How to Clean Bass Strings: 6 Easy Steps

There are two ways to clean bass strings. Taking them off the instrument or leaving them on. Determining which one will impinge upon how dirty they are and how bad the sound is. While there are many ways to clean the bass strings, the ones mentioned below are the most effective.

Some people have luck using denatured alcohol or boiling them. But neither of these is advisable for several reasons. Regardless, if you keep up with the maintenance, you shouldn’t have to resort to extreme measures. Let’s learn how to clean bass strings in 6 easy steps!

Instructional Overview

Taking Bass Guitar Strings Off

  • Step 1: With a Pair of Cotton Gloves, Remove the bass Strings
  • Step 2: Roll Each One Up and Tie It in a Coil
  • Step 3: Fill a Bucket with White Vinegar ; Warm Water
  • Step 4: Soak them for a Day
  • Step 5: Rinse the Strings in Lukewarm Water
  • Step 6: Wipe Dry with Microfiber Cloth and Air Dry

Leaving the Bass String On

  • Step 1: Gently Loosen the Bass Strings
  • Step 2: Wipe Down with a Microfiber Towel
  • Step 3: Re-tighten them

How to Clean Bass Strings Without Taking Them Off

You should only have to take your bass strings off to clean them when they are grimy, funky, and filthy. This may be about once or twice per year if you play every day. People who play bass on occasion should only have to clean their strings when they notice that they need it.

This will become easier to recognize once you have learned how to clean bass strings.

Step 1: Remove the Strings With a Pair of Cotton Gloves

To ensure you don’t add any more dirt and oil from your hands, wear a pair of cotton gloves. Gently remove the bass strings one at a time.

Step 2: Roll Each One Up and Tie It in a Coil

To avoid them getting tangled, coil each string up and tie it. You can use a piece of ribbon, a sandwich bag tie, a zip tie, or some hemp string.

Step 3: Fill a Bucket with White Vinegar and Warm Water

Fill a bucket with one part white vinegar to one part warm water. Place your bass string coils into the bucket and gently shake them around as you insert each one.

Step 4: Soak the Bass Strings for a Day

Let your bass strings sit in this solution for a full 24 hours. Gently moving them around every so often during this period. If any are particularly dirty with grime stuck to them, use an old toothbrush to carefully scrub them.

Step 5: Rinse the Strings in Lukewarm Water

With a pair of cleaning gloves, unfurl the string coils as you rinse them off on the cooler end of lukewarm water. Inspect each string and its length to make sure all the dirt is free and clear. Use the old toothbrush to remove anything left on.

Step 6: Wipe Dry with Microfiber Cloth and Air Dry

Then, wipe each string dry with a microfiber cloth and lay them out, so they air dry for a full 24 hours. Don’t hang them, this will stretch them out and make them unplayable. Also, make sure they won’t get disturbed, misshapen or experience any other kind of damage.

Leaving the Strings On

The most desirable way to clean bass strings is to leave them on. This way you don’t have to mess with water or have to worry about turning them on the tuner too much. You should be wiping them off regularly already, but the step below is a deeper clean than a basic wipe-down.

Step 1: Gently Loosen the Strings

Loosen the strings on your bass. Just enough so that you have room to move around. All without stretching or damaging them during cleaning.

Step 2: Wipe Down with a Microfiber Towel

With a microfiber towel and your fingers, wipe up and down the length of the bass strings. If you notice an excessive amount of black and dirt coming off of them, use a little mineral oil. If you do opt for mineral oil, make sure you use an additional clean microfiber towel to wipe off any excess.

Step 3: Re-tighten the Strings

Then re-tighten the strings on your bass to your preferred tension.

how to clean bass strings

String Cleaner

Another great way of cleaning bass strings is with specialized products. There are string cleaning products on the market that removes dirt and grime. Much better than just wiping. They are made from substances that deep clean your bass strings.

This reduces the dullness that bass strings experience when there is too much grime. These products are not very expensive and are easy to use after each session. Simply wipe them down with the bass string cleaner and this will increase their life span.

Cleaning your strings regularly will help keep them in great shape. This will give you more time to play your bass instead of dealing with grime.


Should you clean bass strings?

Yes, at some point the strings will have accumulated dirt and grime. This will affect the sound as well as the playability. But because they can be more expensive. It’s sometimes a better idea to clean them instead of replacement.

By using the methods in this article, you can get more longevity out of your bass strings by cleaning them.

How to Clean Bass Strings with Denatured Alcohol and PVC Pipes?

You can clean bass strings using denatured alcohol and PVC pipes that seal at both ends. You will need a pipe for each string, and one end of the pipe cap has to be removable.

Simply follow the same method as for the white vinegar. With the caveat of letting the strings hang inside the pipe while it soaks in the denatured alcohol.

But, denatured alcohol is poisonous and flammable. This means keeping pets, children, and cigarettes away from it. Plus, it’s a solvent, so it can get messy and be caustic to the skin.

You can also use a drop of denatured alcohol on a microfiber cloth and wipe the strings down with it. This is a little safer. But it can create an acidic reaction with your skin, thereby making them unplayable.

Should you boil your bass strings?

Some people recommend boiling bass strings. Especially ones that have a coating on them. You can try it, but many seasoned aficionados don’t recommend it.

This is because it can damage them, and it doesn’t seem to be very effective. Also, it could create rust that will eventually ruin them or damage other parts.

How Do You Prevent Bass Strings from Getting Dirty?

There are four essential tips for keeping your strings from getting dirty. Proper storage. Use quality materials.

Wipe them down after each jam session and wash your hands before you play. Always keep your bass in its case away from sunlight. Open windows, and severe temperature changes as well.

Locate strings that advertise having an anti-corrosion lacquer. And always keep a microfiber towel in your case. Follow these simple tips. And you shouldn’t ever have to resort to something like boiling or denatured alcohol. Learning how to clean bass strings properly will ensure longer use.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear. I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!