How you can properly care for and clean your guitar

How you can properly care for and clean your guitar

A guitar also needs to be looked after. Why? She’s still doing what she’s supposed to. It still sounds just as great as it did on the first day! right? Wrong. A guitar is also more and more prone to ‘breakdowns’ and suffers if it is not properly cared for. And what makes the whole thing really problematic: it can and will suffer permanent damage.

There are four particularly vulnerable parts of a guitar:


Well, many will think, then I’ll just change new ones when the old ones sound bad. But do I really have to change strings every X hours of play because they just don’t sound good anymore?

Even small tricks help here and the strings keep their sound level much longer.


The frets are particularly problematic here. Everyone and every guitarist sweats while playing. This sweat naturally ends up on the fretboard and strings . The more you play, the more sweat. This sweat wears away the frets and strings .

The wood of the fingerboard also suffers, but this is mainly a visual problem, because the sweat forms deposits over time, which is particularly nice with light fingerboard woods. But even dark woods can darken due to insufficient cleaning, several color gradations, here then cleaning provides a certain aha effect , according to the motto “Wow, is my fingerboard so bright?!”

But not only the appearance suffers, the playability also decreases. The frets in particular are susceptible here, as deposits develop on the frets over time. In addition, the sweat slowly but surely eats its way into the metal, the whole thing corresponds to a process similar to rusting.


No matter if tremolo , pickups, tuning pegs or maybe even the Floyd Rose system. All metal, all prone to rust and sweat. Over time, big problems can arise here, which usually go really deep into the wallet.


If the body shows cracks or other signs of wear and tear due to insufficient care, it can worsen the sound of your guitar many times over. So it is extremely important that you know how to properly clean your guitar.

How do I do that now?

There are innumerable guitar care products, innumerable ways to invest your money, and innumerable opinions from users about what is useful and what is nonsense. Ultimately, however, they are all just different ways of removing the effects of the example. Deposits of sweat off the strings, fingerboard and hardware. All sorts of other stains off the paint. There are simple and very effective methods for all of these things:

Clean the guitar strings

Here we mainly have to remove the dirt (hand sweat, skin particles and dust) from the strings.

Dirt reduces the vibrations of the strings. Result: a bad sound. To counteract this, you should simply wipe the strings with a dry cotton cloth after playing.

Clean the fingerboard with frets

When it comes to the fingerboard, you have to differentiate: lacquered or not?

Lacquered fingerboards are mostly made of light wood (e.g. maple) and unpainted ones are made of dark wood (e.g. rosewood).

First you should bring the frets to a shine. This works very well with the finest steel wool and a soft toothbrush. Always work lengthways!

We also get the sticks to shine again with our paint care products. However, caution is advised here, because the unpainted fingerboards have no place for lacquer care on the wood! The fingerboard should first be cleaned with a damp cloth.

When you change the strings, it is time to use the care products. Lemon Oil is mainly used for cleaning the fingerboard. Simply spread a few drops on the fingerboard and then work in with a soft cotton cloth. At the same time, a little dirt is also removed. There is also the option of cleaning unpainted fingerboards with gun oil, e.g. Ballistol.

Very important: the strings are made of metal and the fingerboard is made of wood. Both are cleaned separately. For example, the fretboard oil would rust the strings. That’s why you only oil your fingerboard when you change the strings.

How often should you change guitar strings

Clean the guitar hardware

The guitar machine heads are mostly made of steel. This brings with it the fact that the metal parts can rust from time to time. That’s what happens when the mechanics come into contact with sweat or when you play in the rain. 😉 That’s why you should clean your hardware regularly.

Here you can easily achieve a lot with standard sewing machine or gun oil (Ballistol). One to two drops are sufficient. You should avoid contact with the electrical system and wood. To get to the grooves of the tremolo , you can also work with a pipe cleaner or a soft toothbrush.

The body care

If the wood is varnished, there is not very much you can go wrong with. The easiest way to clean the body is with a cloth. The cloth should be as clean and lint-free as possible. In addition, it must not leave any scratches on the paintwork. Every music store offers such cloths, whereby microfiber cloths (e.g. from glasses) are also suitable.

We immerse the cloth in soapy water and then remove the dirt from the body . But do not use too much detergent! 2-3 drops per liter are enough! Ultimately, we don’t need to worry about the wood, as the varnish protects the wood.

After drying, you can also use the paint care products. These are called “Polish”. However, you have to be careful here, as there are different types of paint that differ in their composition. Just like car polishes, they remove minimal layers of paint – the intensity varies from product to product. This will smooth the surface and remove light scratches.

With guitars with modern (polyurethane) lacquers, none of this is a problem – these are quite resistant. But for concert and western guitars and high-quality vintage instruments, quick lacquer (nitrocellulose lacquer) is usually used. This lacquer is very thin and is used to seal the wood. Unfortunately, he can take a lot less.

To cut a long story short: do not work with polishes here. Wipe with a dry, soft cotton cloth as much as possible.

Polish is used quite simply:

First you work the polish into the paint with a cloth, in circular movements. Then polish the body to a high gloss with a second, clean and soft cloth . Basically, you shouldn’t polish your guitar every single day. At best whenever you change your strings. I would like to add that the head and the back of the fingerboard are cleaned in the same way as the body.

Now we come to the unpainted surfaces. The above (flushing water) method is not recommended.

Because there is no varnish to protect the wood, the water is drawn into the wood. Consequence: The wood softens and cracks could appear. Here we can only remove the dust for the time being (with a dry cloth).

In addition, we cannot use the paint care products, as ugly, oily stains can occur without paint. There are special oils / waxes for this. A lot to do!

So you see that a lot can be done with care. You can put a lot of money into it, and you can achieve a lot with simple, small means. What you ultimately do is due to your own feelings. Some people may even be of the opinion that their body only looks good when it has been uncleaned for years and the guitar has finally adopted the desired used look. The next one has a custom guitar with a special paint job and does everything to make it shine and shine.

Ultimately, it’s about what your own guitar is worth to you and what you value.

What are your secret guitar care tricks ? How do you proceed? Do you have any questions? Write us your comment under this post.

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