Stewart MacDonald has introduced a new string cleaning tool that should be very helpful for bluegrass players wanting to prolong string life on their instruments. The act of fingering the strings transfers oil from your hands onto the strings, which then attracts dirt and particles that can wedge into the tiny spaces between the windings. These compromise the ability of the strings to vibrate properly and can lead to tuning distortion or that dreaded “dead sound.”
Called simply The String Cleaner, this small plastic device slides under the strings and then clamps down on them with a microfiber pad that encircles them fully. The user simply pulls the cleaner up and down the fingerboard to wipe oil and dirt from the strings. No cleaning fluid or compound is required and a handle on the top piece makes it easy to glide the unit up and down the fingerboard.
StewMac has made them in three sizes, for guitar, for bass guitar, and for violin. The bass and violin cleaners allows for the bottom of the pad to also wipe the fingerboard clean.
Nothing is stated on the StewMac site, but it appears that the bass guitar cleaner would work well on an upright bass, and a guitar model on banjo, though you would need to reposition it to clean the strings for the first four frets area. The small violin cleaner might work well on a mandolin, especially if it has a radiused fingerboard.
All three models are inexpensive, with the guitar cleaner selling for $9.99, the bass for $14.99, and the violin for $19.99. Any one is small enough to store in a case compartment, and the pads can be removed to be cleaned themselves.
At that price, prolonging string life by even 20% would have you money ahead in short order, and could provide a more thorough cleaning even for players who take time to wipe their strings down after every session.
Ordering information can be found on the StewMac site, where you can also peruse their exhaustive catalog of parts, materials, and luthiery tools and supplies.