I have a bow that I don't use over long periods of time (over 6 months, at times). I generally release its tension, and just leave it out in the open.

I recently wondered if this is enough, or if I should clean or rosin it occasionally; keep it stored in some other place like maybe a case or something similar; if having the tension released is really the best way to go...

Also, if I do use it occasionally, should I have any concerns then, both before and after usage (considering it'll likely get stored without use for a long time again)?

3 Answers 3


Bow tension

  • The most important thing you could do for your bow is to keep it loosened when it is not in use. This is something that every string player must do when putting their bow back in the case after playing.


  • Placement-wise, it is best to leave the bow in the case and occasionally take it out into the sun. If you have a long plastic bag (which some bows come in), I would suggest keeping it in there. Every couple months or so, air out the case in the sun for a few hours. This should get rid of any bow mites and let the bow hair breathe.
  • On the rare occasion that the bow mite infestation does not go away after a few hours in the sun, take it to a local music store to get it re-haired.


  • Typically, the bow does not need rosin when it is not being played. However, you do run the risk of having to re-rosin it with crushed up rosin, which is something that is done when the bow is new. To do so, crush up rosin until it is a fine powder and gently apply it over all of the hairs on the bow. This should not only make it easier to apply hard rosin onto the bow, but also play with a better sound. Do this only if all the rosin on the bow has shed.
  • To check if there is rosin on the bow, place your thumb fingernail under the bow hairs and run it through them quickly. If there a small cloud of rosin, you do not need to put more.


  • Never touch the bow hair with your fingers. The oil could damage the hairs and would result in needing to get your bow re-haired, which can be quite pricey.
  • Always be careful about handling your bow - do not drop or hit it against anything.
  • Make sure it is loosened at all times when not in use.
  • 1
    The oils in your fingers aren't likely to damage the bow hair, they'll just grease it so the rosin won't stick, and you'll have a silent or different sounding point on your bow. Cleaning can often fix that, but that's for another question.
    – Karen
    Aug 3, 2015 at 16:01
  • 1
    Also, if it's a wooden bow, it's ideally kept at humidity between about 45%-65%, same as the instrument.
    – Karen
    Aug 3, 2015 at 16:03

I had a bow that I stored in a cello case for months, with the tension off. When I went back to try to use it, I discovered that 2/3 of the horsehairs had been eaten through. My teacher then told me about "bow mites" (microscopic critters that are also called dust mites or carpet mites). She said that a bow needs to be stored with mothballs (napthaline or dichlorobenzine) to keep the mites off of them.

I found a "WikiHow" on "How to Get Rid of Bow Bugs". I cannot vouch for their suggestions.


You don't need to clean or rosin it; it might be good to protect it from dust and dramatic temperature and humidity changes. Definitely release the tension.

I like the mothballs idea. They are pretty stinky but they keep away all sorts of bugs that might damage the bow.

If you don't have a case handy that would work well, how about a cardboard mailing tube, with a mothball taped to the inside of the tube at each end?

I can't think of any other concerns. My cello and bow sometimes get used regularly and sometimes not, and it's okay.

You could also call and ask a luthier or a bow shop.

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