How To Clean Your Guitar So It Will Stay In Perfect Condition
In this article I will tell you how to clean your guitar, so it will keep being in perfect condition for your performance. You want your guitar to sound the best it can and the first step to achieve this is to keep it it clean.
A clean guitar not only looks beautiful, but more importantly, it prevents guitar from getting damaged and it prolongs its lifetime, sound, and performance.
When it comes to a guitar body and headstock (if the headstock is finished in the same way as body), cleaning is pretty easy, especially on synthetic and nitro lacquers. You can use basically any unaggressive cleaning fluid. Of course, I would strongly recommend you to use a guitar body polish, but if nothing else is at hand, any wood polish or cleaning fluid for wood will do the job. When using a polish, you should apply it on the body evenly in thin layer and wait for it to dry. After it dries, you just have to polish the body with a cloth, until your guitar is shiny. I would also recommend you to use a Carnuba wax. It works very similar as guitar polish, but it also covers some minor scratches and can really make your guitar look like new.
Cleaning a fretboard is a little bit more complicated. We should divide the cleaning methods of maple fretboards on one side, and ebony and rosewood fretboards on the other side:
When cleaning a maple fretboard, you shouldn’t use any cleaners. For getting rid of dirt, you should use the side of your pick or a toothbrush. When cleaning finished maple fingerboards you can use a little bit of guitar polish at the end, and the same goes for the back of the neck. On unfinished maple fretboards on the other hand, you can use a “0000” steel wool to get rid of the dirt. But keep in mind, that most fretboards are finished one way or another, even if it looks unfinished (matte).
For cleaning a rosewood or ebony fretboards, there are many cleaning fluids on the market. You should apply a cleaning fluid on the fretboard, and rub it with a cloth or toothbrush. After that you should wipe all the cleaner and dirt off with a clean cloth. For cleaning the dirt by the frets you can use a little bit of lighter fluid. You should wrap a small sharp wooden stick with a lighter fluid soaked cloth and scratch the dirt off. If you don’t clean this kind of dirt, this dirt can get underneath the frets and starts pushing them out of its position, which can result in a fret-buzz, dead notes and/or other malfunctions. It is important to use a wooden stick, since any harder material can damage the fretboard!
When the fretboard is dirt free, you should protect the wood from getting too dry or wet. This also prevents the wood from getting penetrated by dirt, sweat or moisture, which can get into the wood through the micropores and damage it. This also prevents your guitar neck from getting bent from too much moisture. Anyway, for closing the micropores of your fretboard you can use lemon or linseed oil. You should apply the oil on the fretboard and wait for it to get soaked into the wood (approximately 1 minute). This prevents any dirt or moisture from penetrating the wood through micropores. After the wood is soaked you should just wipe the oil of the fretboard with a cloth. It is very important to get rid of all the oil from the frets, because oil can drastically shorten the lifetime of the strings by making them “deaf”.
When cleaning other guitar parts like screws, pots, switches, metal parts etc., I usually use two sprays, WD40 and Contact spray. But not always necessarily for what the specific spray is meant. As it goes for the contact spray, I find it exceptionally useful for getting rid of any dirt and minor spots of rust on metal surfaces. It can also remove oxidation from input jack or pots. For cleaning the pots and toggle switches I usually (but not always) prefer WD40 in very small amounts. If it doesn’t do the work, I spray a little bit of Contact spray, wait for approximately 30 seconds, and then turn the knob fully in both directions a few times. Then I wait for any longer period of time and turn the knobs fully a few times more, especially before I start playing the guitar.
Last, but not least, cleaning the strings. There are many products for cleaning the strings out there and most of them do the work just fine. If you clean your strings every time you finish playing, you can increase the lifetime of the strings significantly. Cleaning your strings after playing also improves the feeling underneath your fingers while playing.
It’s very simple to clean the strings. You just have to apply the string cleaner or string lubricant onto the strings and wipe the cleaner off afterwards. Sometimes, if the strings are a little bit dirtier, you might need to repeat this a few times, or maybe even apply the cleaner on the cloth. You can buy many different cloths, but any cotton or microfiber cloth will do just fine. When there is no more visible dirt on the cloth after wiping the strings, they are probably clean enough. And don’t forget to wipe the bottom side of the strings as well.
If you clean your guitar as described above regularly, for example every time you change the strings, it will definitely sound and look better.
This article was written by Nejc Vidmar, a professional guitar teacher from Slovenia. He’s got more than 15 years of playing live and recording experiences, and more than 10 years of teaching experience. His tips on how to clean and maintain the guitar has helped many of his students and other guitarists.