Guitar Maintenance 101: How to Clean and Protect Your Guitar

Cleaning the guitar

As a professional guitarist, you know that keeping your guitar in good condition is crucial for your performances. Over time, your guitar can accumulate dirt, dust, grime, and sweat, all of which can negatively impact its sound. Cleaning your guitar regularly and with the right equipment will help to keep it in top working order.

Before you start cleaning, here are some common questions and answers to help you get started:

What can I use to clean my guitar?

You should only use white distilled vinegar as a household product for cleaning your guitar safely.

How can I clean a guitar without damaging it?

If your guitar has an unfinished maple fretboard, you can use a ball of ultra-fine steel wool to remove dirt without damaging the frets. For satin-finished guitar maple, you can use a damp cloth.

Preliminary Steps Before you begin cleaning your guitar, you’ll need to gather some essential materials. These include:

  • Soft cloth (such as an old sock or t-shirt piece)
  • Bucket of water
  • Glass cleaner
  • High-quality guitar polish containing pure carnauba wax
  • White distilled vinegar (optional)

It’s important to avoid using any household cleaning products that contain heavy waxes, silicone, or lacquer thinner, as these can damage your guitar finish. Furniture polishes and all-purpose cleaners should also be avoided.

Next, remove the guitar strings carefully. This will make cleaning the fretboard easier and will protect the strings from any polishes, oils, or damp cloths used during the cleaning process.

If you have a vintage guitar with a nitro finish, be extra cautious when cleaning it. Vintage guitars with nitro finishes can change color or develop a sheen over time, and applying polishes can remove the original finish. In this case, simply clean the guitar with a cloth and a small amount of water.

Steps to Clean Your Guitar

  1. Clean the Neck and Fingerboard/Fretboard: If you play guitar as a hobby, you should clean the fretboard once a year. For electric guitar players, clean the fretboard three to four times a year. Dirt and oils can accumulate on the fretboard from frequent contact with your fingers. Clean it with a lightly damp cloth and distilled vinegar or plain water.
  2. Clean the Body Parts: Move down the length of the guitar, cleaning the sides, front, and back of the body. Use a wet cloth, rinsing it between each section. If you have any stubborn smudges or fingerprints, try huffing warm breath on the area before wiping it with a cloth. For tougher stains, you can use a mild detergent and water, then buff with a dry cloth to remove streaks.
  3. Clean the Bridge: The bridge is located beneath the sound hole and supports the strings. Clean it with a damp cloth and use a pipe cleaner or toothbrush for difficult spots.
  4. Wipe the Tuning Keys: The tuning keys are located at the top of the neck and on the headstock. Clean them with a dry cloth and glass cleaner, then polish to restore shine.
  5. Clean the Pickups: If the pickups on your electric guitar look dirty, clean them with a damp cloth. If there’s rust on the pickups, remove them carefully and clean with a rust-dissolving solution or a cotton ball.

In conclusion, cleaning a guitar is a simple and easy process. It requires basic materials that are easily available and some caution to ensure you clean your instrument safely. Regular cleaning will keep your guitar in top shape and ready for your next band show.