Cleaning/Maintaining Hibiki

Hi all!

I am curious. To those who have shamisen skinned with hibiki, what steps do you take to maintain the color, cleanliness, and durability of the skin?

I know it is advertised as much more durable, resistant to environmental factors, as well as stated to be more impact resistant. However, I wanted to know if there’s any way I can best maintain and clean properly. I do very lightly wipe it down any time I’ve needed to touch the dou, which tends to be most times I play. This to remove any oils, dirt, or general grime from skin contact.

Of course, I understand that it will not last forever. My goal is to get it as close to forever as I can, though!

Thanks in advance!

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Hi Soda.

Hibiki, and other skins with similar materials from other shops, are really durable, and abrasion resistant.

Even if you end up raising a few strands from the material with constant Bachi strikes, it will still hold for a long time. And even if you do raise a lot, there are techniques to tame it that I won’t discuss here because it’s risky if done by inexperienced people.

To keep it clean, I recommend a hard plastic brush with very fine bristles. A new toothbrush with hard bristles will do, though you may want to compare the bristles visually, looking for the thinnest you can get without the tapering tip (“soft tips”). The brush will remove most embedded stuff in the Hibiki material without damading it.

Now, if you need to remove existing oil stains, you will need a solvent. The only solvent that evaporates quickly enough, and offers absolutely no risk to the skin is Isopropanol (Isopropyl alcohol), and even then you need to be careful to not saturate the skin and leave the alcohol there for long.

Don’t ever use acetone or other hard solvent, as it will weaken the skin, and if it gets to the glue, it will soften it, risking immediate rupture of the bond.

The technique to clean with isopropanol is derived from upholstered sofa cleaning methods. You need to make sure the solvent gets to the fibers, and then is removed quickly before it evaporates, so it takes the oils with it.

You need:

  • A can of compressed air
  • Isopropanol in a bottle with a fine tip, so you can drip a few drops in place, without saturating too much.
  • Several rags, preferably microfiber, so it doesn’t leave residue behind.
  • A vaccuum cleaner with a fine tip, and a valve that can be opened to reduce the strength of the suction (this is important to avoid damaging the skin), or one that you can set to a low suction power. Clean the tip very well, as it will contact the skin.
  • A hard bristles toothbrush.

You will need a bit of coordination to apply the technique, but it’s not that complex.

  1. Start by putting the end of the canned air straw into the round hole in the Sao. Put one rag around it, and embed it between the hole and the straw, to lock it in place.
  2. Power on your vacuum cleaner on low or with the tip valve open, and have it ready.
  3. Now drip just a few drops (3or 4) of isopropanol on the spot with the oil stain, and quickly put the vacuum tip on the spot, while at the same time doing short bursts of the compressed air can. Hold the vacuum tip there for a few seconds, then remove the tip and check.
  4. Repeat as necessary, waiting 20 seconds between applications.


  • Don’t power off your vacuum during the process, as it needs to expel the isopropanol vapors entirely before the next application.
  • If you are unsure about your vacuum having a low enough setting, apply the tip at a 45 degree angle, so it doesn’t exert the full vacuum force on the skin.
  • Don’t drip more than 3 or 4 drops on each application. Isopropanol is flammable, and your vacuum cleaner has an electric motor, which may have sparks. The tiny amount of 4 drops is entirely safe and will not ignite, but don’t go higher than 4 drops per application.
  • If you have a large area, go bit by bit and have patience.
  • Do it in an open ventilated place if you do more than 3 or 4 applications in a row.
  • If necessary to brush the area with alcohol, for example on a hard stain, do 1 drop more of isopropanol, brush for two or three seconds, then vacuum. That 1 extra drop will be absorbed by the brush and/or evaporate, so there’s no risk.
  • If the stain is over the glued area (rim of the Dou), you don’t need the compressed air. But do one drop less of isopropanol per application, and wait 3 to 5 minutes between applications, to make sure it will evaporate completely, and not accumulate at the glue area.


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