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How to Clean Your Guitar

Previously, we went over how to clean your strings and the best tools to use for cleaning them. This time, we will be going over the best way to clean the body of your guitar, so you can keep your favorite instrument nice and shiny!

The Basics

The best thing you can do for your guitar, much like your strings, is to wipe it down after every play session with a microfiber cloth to get off the fingerprints and grime. This holds true for every kind of finish and every kind of guitar; you can never go wrong with a microfiber cloth for cleaning. Microfiber cloths are easy to come by, too, and won’t take up much space in your bag. You can get them here. Be sure to always use either microfiber or 100% cotton; never use a paper towel, because it could damage and scratch the finish on your guitar.

If you do that every time you play, your guitar should overall stay looking pretty nice and clean. However, every once in a while, you should dig a little deeper and give your guitar a good cleaning with the appropriate products and methods to keep it at its best. While simply wiping with a dry cloth is great for spot cleaning and general maintenance, it is still inevitable that grime will eventually build up on your guitar, especially if you play very often.

Cleaning Your Guitar

First, let’s get started with a few basic tips.

  • Absolutely do not use any random household cleaner on your guitar. The cleaner is very likely to have chemicals in it that will damage the finish. You will want to use guitar cleaning products only.
  • Be aware of the material your guitar is made out of. If you have a vintage guitar made of nitrocellulose, you will have to be very careful with cleaning it, as the finish is easy to damage. Matte and satin guitars also need care when cleaning, and should generally only be cleaned with a dry cloth.

This guide will work best for modern guitars with a shiny (polyurethane and polyester) finish, which tend to be the easiest guitars to clean.

The Fretboard

One of the most important things to clean on your guitar is your fretboard. This part, of course, takes the most abuse and will likely have the most build-up of grime and dirt.

To give your fretboard a deep clean, you can scrub it with some very fine steel wool, like this. However, you need to be sure that your fretboard is not finished with lacquer first, because steel wool could damage the coating. If your fretboard is a darker wood, they are generally unfinished, so the steel wool will be safe.

Be sure to use steel wool sparingly, and only when your fretboard needs a deep clean. You can reduce your use of steel wool by cleaning the fretboard with a microfiber cloth frequently, which will help slow the buildup of grime.

You will also want to use a fingerboard cleaner and conditioner, like this D’Addario Hydrate Fingerboard Conditioner. You will want to rub it in to your fretboard with a microfiber cloth. This will both hydrate the wood on your fingerboard and remove any remaining gunk.

The Body

Cleaning the body of a guitar is a pretty simple process. If you have been wiping the body down with a microfiber cloth after every play session, you likely won’t have too much work to do here. For this, you will want to pick up some quality guitar cleaning solution (remember, no household cleaning products). There are many cleaners available out there and you have a lot of options. One choice is the Music Nomad Guitar Cleaner. This cleaner is well-trusted and comes with a convenient spray bottle, which you can then spray on to your microfiber towel and clean your guitar with. Doing this over the entire body of your guitar should make it nice and shiny.

You can also polish your guitar, if necessary. You will need to pick up something like this Ernie Ball Guitar Polish or this Music Nomad Polish to get started on this step.

Look over your guitar’s body and see if there are any swirls or scratches that you want to buff out. Put the polish on the cloth, and gently rub it in to the finish with a microfiber cloth. This should restore your guitar to a shine if it was looking a little dull.

Note that you should not polish your guitar all the time, because polishing does involve removing some of the finish. You will only want to do this every once and awhile, and only if it is necessary.

What About the Hardware?

Guitar hardware (bridges, etc) is made of metal, which can be corroded very easily by sweat. Be sure to always wipe down your hardware after you play to prevent as much of this as possible.
If your hardware needs a cleaning, you will want to be extremely careful. Do not use anything that could leak down inside, because that could damage the electronics of your guitar.
Use a small amount of polish, like one of the two previously linked, applied to a microfiber cloth and wipe down the metal parts of your guitar. Never spray polish directly on to the metal parts, as it is easy for it to go in to places you do not want it to go and cause damage.
If you have particularly bad corrosion or rust, you may need to remove these parts and clean them with something stronger, like WD-40. Do not use this while the metal parts are still attached to your guitar body, as WD-40 is not good for the finish of your guitar.

Taking good care of your guitar is very important, and you should never ignore grime building up or corrosion. Keep your guitar clean and it will serve you well for many years to come.

1 thought on “How to Clean Your Guitar”

  1. Thank You for the teaching me the cleaning protocols.
    I do have a question…I am STUMPED by this weird delema but EVERY “C” Note on my ENTIRE Fret Board sounds like a “Thud” (JUST THE “C” Note???).
    The half/full step on either side of these “C” Notes sound gairly well (a couple of positions are slightly “Dull”). What can create this strangeness?

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