I saw once the case of a beginner violinist who turned out to be allergic to a specific type of rosin that came with his student violin outfit. Another hypoallergenic rosin was purchased and they used water to try to remove the old rosin from the bow. Let's just say the bow hairs were completely damaged afterward.

Is there a proper way to proceed in this type of situation, or is there no other choice but to just go ahead and get the bow rehaired?

  • 3
    Wait... you're trying to get something sticky out of something that is designed to stick to things!? Good luck!
    – NReilingh
    May 3, 2011 at 22:08
  • 1
    Maybe there's no way!! But I have to consider the possibility that there are people out there with a lot more knowledge that might know of something that will work without damaging the bow hair. That is why I'm asking.
    – Lilitu88
    May 3, 2011 at 22:52
  • I've read you can use naphta but I have never tried that! Jan 3, 2014 at 10:01

4 Answers 4


It's definitely not the water that damaged the bow hairs. If it was the water, it probably just wasn't thorough enough, and ended up just making the hair sticky instead.

You can wash it in soap water, or better yet, horse hair shampoo. Bow hair is horse hair, after all. Just be sure to wash off the soap/shampoo really really well, or the rosin won't stick. It takes some patience and care to do.

You can take the frog off by turning the notch on the bottom all the way out. Try not to mangle the hairs too much.

You can also towel off the rosin using alcohol, but be very careful not to get any on the bow or the violin, as the varnish will come off.

I've also heard that compressed air works. Didn't have too much success with the air cans that you buy for cleaning electronics, though.

If for some reason you wreck the bow hair (which is unlikely), you have two options:

  1. If the bow is expensive, you can have it rehaired for around $50.
  2. If the bow is worth less than the cost of having it rehaired, you may want to look for a new bow.

My comment regarding the same question on another forum, after attempting to use human shampoo:

I take it back -- I got my sound back!

I talked to my stylist, who told me to try washing the shampoo off with soap. Apparently shampoo adds a coating of silicone (silicon?) to make hair shiny, and it doesn't come off with just water. Hand bar soap did the trick.

Donald, that's definitely true -- I used up my old bow hair until it was down to maybe a few dozen hairs. It sounded unbelievably bright, which I liked.

I read somewhere else on the forums that for this reason a lot of players ask for less hair when they get their bows rehaired.

(and no, I don't actually have my own stylist, I meant to say the-person-that-cuts-my-hair :)


I've done the following on many bows. Never damaged any bow.

  1. Water mixed with some detergent, in a mug or bowl.
  2. Unscrew and remove the nut. bring the nut near tip. Ask someone to hold the bow stick in one hand and the nut in other hand, so the bow hair hangs like a U.
  3. Tricky part: Dip parts of bow hair in the soap-water. Rub the wet bow hair along its length between your palms. It's ok to let the bow hair mix, but don't let it tangle too much. Make sure you are not pulling it away from nut/frog.
  4. Make very sure no water enters the tip/nut. Near the nut/tip, instead of dipping, you could wet your fingers slightly and apply them carefully.
  5. Repeat the same procedure with plain water. Stick and nut are never twisted or turned the whole time, to avoid tangling.
  6. Puff dry with some towel.
  7. Assemble the nut back. Don't fasten it too tight. There should be a medium stretch in the horse hair.
  8. Let it dry under a fan. Usually I let it dry for a full day. If you have to use a hair dryer, don't blow hot air.
  9. Every hour or two, slightly tighten the nut.

Not very easy. A couple of hair strands may break. I've never experienced any other major problem. Try at your own risk.

Good luck.


Avoid soap. Use dishwashing detergent that has no perfume or hand softeners. An old toothbrush works well for brushing out the old rosin. Rinse well with cold water.

If you get the stick or frog wet, no big deal. Just make sure the screw and eyelet don't stay wet.


I think you can wash it with detergent. That's what my friend does. I wash mine too but I don't do it often cause I don't want to ruin the hair. The longest part is probably the drying time, you can't apply rosin till its dry enough.

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