Effective Tips – How to Clean Guitar

Guitar maintenance is part and parcel of playing guitar. Some chores, like cleaning and changing the strings even impact sound quality.

In an ideal world, you’ll wipe down your guitar before you put it back in its case. But that doesn’t always happen, and even when it does, every guitar deserves a good cleaning every once in a while.

Cleaning your guitar is a simple process, but you do need to be wary of the materials and techniques you use. We’ll show you how to clean acoustic and electric guitars and make them look and feel like new.

How to Clean Every Inch of Your Acoustic Guitar

Get back that charm your instrument had when you first brought it home with a good clean.
What You Need:
• Soft cloth
• Soft polishing cloth (optional)
• Guitar polish (optional)

Cleaning your acoustic guitar involves four steps of cleaning the body and finish taking up most of
your time.

Start with the Fretboard

brief history of guitars

Your fretboard is often the dirtiest part of your guitar. The best way to clean your fretboard is to remove three strings at a time so you can tackle the board without the strings in the way. If you have an unfinished rosewood fretboard that’s picked up too much gunk and grime, use super-fine steel wool and some conditioner to buff out the dirt.

Using conditioner isn’t necessary, but it protects the wood from cracking. Additionally, if you don’t like the idea of steel wool, use an old toothbrush.

If your fretboard is finished, then use only a cloth. Do not apply steel wool or any other product.

Move on to the Bridge

brief history of guitars
To clean the bridge, take off the saddle and nuts and use both the toothbrush and conditioner to scrub it down.

Clean the Body Finish

brief history of guitars

Cleaning an acoustic guitar requires a minimum of a soft cloth and a gentle touch. Your soft cloth can be a soft washcloth or even an old cotton t-shirt. Older ones work best for guitar cleaning because a cloth that you’ve washed over and over again won’t leave lint behind on the guitar.

Don’t use a paper towel or another paper product – even in a pinch. Even if the product feels soft, it may damage your guitar if your instrument features a shellac or lacquer polish finish.

To start, wipe down your guitar with your dry, soft cloth. The cloth alone will remove most of the debris and the fingerprints.

If you haven’t cleaned your instrument in a while, you may need more than a quick wipe down. Set smudges or fingerprints respond better with some moisture. To achieve the perfect amount of moisture, don’t wet your cloth. Instead, breathe gently on the surface of the guitar. The moisture from your warm breath provides just enough condensation to aid the cloth cleaning.

Dirty guitars may need a bit more work. Using a small amount of a mild detergent in water will get rid of the most stubborn smudges. Wet the cloth with the water and wring it out carefully before using it on an acoustic guitar. You want to use a damp cloth—not a dripping wet one.

Avoid using any more moisture than required on the guitar, and never, ever wet the guitar itself.

Once you finish with the wet cloth, wipe the guitar down with your dry cloth again to buff it. A quick wipe removes any streaks left by the condensation and achieves the shine you’re looking for.

If you have a fine guitar or you want to take your maintenance routine one step further, you can invest in a guitar cleaner. Acoustic guitar cleaners are water-based solutions that are either creamy or feature fine abrasives.

A water-based solution appears semi-transparent and should only be applied to the cloth.

Remember, use as little moisture as possible when cleaning your guitar, even if it’s a specialist cleaner.

Stick to the water-based cleaners in most cases and especially if your instrument features a matte-finish. Abrasives may damage the finish by creating shiny patches.

Guitar cleaners also come in oil form, and these remove smudges and fingerprints. Oil cleaners don’t break down dirt. Choose your formula accordingly.

Re-String the Guitar

how to change guitar strings
Once you’re done, put the remaining strings back on the guitar. Remember, a full clean is an excellent opportunity to re-string your guitar.

How to Keep Your Acoustic Guitar Safe and Clean Between Uses

Cut your cleaning time in half by storing and caring for your instrument correctly.

The first rule of guitar ownership is to keep it in its case when it’s not in use. It may look cool on your wall or laying casually on a chair, but your home’s heating and cooling system damage the structure of your guitar. Wood instruments prefer a humid storage environment like the one provided by a lined case. It doesn’t get that outside of the case unless you’re running a humidifier in your room.

Cases provide both a humid environment and protection from damage. Guitars left strewn about tip over and cause damage to the body. They’re also more likely to get scratched.

Another simple way to keep your guitar clean is to wipe it down after you’ve finished each session.

Make it simple by keeping your cleaning cloth in the case and removing fingerprints and smudges when you’ve finished playing. It takes a few seconds and avoiding build-up protects your guitar’s finish.

How to Clean an Electric Guitar

brief history of guitars
Electric guitars pick up the grime, dirt, and oil from your hands and need regular cleaning to keep them looking sharp.

Most manufacturers recommend completing a thorough clean every time you change the strings because an excellent clean requires removing the strings anyway.

What You Need:
• Chamois
• Guitar cleaning solution
• Duster
• Small paintbrush
• Mild chrome polish (or jewelry polish)
• Guitar polish

How to Clean the Strings

Start the cleaning process by removing your strings. Removing the strings makes it far easier to clean them and gives you better access to your fingerboard. Additionally, you want to avoid bringing the strings into contact with any of the cleaning solutions or polishes you might use when cleaning the other parts of the guitar.

Note: Don’t rip the strings off all at once. Remove a few at a time to avoid compromising the neck tension.

Your guitar strings reflect everything you’ve touched today because they are covered in the natural oils from your fingers.

Dirty strings break down faster, so it’s essential to include a string clean in every cleaning session.

Use your chamois to wipe down your strings and remove excess oil. The easiest method of cloth cleaning them is to wrap the chamois around each one to surround it entirely. Then, move the chamois down its length to clean it.

Complete this process with every string.

How to Clean the Fingerboard, Frets, and Body

Your fingerboard and frets shouldn’t need more than a good dusting followed by a polish. Wipe them down with a soft cloth and give them a polish.

The guitar’s body often needs little more than a wife. If it’s excessively dirty, most manufacturers recommend using a guitar cleaning solution. If using water or a cleaning solution, always apply it to the cloth and never directly to your instrument. Your cloth should be wet, but you shouldn’t see a single drop of water on your fretboard or body after applying it.

Be very careful to avoid getting the solution or any other form of moisture on your pickups; wet pickups are virtually useless. Keeping your pickups dry should be simple if you’re using a damp cloth.

If your fingerboard is beginning to show signs of wear from pressing on the strings, you’ll need to sand the fingerboard gently. Note: if you’ve reached this point of wear, don’t sand the guitar yourself unless you’re an expert.

Ask a guitar maintenance and repair service to take care of the process for you. The wear itself damages the sound quality and taking a piece of sandpaper to the fingerboard yourself will destroy your guitar’s sound.

How to Clean the Hardware and Pickups

While dirty strings impact longevity, the issue of smudged hardware is one of vanity rather than a requirement for maintenance. Since you’re already cleaning your guitar, it’s worth giving them a polish.

Carefully polish your hardware with your duster to create a buffed look. Your rag won’t get you into all the nooks and crannies of it, so you’ll need to use a paintbrush. A small, good-quality paintbrush works best. Cheap ones leave hair behind in your hardware, which will impact your guitar.

If you’re taking photos of it or you’re preparing for a show, use a mild jewelry or chrome polishing solution on your hardware. Avoid using the policy often and use it with care when you’re polishing.

Even a mild polish might break down the coating and accidentally expose the uncoated metal surface underneath.

Clean your pickups the same way. Use a cloth or paintbrush to remove dust and smudges.

Clean Your Guitar Regularly

Now that we’ve shown you how to clean acoustic and electric guitars, you can give your instruments the kind of deep clean and polish they deserve.

Do you have any professional tips for cleaning a guitar or working with specific models? Share them in the comments below.


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