View Full Version : What should use to clean the face of my mando?

newf playing a mando
Jul-08-2009, 8:12pm
What should i use to clean the face of my black face T.C. octave mandolin?

Jul-08-2009, 8:32pm
Start with a dry microfiber cloth and if necessary a very soft damp (wet and fully wrung out) cloth with water only. If that doesn't work, listen to what the luthiers who will answer have to say (the first two I have gleaned from them already... not that I knew it to begin with).


Jul-08-2009, 9:20pm
T shirt or shirt-tail of what ever you have on is my approach, being casual about it.

Jul-08-2009, 10:44pm
You did say clean, so here's my two cents on that... I would start with a half dollar size spot of naphtha on clean flannel cloth and rug moderately firm in a circular pattern of the top in small circles. When finished with the naphtha buff with a clean dry cloth and then, depending on what the finish is re; lacquer or varnish, you can use Martin guitar polish to shine the top or if it's varnish, the microfiber cloth should do fine. Good luck... Kenc

Jul-09-2009, 12:31am
Yup like Ken says naptha is safe to use for really gunky stuff but most of the time just a slightly damp soft cloth of water will do. Then dry with soft buff cloth after that.

Jul-09-2009, 4:00am
Does anyone know what naptha is in English English?
I'm sure they can't be using aircraft fuel!

Ryk Loske
Jul-09-2009, 4:53am

I don't remember what they call it on your side of the pond ... but it's the same liquid used in old fashioned cigarette lighters.


Jul-09-2009, 5:31am

Many thanks. I have some in front of me, we call it lighter fluid, it's a light petroleum distillate.

Although it says it's non-toxic, I've always thought of petrol (US gas) as a major solvent, and would be very dubious about getting anywhere near my nice new Eastman MD604!

Jul-09-2009, 9:37am
John, It will be fine on your instrument! Kenc

Ryk Loske
Jul-09-2009, 9:49am

The pleasure was all mine. I've spent too little time in your beautiful country and was treated wonderfully by everybody i encountered there. A wee bit of Kind Kilted Karma.


Rob Gerety
Jul-09-2009, 10:52am
Good thread. I find that my mando develops a white haze where my arm sits on the top of the lower bout. It might be salts from sweat, I'm not sure. It does not come off easily. Do you all think that a little lighter fluid will take care of this?

newf playing a mando
Jul-09-2009, 4:03pm
didn't realize that naptha would work, going to try it in an odd spot first.
thanks everyone

Capt. E
Jul-09-2009, 5:16pm
Naptha is the original dry cleaning chemical. Simple, useful and won't hurt your finish. Use it in a well ventilated space, maybe even outdoors.

Jul-09-2009, 5:34pm
So.... am I hearing this right, just use lighter fluid? Cool.

I use that Dr. Stringfellows lemon oil... it does a nice job of removing gunk. I don't think it's really lemon oil by the way... maybe it's part naptha?

Update: Did a little search... WIKIPEDIA says it's coleman stove fuel as well (White gas.... or I guess White Petrol to those on the other side of the pond). = )

Jul-09-2009, 8:12pm
Coleman Stove fuel. It evaporates almost instantly. That's what we always called Naptha in Canada. The stuff by Coleman is probably pretty clean and available in a 1 liter (or 1 USQuart) can .

Jul-09-2009, 9:09pm
When you go to buy it, ask for naphtha not naptha. That's pronounced naftha.

Jul-10-2009, 4:54pm
Just curious about the different names for the fluid so I went looking for the chemistry of it - C8H18 for what it's worth.

But then there is this paragraph on wikipedia -

Shellite (Australia), also known as white gas (North America), white spirit (outside the UK) or Coleman fuel, is a water white liquid with a hydrocarbon odour. Shellite has a freeze point less than −30 C (−22 F), and a boiling point of 47 C (117 F). The composition of shellite is 95% paraffins and naphthenes, less than 5% aromatic hydrocarbons and less than 0.5% benzene. It is highly flammable and due to its low flashpoint is used in many low pressure camping stoves. Shellite is also a fast drying solvent used for cleaning metal, hard plastic and painted surfaces. Ronsonol is a brand name used in North America, and is marketed principally as a refill fluid for cigarette lighters and has a flashpoint of about 6 C (43 F).

That looks to me as if different brands of lighter fluid may contain varying amounts of other hydrocarbons. I think if it was to go on my instrument I'd try a very small test area before doing too much.

Jul-10-2009, 7:07pm
Many people use a less volatile material called mineral spirits. It has worked well for me. In the large box stores it is sometimes sold as paint thinner. If you read the fine print they tell you it is mineral spirits.

Jul-11-2009, 2:39pm
I have the same problem and a thread started on it today in another category.

So, what I'm hearing it that some Coleman fuel is the right thing for the 'gunk' buildup on the face on my mando. Really? Sounds dangerous!


re simmers
Jul-12-2009, 1:12pm
Bill used a piece of broken glass on the face, and a pen knife on the peghead.

Seriously, mineral spirits would be good once in a great while, but probably over-kill to use it regularly.

Bill Snyder
Jul-12-2009, 3:57pm
Start with a dry microfiber cloth. If that doesn't do it then just lightly dampen it with water. If that does not do it use just a dash of light detergent. Then if that is not cutting the gunk use the naphtha.

barney 59
Jul-12-2009, 5:11pm
I think that I would use a product called "Naphtha" rather than lighter fluid or white gas (Coleman fuel). There could be other finish reactive chemicals or preservatives in other products that are designed for a different purpose than as a cleaner. Naphtha should be available at many hardware stores or paint stores. I think that mineral spirits (paint thinner) would leave residue and definately stink behind and could possibly damage some finishes, it also has a relatively long drying period compared with naphtha. I've used naphtha many times but I still test in a inconspicuous spot before I go ahead. As suggested the dust it first then damp cloth is the way to go. I use Martin polish these days with good results.

Jul-12-2009, 6:07pm
Barney 59, I completely agree... Kenc

newf playing a mando
Jul-12-2009, 8:32pm
Whoa, didn't mean do get everyone's panties in a bunch over this question. I tried the white gas and it worked awesome. thanks everyone.

Aug-01-2009, 11:44am
This is a great thread. I'm looking to clean my 100-year-old bowlback mando. It has decades-old grime on the face. It also has a crack that has been repaired (don't know how professional the repair was---it looks like some kind of glue was applied, probably more than 50 years ago). I tried the damp cloth and microfiber on a small area. Much grime came off, but it left the surface a little dull and very slightly tacky. I would like to remove the grime and perhaps get a nice, shiny, hard finish that will resist body oils (especially where my right arm rubs as I play). However, I am really afraid of perhaps weakening the repaired crack. Will naphtha (lighter fluid) do that?

PS. My mando teacher told me to use guitar polish. Would this be a safe alternative as a cleaner and/or after cleaning?

Dec-16-2009, 10:16pm
I have used lighter fluid to clean fretboards for years on various instruments. I am gonna use it to clean the decades of grime (if necc.) off the old Stewart when I get it (antique bowlback).

The way I use lighter fluid-take a cotton swab, dab a small amount of fluid on and then wipe the fret area. Keep using this technic to clean the entire fretboard (or instrument) till clean. Since it evaporates almost immediately, it does not leave residue behind. Then I treat the fretboard with lemon oil polish-always leaves it glistening and clean. Gets rid of dust/dirt/finger gunk and accumulated dead skin cells near the frets (the metal). The oil then feeds the fret board and if I had to use it on the body of an instrument I would have no issue with using a good quality polish to go over the instrument.

Lighter fluid is about $2.50 per pint bottle and it will last for years for occassional instrument cleaning. It has very little odor and has always been safe to use-don't smoke when applying it to a rag or cotton ball.

jim simpson
Dec-16-2009, 10:27pm
One must be cautious with the flamability of lighter fluid. It's reported that Jimi Hendrix noticed the build up of dirt on his Strat after a show. He borrowed some lighter fluid to clean it and must have ignited it with a cigarette by accident. The rest is history!

Mike Bunting
Dec-17-2009, 2:13am
And don't smoke!

And I'm a day late and a dollar short again!

Dec-17-2009, 12:30pm
White Lightening? Bacardi 151? , dual use..
well maybe not on an alcohol based varnish..

never mind, pour a couple glasses, and offer toast to the dust , we are just a temporary state of dust ourselves.

Dec-17-2009, 12:47pm
Anyone tried Dr.Ducks ax wax?