICE – Say goodbye to chemical odors and skin irritations! We only use skin-pleasing, skin-neutral substances. Meaning, the anti fog, anti scratch lens give perfect protection and next-to-skin comfort.
  • 100% MONEY BACK – SOLID. products are backed by GERMAN ENGINEERING DESIGN AND SERVICE and we stand by it: If you are not 100% satisfied, we will refund your money – up to 1 year after purchase! That’s a promise!

Method 4. Wiping Only

Why not wipe your bass strings? It’s our method no. 4. It’s a lot easier than you think! All that is needed for this job are some wipe cloths. You can get them from Amazon, where they’re specifically designed to clean dirt off of string without damaging the tonal quality.

Here’s one for you:

Best For Wiping
AA wipes Guitar Cloths Microfiber (6-Pack 12
9.8/10 Expert Score
  • MATERIAL: The Premium Care Plush Cloth contains millions of microfibers to pick up and trap dirt, dust and fingerprints whereas traditional cotton cloths can’t do, providing deluxe care on the instrument surface
  • ADVANTAGES: Continuous fibers offer truly lint-free and ultra soft cleaning for modern instrument e.g. Guitar strings after each play, or any chrome or polished surfaces of the instrument, ensuring your valuable instrument remains scratch-free and lint free
  • APPLICATIONS: Truly an all-purpose universal ultra soft microfiber cloths, especially for cleaning of modern music instruments including Guitar Violin Piano Clarinet Trumpet Sax
  • PACKAGE:6-Pack 12″x12″ Cloths
  • CUSTOMIZED DESIGN AVAILABLE: AAWipes provides customized products for different wipes and special cloths with unlimited choices in sizes, cleanliness levels, packaging options and dispensing options to suit your cleanroom supplies needs. (Small Order Acceptable, ODM Accepted, OEM Accepted).

Continuing to wipe and rub your bass strings will help you prolong their life. You can use the cloth mentioned above made especially for this purpose, or you can even use paper towels if that’s all available at the time. This one is the #1 bestseller that I use on various occasions:

Best For Wiping (Alternative)
Bounty Quick-Size Paper Towels, White, 8 Count (Pack of 1)
9.7/10 Expert Score
  • Pack contains 8 Family Rolls of Bounty Quick Size paper towels, equal to 20 Regular Rolls
  • This pack contains 40 more sheets per pack which means 5 extra days’ worth of paper vs. Bounty Select-A-Size 8 Huge Roll Estimated based on manufacturer data. Actual usage may vary by household
  • Bounty, the Quicker Picker Upper.Do not flush
  • 2X More Absorbent vs. leading ordinary brand
  • Bounty’s shortest sheets are now even more absorbent for a versatile clean (versus previous product)

Method 5. Do Spanking On The Strings

You might think that cleaning your bass strings by spanking them is a little weird, but it’s actually effective! As soon as you notice the sound quality has dropped, pinch hard enough to make sure it hits the frets after release.

Doing this for about 15 seconds per string should do wonders in getting rid of any grime build-up between playing sessions or practices.

Is Boiling Good For Strings?

There are many ways to clean bass strings, but some people claim that boiling is the best method.

The process isn’t that difficult and it does work well for getting rid of dirt or grime from your instrument’s fingerboard area- though not necessarily in an effective manner since there’ll be residue left on after drying up.

So whatever sound quality remains may only last you a few days at most depending on how often they’re played before needing another cleaning session again soon afterward!

In clear words, boiling is not recommended because it neither works well for the long term nor is worth it, and it takes too long. You can try it, but I think you’ll be wasting your time.

So Why Do Bass Players Boil Their Strings?

When it comes to boiling bass strings, there are many reasons why players choose this method. The first and most important reason is that they work but as short-term solutions.

Evidence backing up their effectiveness online including before/after comparison videos cannot easily be argued against by viewers who have experienced success through using these techniques.

Here’s one before/after comparison video from YouTube:

Some bass players prefer the tone they get from boiling their strings. Some people are looking for a slightly worn set that can only be achieved by this process, as it breaks in quicker and eliminates some high-pitched sounds or thinness associated with newer instruments.

Another reason to boil your bass strings is cost. A new set of quality strings can be three times as expensive, while a boiled pair might last you twice as long and save you some money in the process!

You can also get that old-school tone by boiling your bass strings as mentioned earlier. It’s a cheap and easy way to make them sound like new, but if money isn’t an issue for you then there are other options as well like buying a new set of bass strings whatsoever.

In my opinion, string longevity is important, but so too are proper cleaning methods. Keeping your instrument’s strings clean with the right method will extend their life and save you money in the long run!

Expert Tips

1. Make Sure You Have Good Quality Bass Strings

Bass strings are the most important part of a bass guitar. They carry notes that are essential to all genres of music. I have seen bassists use anything from rubber bands to plain nylon in place of strings on their instruments.

This is not only dangerous but also shows how much they care about their instrument. Good quality bass strings are not only important to the sound of your bass but also ensure that you don’t get injured while playing.

I have seen evidence of players getting massive cuts on their fingers due to using bad-quality strings. When it comes to bass gear, there are usually no bargains, one must always pay a little extra for excellent quality.

Quality bass strings won’t get dirt in them as fast and last a lot longer as well. The best bass strings won’t only sound better but will also ensure that your fingerboard is in good shape.

In a nutshell, when you use high-quality bass strings, not only do they have a rich tone for a longer period of time but also bring out the true potential of any bass guitar which has been set up properly. So make sure you use good quality strings, it’s for your own good!

2. Don’t Substitute Anything Else to Clean Your Bass Strings

There are many types of alcohol available on the market. You may use denatured, or methylated spirits for bass string cleaning if you want to avoid rusting bass notes that come with water-mixed alcohol.

There’s a chance you might be fooled by this, but don’t use rubbing alcohol as an alternative. Just buy denatured alcohol from Amazon and it will work just fine!

3. Wash Your Hand Before Every Playing Sessions

Washing your hands before you pick up the bass guitar not only keeps them cleaner for longer but also reduces how much dirt and oil transfer to strings.

As mentioned earlier in this article – giving our fingers a quick wash under soapy water can make all of those bass notes sound better than ever!

You can play for longer and have a much more vibrant sound if you clean your hands before each session and wipe down the strings after finishing. It will prevent them from getting dirty or sounding dull.

4. Keep Your Bass Guitar At The Right Place

You don’t want to leave your bass anywhere in an untreated manner. But we know the fact that people tend to be forgetful so they left their bass guitars lying around and experience the consequences of dirty strings!

You have to keep this in mind when storing. Store it somewhere safe like water resistance storage like quality guitar cases or at least a place where you can give protection against strong sunlight. The place should have proper ventilation as well.

UV radiation can cause your bass strings to break. Excess heat with variable temperature loosens up the tension of the strings. They get longer and lose some pitch accordingly!

The sun’s UV rays are dangerous for not only bass strings but any string or cable which could lead not only to lost performance but also potential injury.

To prevent your bass strings from the constant rising and dropping temperature, you can either store them in a dark and dry place or cover them with some plastic.

Plastic covers are great because not only do they protect against surrounding dust but also deflect UV radiation from sunlight for better tone quality.

The best part about plastic covers? It’s cost-effective as well.

Bonus: Cleaning The Upright Bass Strings

You can keep your upright bass strings sounding good for a longer time by cleaning them at regular intervals. One way is to wipe it off after every playing session.

Grabbing individual strings is the best way to keep them fresh for longer than 2-3 months in case your skin is too acidic. Grab a dry cloth and run it up and down each string until they’re nice and clean.

Another way to keep your upright bass strings from getting dried out is by applying some oil or Vaseline and running with a cloth (using both fingers with a certain amount of pressure) up along one side of each string, then bringing it back down again near where you started.

Repeat this process for all the strings. But make sure to lose the strings one by one (for example, from ‘G’ to ‘F’) before starting.

if you have too much rosin caked up on the string, light steel wool or copper scouring pad works great. To get those tough-to-clean strings, use fine steel wool.

You can also finish this cleaning by carefully moistening the same cloth with alcohol and then giving it a few rubs on your instrument’s bridge or frets before letting it dry out completely.

When you’re all finished with the process, give your old (now clean) strings a playing session! This should bring back some new life to them and actually make that bass feel much more comfortable.

Precautions

Take extra care to make sure that the alcohol doesn’t come into contact with the bass. For this reason, I use to moisten the cloth in another room. This way there’s no chance to splash any on the varnish work. Otherwise, it will leave ugly marks that will not go away. So, be very careful about it.

FAQ

Is rubbing alcohol any good?

I don’t recommend rubbing alcohol as it may damage the wood of your fingerboard and in some cases even make strings squeak more! You should always use a tried-and-tested string cleaner/lubricant combo instead.

When do I need new strings?

You need new strings when your old ones break, lose their tone or come out of tune. Get a new set of strings if you need to adjust playability or want a fresh, new tone.

Final Words

Bass guitar strings can get dirty for a variety of reasons as you may know now, but thankfully they are easy to clean. You’ve to simply follow one of the above-mentioned methods with keeping simple tips and tricks in mind to keep your strings clean and make your bass guitar sound great all the time.

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Author | Bass Guitar and Gear Expert at Instrument Insight | Website

Fred L. Robinson is a young man from Mansfield, TX. He has always had a great passion for music and bass guitars in particular. At the age of 28, he is an expert on bass guitars and their related equipment, materials, history, and origins. Fred works as an author and bass guitar expert at Instrument Insight, where he uses his vast knowledge to help people make informed decisions about their bass guitar purchases.

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