How to Clean Your Guitar

The crowd is roaring, and your heart is pounding with the raw energy you and your band just commanded for the past three hours. Head still dizzy, you pass off your guitar to a stagehand who packs it away. While you wander off to rest for the next gig tomorrow night. 

But when you play tomorrow, your guitar sounds off. It doesn’t even feel quite right. The tuning won’t seem to hold; what happened?

More than likely, your guitar is being packed away without being properly cleaned. As dirt, grime, and sweat builds up, the sound of the guitar starts to become affected. 

Keep reading to discover how dirty a guitar can get, why it needs to be cleaned regularly, and how to clean your guitar today!

How Dirty Does a Guitar Get?

The answer depends on how often you play and where you play. If you practice 30 minutes a day every day and play a gig or two a month, your guitar won’t need as much cleaning as someone who plays every weekend and rehearses several hours a day every day. 

The reason is sweat. Sweat is the biggest threat to a guitar. Over time, sweat and grease can build up on your guitar deteriorating the wood and hardware. 

Ideally, the guitar should be wiped down after every play session and placed in its case. 

Why Learn How to Clean Your Guitar?

There are many reasons to want to learn how to clean your guitar. First, it is the easiest and most basic form of guitar maintenance. And choosing to let the grime build up until you take it to a professional can be costly. 

Aside from it being simple and cost-effective, it will also benefit your playing. The sweat and grime from our hands can build up over time. Typically this occurs most right up against the fret. 

The build-up, if left unchecked long enough, can become even with the fret. This causes the point of contact between the string and the fret to be off. Which in turn, makes the guitar sound off.

Sweat also soaks into the wood and causes imperfections over time. Leading to the wearing occurring in the fretboard and body.

When Should You Clean Your Guitar

You want to be careful not to over-clean your guitar. Which can have the same effect as not cleaning your guitar at all. 

The best thing to do to keep your guitar healthy is to wipe down the strings and store your guitar in its case after each playing session. This will go a long way to keeping your guitar in top shape. 

If you’re more of a noodler-at-home type player, you may get away with cleaning your guitar once a month. However, if you gig regularly, right after each show is when to clean a guitar. 

This is because of the amount of sweat that gets onto the fretboard. The more you sweat, the more frequently you will need to clean your guitar. 

Preparing to Clean Your Guitar

Before beginning to clean your guitar, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly. This will help further oils and grime from your hands getting onto the guitar. Once your hands are washed, you will need to remove the strings from the guitar. 

Removing the strings will give you access to your fretboard.

After that, if you are cleaning an electric guitar, it would be best to tape off the pickups and other bits of hardware. This will prevent any shavings and debris from cleaning from becoming stuck to the magnets. 

First, you’ll want to clean the fretboard, then polish the body and finally clean any hardware on the guitar. 

Cleaning the Fret Board

The first part of your guitar to clean is the most important part of the guitar. The fretboard, however, is also the most vulnerable as it receives the most abuse. 

To clean your fretboard properly, you need to know whether it is made of rosewood or maple. 

If your fretboard is rosewood, you’ll want to start with an ultrafine steel wool cloth and wipe down the board. When done, brush off or vacuum any debris and prepare to apply conditioner. 

Conditioner helps to rehydrate the wood and keep the fretboard from warping. 

With maple fretboards, you need to determine if it is lacquered or not. Without lacquer, you can use the same process as rosewood. However, if your fretboard is lacquered, you should only use a dry or very slightly damp cloth. 

Polishing the Guitar Body

Ideally, if you have been wiping down your guitar after every playing session, you won’t have much work to do on the body. Taking a microfiber cloth to your guitar after every session can do wonders. 

To clean the body of your guitar, you can pick up some guitar cleaning products like Dunlop Formula 65 Guitar Polish and Cleaner. Using a microfiber cloth apply the cleaner and polish in small circles on the body. 

Once the polish is applied, use a dry microfiber cloth to buff out any scratches or scuffs you want removed. 

Cleaning the Hardware

When you’re done with the fretboard and body, you’ll want to clean the hardware. Hardware includes any metal parts on the guitar and the pickups and input jack for electric guitars. 

This can be the most delicate part of guitar maintenance. Be careful, especially with electric guitars, not to get any cleaning solution or polish inside the guitar. It can mess with the electronics and gunk up other parts over time.

Apply a small amount to a microfiber cloth and carefully apply it to the hardware. If you need to use something stronger than polish remove the part from the guitar first. 

You may need to do this for particularly rusted or grimey parts. Once removed, you can clean the part with WD-40. 

Never Play Dirty

Understanding how to clean your guitar will help to preserve your instrument and your sound for years to come. Wiping it down after every session goes a long way, but you’ll want to go deeper every now and again with some polish and cleaner. 

Contact our sales department today and check out our stock of guitar cleaners and polish to keep your guitar and you’re entertaining the masses (or friends and family) for years to come.

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