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News from the Bench / Disinfecting Your Instrument

COVID-19 and Your Instrument (and Bow)
A close up of a SARS-2 coronavirus.

If there is one thing we can be certain of during the COVID-19 crisis, it is that we are uncertain about so many things.

At this time, we have been unable to find any definitive information that has been scientifically proven to disinfect violins, violas, cellos, basses, and their bows without potentially damaging the varnish/finish on these items. 

Alcohol has the capability to remove varnish/finish. To date, all of the commercial cleaners we know of which have been approved by the EPA to kill COVID-19 are not safe to use on the finish of instruments or bows.

Some sources are saying that using an alcohol wipe on the strings, fingerboard, pegs, chin rest, and frog of your bow is safe and helpful. However, some student-quality instruments may have dyes on the fingerboard, chin rest, pegs, and bow frog and this may come off with the use of an alcohol wipe. Additionally, we have seen our fair share of varnish damage caused by players who have tried to clean their strings and have dripped alcohol on the surface of the instrument. For this reason, we are leery about recommending alcohol as a cleaner on any of these surfaces. 

Some sources have also discussed UVC light as a way to disinfect instruments. For us, there is not quite enough scientific and violin shop evidence to prove what strength of light and exposure time is enough to disinfect but not damage an instrument/bow. 

How Do I Safely Disinfect My Instrument and Bow During the COVID-19 Crisis?

At this time, we are not aware of a safe way to disinfect your instrument or bow without doing damage to finished surfaces. 

However, we have put together the following infographic with our best tips to help you keep your instrument clean and safe:
An infographic which highlights washing hands before playing and avoiding all household cleaners which may cause varnish damage.So remember to:
Clean the Player
*Wash Your Hands Before & After You Play (Remember to sing your ABCs twice through as you scrub!)
*Use Hand Sanitizer on Your Hands.
Make sure your hands are COMPLETELY DRY before handling your instrument or bow to avoid damaging either item.

Keep Your Fiddle to Yourself
*Do NOT Let Others Handle Your Instrument/Bow.
If this is not an option, see Quarantine

Maintain Normal Cleaning Practices
*Continue to Wipe off your Strings and Instrument with an untreated soft cloth.
However, during these times it may be prudent to launder your cleaning cloth on a more regular basis. 

*When in Doubt, Wait it Out.
If you believe your instrument has been in an environment where COVID-19 was a concern, quarantine your instrument and bow.
Take at least three days off of playing your instrument.
This feels like the hardest thing to do, but it can be a great time to study scores, brush up on theory, listen to new composers, and develop your ear training. 

Stay Safe
This feels like common sense these days, but do your best to remain healthy and stop the spread of COVID-19
Get vaccinated as soon as you are able, stay home when you can and, if you do out, wear a mask and stay at least 6' away from others, and wash those hands!!

We hope you remain safe and find peace in making music however you are able! 

Additional Information added 2/16/2021 & 3/9/2021 & 5/1/2021
References for Teachers/Other Professionals who need additional proof regarding the damage which can be done by chemical cleaners:
This article 'Doing Business Despite Coronavirus' was published in the Violin Society of America Magazine "The Scroll"; Volume 5 No. 2 Summer 2020

"Infection Control for Instruments" by ShelB Rindhal (hosted by Eastman Music Company) is a free eBook that offers suggestions on infection control with instruments (ICI) and echoes the same things we mention-- "String instruments are often too delicate for wet-contact disinfection. Guitars and fine varnished violins can only rarely and carefully be treated on their touch points. No cleaners or solvents are allowed on their other areas, and they’re usually serviced only by professionals. Players are taught to keep them safe and dry."