With the flu season upon us, and in particular, the spread of COVID-19, we thought it a good idea to pass along recommendations from various experts about how to protect yourself and your string instrument to minimize inadvertently spreading viruses and other germs.
Wash your hands thoroughly and don’t touch your face
The first line of defense is to thoroughly wash your hands (20 seconds at minimum) with soap and hot water before you pick up any instrument. In fact, the CDC recommends washing your hands often every day. And stop touching your face. Use hand sanitizers (minimum 60% isopropyl alcohol) liberally in between hand-washings if you do. Make sure your hands are completely dry before you touch any instrument.
Don’t share instruments
If at all possible, don’t let other people use your instrument, and don’t use someone else’s. That may not always be possible, but avoid those situations as much as you can. If you must, follow the instructions on cleaning your string instrument.
Cleaning your string instrument
Under no circumstances should you use hand sanitizer, cleaning solvents, alcohol, or alcohol-based solvents on the wood of your instrument. It will damage the varnish.
If needed, and you are extraordinarily careful, you can use a tiny dab of 99% isopropyl alcohol (about the size of a nickel or dime) on a clean microfiber cloth or lightly dip a cotton swab in it (don’t soak it so it drips) to clean the strings only. Be careful not to get any of the alcohol onto other parts of the instrument, especially the wood where it will damage the varnish.
Expert Advice from Thomastik-Infeld on Cleaning Your Strings
“Do not use sanitizers and disinfectant fluids on your strings. That’s because although they may have alcohol as their base, there are a lot of other additives such as antiseptics, anti-bacterial compounds, dyestuffs, and scents. We strongly recommend that you clean your strings before placing them on your instrument. You can do this as shown in our video.”
Regular cleaning of your string instrument
Taking regular care of your string instrument is always a good idea, regardless of what time of year or what flus are going around. We’ve published a series of articles and videos about how to do that:
If you’re sharing paper sheet music or music stands, wash your hands before touching the paper. Agree on who’s going to be turning the music. If it’s just one of you, that’s a lot easier to manage than if you alternate. Stands - treat them as you do your instruments.
A word about professional cleaning / maintenance
The best option, but not always the most expedient or affordable, is to have the professionals do a complete cleanse and disinfect for all your school’s instruments. Turn to your favorite musical dealer who will most likely have the best options to help you during this challenging time. And if you can manage to squeeze money out of your administration to do a professional full cleanse and disinfect overhaul over the summer, all the better for your students, their classmates, and the community.