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26 comments / Posted by Bruce Ohms

Guitar Strings

If you play guitar or bass a lot, chances are you go through a lot of strings. In a previous article we discussed how to know when it’s time for you to change strings. But what do you do with your old strings? While simply tossing them in the trash is the most straightforward option, there are numerous alternatives that are worth a try.

1. Recycle Them!

Many guitar and bass strings are made of bronze, nickel or stainless steel. So go ahead and toss them in your recycle bin instead of the trash. It’s as simple as recycling aluminum cans and will help the Earth in the long-term by reducing destructive metal mining. However, many municipal recycling programs do not accept strings, so it may be a good idea to find out if this is a viable option first.

2. Donate them to a local school or music program.

The cost of strings can really add up, and any local schools or institutions with music programs will be really appreciative of any donations. You’ll also get a lot of satisfaction knowing that you are helping out young musicians, especially considering how many schools lack funding for music and arts programs. If recycling isn’t an option, donating them is a very worthy alternative.

3. Send them overseas to musicians in need.

All over the world there are musicians who cannot afford to purchase new strings, or simply do not have access to them. Your used strings can really make a difference in their lives and allow them to keep their craft going! Awesome efforts like the Second Strings Project, founded by singer-songwriter Darryl Purpose and Kevin Deame, accept string donations and give them to less fortunate musicians in third world and developing countries. To date, they have delivered over 20,000 sets of strings to musicians in need. For more information about this project, visit the info page of Second Strings Project.

Even when your strings have served their purpose, they are still able to find a new life elsewhere. Do you have any other ideas for what to do with old strings? Let us know in the comments!


  • Posted On August 25, 2016 by Bill Kennedy

    I played bass flat wounds for years and I never changed strings unless they unwound or broke.
    Every couple of weeks or so I would take a spray can of string cleaner, a piece of very light grade emory paper and a white cloth and I would spray, sand and wipe until the strings were clean.
    Worked for years…..

  • Posted On July 28, 2016 by Scott McTaggart

    Believe it or not, I have found that if you boil your old strings for 20 min. They can give you a few more gigs of life. It gets rid of the dirt and sweat that builds up in the windings. This is for Round wound strings. Give it a shot and see the Results. Also take an old white t- shirt and wipe the strings down. You will see what it pics up after you boil the strings. Also use a little dish soap while boiling the strings.

  • Posted On July 27, 2016 by Wayne Bolon

    You should list the address for Darryl Purpose , Kevin Deame for the second Strings Project. Mention it to by local music store and they didn’t know about it.

  • Posted On July 27, 2016 by Steve Feder

    I have used old strings as picture hanging wire!
    I do like the ‘second strings’ idea and will look into it. Thanks.

  • Posted On July 26, 2016 by Vic Fusco

    James Jamerson and Duck Dunn were two iconic bassists who never changed strings. I’ve heard that strings get dull sounding because they get clogged with dirt and grease in the windings. For that reason some bassists say FLATwounds never need changing. (I tend to agree with that – they’re supposed to be “thuddy.” I’ve head some bass playes take the strings off and boil them in a pot on the stove until all the dirt comes out, then they freeze the. After that they are like a new set of round wound bass strings. With that it mind, if you do like to change strings, there is certainly no shame in donating used bass strings to the organization cited above. You’re not giving then garbage. Most countries are far more adept at recycling than we are in the US. I would recommend you put the strings in the corresponding enevelopes from your new strings. I think it can be safely said along the same lines that the E-A-and D string from your guitars are equally recyclelable, and will be received wit gratitude. I don’t know about the non wound strings. If I don’t clean mine immediately after a gig, they will oxidize and be basically useless, so I would be hesitant to donate those.

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