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How to Clean Your Guitar


Guitars need routine cleaning and in-depth cleaning to keep them looking good and functioning well. Sweat, dirt and grime build up on a guitar each time it is played. Dirt not only detracts from the appearance of the guitar, but affects the tone, quality, and lifespan of the instrument. It is a good idea always to wash your hands before playing the guitar and to wipe the guitar down each time it is played. Guitars also require an in-depth cleaning two to three times a year to keep them in good working condition.

Things You'll Need

  • Soft cotton cloths
  • Glass cleaner
  • Blue painter's tape


Routine Cleaning and Maintenance

    • 1. Wipe the strings with a soft cotton cloth after playing the guitar to get rid of sweat, dirt and grime build-up. Keep a small cotton cloth in the guitar case. Make it a habit to wipe down the strings each time the guitar is played.
    • 2. Get into the habit of wiping the guitar finish with a soft cloth after playing. Sweat and dirt also build up on the painted finish of the guitar.
    • 3 ,Wipe the hardware on the guitar with a soft cloth. The tuners, bridge and volume and tone knobs also get dirty and grimy. Wipe the hardware down each time you play the guitar to remove sweat and fingerprints. Glass cleaner works well to remove stubborn streaks and smudges.In-depth Cleaning and Maintenance
    • 4. Remove the strings from the guitar. Loosen the tuning pegs on the headstock until the strings are easily removed from the tuning posts. Pull the strings out of the tuning posts and then remove them from the guitar. The strings on a Gibson-style instrument are attached to the tailpiece and bridge of the guitar. The strings on Fender-style guitars are threaded through the body of the guitar underneath the bridge. Protect the pickups with blue painter's tape. It is easy to damage the pickups during the cleaning process if they are left unprotected.
    • 5. Clean the guitar finish with a guitar cleaner-polish product guitar cleaner, which can be purchased at a guitar shop. Follow the instructions on the container and use a soft cotton cloth on the finish. Apply the cleaner/polish and work on one section of the finish at a time.
    • 6. Clean the fretboard and frets with a soft damp cloth. Start at the nut and first fret and work all the way up the fretboard until the fretboard and all the frets are cleaned. Use #0000 steel wool to clean the fretboard if it is excessively dirty. A micro-mesh cloth works well on frets. It cleans dirt and grime from frets without causing damage.
    • 7. Clean the hardware with glass cleaner and a soft cloth. A small toothbrush works well for cleaning nooks and crannies that are difficult to reach with the cloth. Various guitar chrome polishes are available as well at guitar stores or online. Polishing the hardware helps to restore the natural sheen and shine.
    • 8. Remove the volume and tone knobs on the guitar. Slip a credit card under the edge of the knob. Push the knob up with the card and pull the knob off the pot-stem. Spray the pot with contact cleaner. Move the pot-stem all the way to the left and right to work the contact cleaner all the way into the pot. Replace the knob. Repeat the procedure for all the knobs on the guitar.

Cleaning the Body and the Neck

  • In most cases you can use a damp cloth to properly clean the body, neck and headstock of your guitar Some guitars with a veneer finish may accumulate greasy markings -- where your picking arm rests against the guitar body -- that are difficult to remove with just a damp cloth. A small amount of oil soap added to the damp cloth may help remove the accumulated grime on a guitar with a veneer finish. To clean your guitar as well as possible, you will want to remove the strings before cleaning the instrument. If the cloth you are using to clean your guitar becomes dirty, throw it in the hamper and find another clean cloth to use. Refrain from using commercial wood polishes. Over time, they tend to cause damage to your guitar.

Cleaning the Fretboard

  • You can run a damp cloth over the fretboard while you are cleaning the rest of your guitar, and it will remove the top layer of dirt, but to really clean the finger grease that has built up on the fretboard, you will need some type of cleaning agent. Lemon oil works well as a fretboard cleaning agent as does a formula of 1/3 vinegar to 2/3 water. You can use a cloth to apply this cleaning agent, but to really clean the fretboard well, you may opt to use steel wool. If so, ensure that it is the finest grade available because harsher grade steel wool can damage your fretboard.

Cleaning the Electronics and Other Places

  • The metal sections of your guitar can also be cleaned with a damp cloth. If this does not yield the required results, you may want to use a mild metal cleaner or finish. A few drops of these products can go a long way toward cleaning your guitar's metal parts; just don't use too much. Cotton swabs can be used to clean the more hard-to-reach places on your guitar, like certain places on the bridge and in the pickup cavities.

How to Clean an Electric Guitar Properly

Like any instrument, proper maintenance and care of your electric guitar is essential to its physical health and playability. Make no mistake about, an instrument that is kept in good shape by its owner will make its owner a better overall player. Cleaning your electric guitar regularly is a key part of the instrument's overall maintenance. By following these simple steps, you can ensure that your guitar keeps playing like new and maintains a professional appearance both at home and on stage. 

Things You'll Need

  • 2 cleaning cloths Guitar cleaning solution Fret board cleaner String-winder Wire-cutters Set of electric guitar strings


    • 1. Remove the strings. Use a string-winder to loosen the strings. After they're loosened, cut them with wire-cutters and remove the excess of each string from the bridge and machine heads.
    • 2. Apply a cleaning solution to the guitar body. There are numerous types of guitar cleaning solutions available--either online or at your local music store. Remember to read the instructions of your cleaning solution carefully--do not apply it to certain parts of the guitar, like the neck or pick-guard, unless the directions stipulate that doing so is safe. Apply a small amount of cleaner to your cleaning cloth and wipe the guitar down thoroughly. Spend extra time on areas that are noticeably dirty or smudged with finger prints. If you don't have a bottle of guitar cleaning solution, dab the cleaning cloth in luke warm water and gentle clean the guitar. Avoid household cleaning products when cleaning your guitar--these may cause significant damage to the guitar's paint or finish.
    • 3. Clean the guitar neck and frets. Again, there are several fret-cleaning solutions available on the market. The fret board is the part of the guitar that can get the dirtiest--oils and dirt from your fingers are left there every time you play the instrument. Fret-cleaning solutions remove dirt and also treat the wood of the fretboard so that it maintains its durability and smooth feel. Be sure to clean around the front and the back of each fret well, as this can be an area where significant amounts of grime build-up. Remember to check the bottle of fret-cleaning solutions for particular instructions. It is not advisable that you use water on the neck of your guitar as it can damage the neck and frets.
    • 4. Clean the pick guard and around the exterior of the guitar's pickups. Details related to this procedure will change depending on your make and model of electric guitar. For example, some guitar also require you to remove the knobs and clean underneath where they sit. It is important that you do not use any household cleaning products when cleaning your guitar's pickguard and around the pickups as they can be corrosive.
    • 5. Using a second cleaning cloth, wipe away any excess cleaning solution on the body or neck of the guitar. Not doing so may leave greasy, slippery spots on the instrument that could negatively impact playing or cause the instrument to be difficult to handle. After wiping away any excess cleaning solution, allow the instrument to sit for five or ten instruments so the solution can be absorbed by the instrument before re-stringing the guitar. 


How to Clean Acoustic Guitars

You should clean your acoustic guitar periodically to get rid of the build-up of dust from the air and oil from your skin. The wood on guitars is sensitive to harsh cleaning agents, so you should only use certain substances to clean your guitar. By keeping your guitar in good condition, it will look and sound its best.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Rags 


    • 1. Wipe your strings with a clean, dry cloth anytime you finish playing your guitar and are about to put it up. This helps to remove excess oils, which can dull the sound of the strings.
    • 2. Wipe off any perspiration with a clean, dry rag during playing, as perspiration can damage the finish.
    • 3. Wipe down your entire guitar with a warm, damp rag anytime you change the strings, which usually should occur every few weeks to every few months.
    • 4. Wipe off any liquid spills or food smears immediately with a warm, damp rag. This also applies to other substances that may come into contact with your guitar, such as insect repellent or hairspray.
    • 5. Dry your guitar thoroughly with a clean, dry cloth anytime you've used a warm, damp rag to wipe it.