How To Clean Bass Strings: Complete Guide


If you like to play bass guitar, you know how a tone color and sound are important. As the time goes by, the tone quality of your bass will drop. That’s inevitable. You’ll notice your bass strings don’t have that old punch and crisp tone in themselves.

Obviously, bass guitar strings need cleaning now and then. They’re not so cheap, though. You don’t want to mess something up, otherwise your only option is to buy new ones. So, how to clean bass strings?

I took my time to investigate and explore what are effective ways you can take to clean your bass strings.

Here they are. Let’s go!

White Vinegar

White vinegar is the ultimate cleaner and stain remover. You probably have it in your household. If you don’t, you can find it in every local store.

Vinegar has its anti bacterial properties which kills bacteria and loosens up a grease or dirt stains on every surface.

Take one part of water and one part of white vinegar and mix them up. Once you have the water – vinegar solution ready, put your bass strings in it. Before you soak them, roll them properly so you don’t make a mess.

Swish them a little bit around in the mixed solution. Leave them in the solution for about 10 to 15 minutes.

After the time is up, pick them out and put them on a dry towel. Now it’s time to dry them. Untangle each one and dry it thoroughly with a towel.

Once you’re done, leave them overnight to dry completely. You want to be sure they don’t have any excessive water or moisture on themselves.

Denatured Alcohol

You can use denatured alcohol as a cleaning agent for this purpose. Still, you have to be extremely careful when you’re doing that. Find one bottle from your local store.

Let’s move on.

Precautions:

Denatured alcohol has no water in itself. It’s very flammable and poisonous. If you clean your bass strings with it, make sure the place you clean it is completely safe.

That means you must not have any cigarette ashes around, nor smoke. If you have pets or kids, keep them away. Use some safety gloves.

Now, let’s describe this cleaning method. Actually, there are several ways you can clean your bass strings with denatured alcohol.

You can do it simply with soaking your strings in a denatured alcohol solvent. This time you can leave your strings in it for about 12 to 24 hours. That’s one way, and I wouldn’t recommend it because it can get messy.

Better way is to apply a few drops of denatured alcohol on a regular cleaning cloth or wipe. You can just place a cloth or a rag on an open plug and apply some of the alcohol by turning it upside down.

Now that you have a bit of denatured alcohol on a cloth, just rub it on each string. The good thing about this method is that you don’t have to take off every string out of a bass guitar.

Rub each string thoroughly from one end to another and leave it overnight.

Your strings should be clean and the sound they produce should be fresh by now.

PVC Pipes

PVC Pipes

Now, this is one of the most interesting cleaning methods ever. You’ll need one PVC pipe for each bass guitar string.

You can find PVC pipes in a store, just make sure they have suitable size. You should get yourself one with a diameter not longer than 1 inch. Also each PVC pipe should have a caps on each side.

On one side you should put one permanent cap you won’t change ever. On the other side put one screw cap so you can hang a string on it.

Now, what to do? Fill each pipe with a denatured alcohol and put one string in each one. Close it with a screw cap and let it sit for about a day.

As I’ve said earlier, dealing with a denatured alcohol is not a game. You should be extremely careful, especially when you’re filling a pipe with it.

For that reason, I highly recommend using some safety googles for eye protection. You may spill some of the alcohol from the pipe and it may get right to your eye. Why should you risk losing your eye sight?

That’s why I ordered Amston Tools Safety Googles from Amazon. They have wide polycarbonate lens which have been coated to ensure scratch resistance. Check it out!

Anyway, when one day is passed, take out the strings and let them air dry overnight. You have to realize this is the process that lasts for at least two days. You have to be patient, but again, this is the most effective cleaning method.

Is Boiling Good For Strings?

A lot of people say that they just boil their bass strings every time they need to clean them. The cleaning method is simple and straightforward. Just put your bass strings in boiling water and boil them for a few minutes. Pick them out after and dry them.

Personally, I wouldn’t do it.

It’s not something that’s particularly dangerous, but it’s just not effective enough either. You may get your strings cleaned but the sound quality they produce will be good only for a few days.

You can try it, but in my opinion – you’re only going to waste your time.

Just Wiping

This is perhaps the most intuitive cleaning method. All you need to do in order to make your bass strings clean is just to use some wipe cloths.

Using a cloth made especially for strings can get most of the grease and oil from the strings.

You can check out this GHS Strings Cleaning Cloth from Amazon, made especially for cleaning the dirt out of the strings. It helps to restore the original tone quality.

Wiping and rubbing your bass strings is something you should do regularly. That way you’ll prolong the life of your strings.

“Spanking“ The Strings

This method may be a little bizarre, but it works! Soon as you notice the tone of your strings has dropped in quality, you can do this.

Pick one string and loose it to the level you cannot hear the tone anymore. Pinch it and release it. Pinch it so the string slaps on a fret board. Do this for about 15 seconds on each string.

This is effective ways you can get the dirt out of the strings. Anyway, here’s a cool and short video so you can see how it works!

Two Essential Maintenance Tips

Cleaning your bass guitar strings is great, but it’s not enough. Maintenance is also important.

If you care about your bass strings only when they get dirty, they will last a lot shorter.

In the further text, you’ll see a few tips on bass guitar strings maintenance and cleaning. If you comply to them regularly, the tone of your bass guitar will be perfect always.

Wash Your Hands

Wash your hands every time before you play a bass guitar. Do you know what’s the main reason your bass strings get dirty?

It’s the oil from your skin! Our hands are one of the dirtiest part of our body. They collect bacteria and dirt on themselves with every touch. Also, our body produces skin oil to maintain our skin alive. That skin oil, along with dirt, is coming from our fingertips to the surface of bass strings.

If you simply wash your hands every time before playing session starts, your strings will be cleaner.

Actually, you’ll be surprised how much cleaner they are and how longer the tone produced is great.

By the way, check out how to deal with sweat on your guitar.

Keep Your Bass Guitar At The Right Place

You don’t want to leave your bass anywhere. I know, people tend to be forgetful so they leave their bass guitar lying everywhere.

That’s also one of the main reasons strings get dirty. You have to keep your bass guitar at the dry place, and also out of the strong sun.

UV’s radiation can damage your strings. Did you know that excessive heat loosens up the strings? That’s right. Heat from the sun can rise the temperature of the strings, so they get longer and loose up a bit.

This process of constant rise and drop of the temperature can be too invasive for the strings. All of that may result in a tone quality drop.

Anyway, to prevent that, you can either store your guitar at the dark and dry place, or you can cover it with some plastic cover.

Plastic covers are great because not only they protect your guitar from surrounding dust, but also deflect the heat and UV radiation from the sun.

Final Thoughts On Bass Strings Cleaning

As you already know, cleaning of a bass strings is necessity. You don’t want the tone from your strings sound like a trash.

Usually, cleaning is not enough. You have to maintain your bass strings. If you comply those two previously described tips, you should never have to worry about the sound of your bass strings.

By the way, if you want to know how to clean pickups, check out the article I wrote on that subject.

Anyway, I hope this article gave you some insights about bass strings cleaning. If it made your bass guitar sound better, I’m more than happy.

Check out some helpful articles from this page about guitar care, in general:

Or some other interesting articles.

Cheers, and rock on!

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