How to Clean a Guitar Fretboard with Household Items?
How to Clean a Guitar Fretboard with Household Items?
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One thing no guitarist can avoid is cleaning the fingerboard. Frequent gamers know this: a layer of tough skin and sweat residues increasingly contaminates the fingerboard. It does not look pretty, nor does it feel good when you play. The best way to clean the fingerboard is to wipe it with a microfiber cloth (like those used to clean glasses) after every game. Anyone who waits too long to clean the guitar and has never used the cloth in between will ultimately need more time.

Cleaning your guitar neck is strongly recommended at least once a year. Before you start, it is imperative to know the wood of your handle. The technique of cleaning the neck of a guitar will differ depending on the wood. Also, depending on whether this wood is varnished or not.

Everything about Fretboard Cleaning Depending on Wood Type

The fingerboard of most acoustic guitars is rosewood or ebony wood. Unlike the body, the fingerboard is usually not painted with any paint, so the wood is easy to change the pores due to humidity changes. Larger causes dust or sweat to accumulate more easily, and there is also the problem of wood expansion and deformation, so guitarists who are prone to sweating should clean the fingerboard regularly.

The frequency of fingerboard oil cleaning is recommended once every six months. As for too frequent use, whether there is any doubt that it will damage the fingerboard depends on the nature of the fingerboard oil. If it is 100% lemon oil, its alkalinity may erode the glue that adheres to the fingerboard. However, most of the fingerboard oil products currently on the market do not use pure lemon oil, so there is no need to worry too much about damaging the fingerboard.

Remove the Strings and Prepare Your Guitar

To begin with, you must, remove the strings from your guitar. It is rare to do this, but to properly clean your neck you must remove all the strings at all costs. Remember that in cases where you change your strings, you only remove one string after another: never all the strings at the same time.

Then, if you have a microphone integrated into your electroacoustic guitar, it is strongly recommended to put tape on your sound hole to prevent anything from being lodged inside your guitar.

Clean the Frets

Caring for the guitar also includes cleaning the frets at longer intervals. The first thing to do here is to mask the fingerboard wood with painter’s tape (caution: only press lightly, otherwise residues will remain on the wood). Because the stainless steel polish, which is suitable for cleaning the frets, must not come into contact with the wood!

An alternative, where you do not have to worry about any residue, is the use of a small, stencil-like protective plate. This is usually called a “fretboard guard”, is usually made of stainless steel and can be placed around a fret to fit perfectly. This reliably covers the surrounding fingerboard wood.

How to Care For the Painted Surfaces?

When you want to clean the guitar neck with the various care products to make it shine again and look like new, you should know about the type of surface. Here are the most important paint systems that you should know:

  • oiled and waxed surfaces
  • semi-gloss, open-pored paintwork
  • highly polished polyester varnish, acrylic resin varnish, and polyurethane varnish
  • matt or highly polished nitrocellulose lacquer

The traditional manufacturer Gibson, for example, is known for the use of nitrocellulose paint. This has traditionally been done since the thirties and should ensure a particularly vibrating wooden surface. The general handling of these more sensitive paints should first be reconsidered. The nitro lacquer contains solvents and is very sensitive to other chemical solutions. This paint can also be damaged by prolonged contact with plasticized plastics (guitar stands!). With a paint polish from the same manufacturer, you are automatically on the right side.

With the chemical and artificially produced paint, it looks completely different, because it has already been fully cured and is actually very resistant, like glass and plastic. Of course, that does not mean your guitar is scratch-resistant.

Are Home Remedies Allowed for Fretboard Care?

The use of different home remedies for fretboard care is often discussed. For example, you can of course also use common wood care products for fingerboard care that you already have on the cleaning shelf. Most wood care oils are based on linseed oil anyway, which is why you can also use pure linseed oil, as shown in the video below. The advantage: With pure linseed oil, you can be sure that it does not contain any additives that could damage the fingerboard.

The disadvantage of such natural oils is that they have a limited shelf life (although a bottle of linseed oil can still be used after several years if stored correctly). At some point, they start to go rancid, which is mainly expressed in an unpleasant odor.

However, it is not advisable to use viscous cooking oils because they do not penetrate the fine fingerboard pores and are of little use for this reason. Rather, they form a lubricating film on the fretboard, which then has to be polished away again, which is time-consuming and laborious.

Ballistol universal oil, which is based on white oil and was originally developed for the care of weapons, has an almost unlimited shelf life. It is a very good, non-resinous wood care product, but the smell is often criticized. The advantage, on the other hand, is that it can also be used to care for the strings and machine heads, and it enables extremely effective cleaning.

Oil – Lemon Oil

It consists mainly of pharmaceutically pure white oil and is skin-friendly, food-safe, and biodegradable. Its alkaline composition works well against the acidity of sweat and it also has a disinfectant effect. With a few drops of lemon oil, it works very well in this case. Lemon oil is one of the most tried and tested substances that cleans, cares, and gives the wood some moisture again.

A Credit Card, Toothbrush Etc.

If the dirt is already emblazoned in a thick layer on the fingerboard, a credit card (or similar) made of plastic is recommended for guitar care. This is easy to clean at a flat angle without damaging the wood of the guitar. The problem here, however, is that the dirt is pressed into cracks, wood pores, and the edges around the frets, and can only be removed with difficulty. a soft toothbrush can help.

Glass Cleaner or Furniture Polish

Immediately after a performance, you can quickly remove grease and dust residues with a few splashes of glass cleaner. However, you should absolutely be careful. Some of the glass cleaners can contain alcohol, which attacks sensitive paints such as the nitrocellulose paint already mentioned. You can easily use furniture polish on some precious woods. You will need a few drops to buff your guitar to shine. Clarify the compatibility with the material in advance and, if necessary, try the cleaner in a hidden place so that there are no nasty surprises.

Plain Water

Every day we use water to wash our hands. Even without soap and detergents, it has a cleaning effect. Water is a nice option when your guitar is not covered with old dirt. Even though you should not spray it all around the guitar. With a bit of wet microfiber cloth you can wipe the fretboard and then with a dry cloth. For serious contaminations, you will need to use something more powerful.  While planning to use water it is better to have it not hot or cold. The average warm water is a good option.

Steel wool

Steel wool is quite a common item that you can find at home. Many guitarists use it to clean the guitar fretboard. However, you should be careful. In the beginning, you need to get steel wool of 0000 grade. It has the smallest steel strings which allows cleaning with less chance of damaging the guitar. You should rub the steel wool in the direction of the wood grain – that is, lengthways along the neck and across the frets. 15 to 20 seconds should be enough. The crumbs of dried sweat and skin residues that remain are best sucked up with a vacuum cleaner.

The steel wool is compatible with ebony and rosewood. In case your guitar is made of maple, you should avoid using steel wool. This would not only remove the dirt successfully but also the finish.

What Cleaning Products You Should Avoid?

Quite often at home, you can find a great variety of cleaning remedies. However, not all of them are compatible with the cleaning guitar fretboard. While with water you can try to clean the instrument, you should avoid using the following detergents.

Bleach

Among various washing detergents, bleach is used to remove stains from clothes and make them white again. The same can happen with your guitar fretboard. This detergent will not only clean but also change the color of your guitar. Therefore, bleach is useful only when you are actually trying to change the guitar color.

Vinegar

It does not require a lot of effort to find some vinegar at home. This liquid is often used around the house to clean various surfaces and sometimes to get rid of rust. Speaking about the fretboards it is possible to use vinegar. It is not that powerful to damage the wood and can actually help. However, you will have to deal with the strong smell that takes a lot of time to vaporize. If you would like to remove such an odor, you will have to use another detergent that may cause damage to the guitar.

Acetone

Sometimes on the internet, you can find options to clean guitar fretboards with acetone. Some forum visitors consider that as it is capable of cleaning nail polish it will easily deal with a guitar. However, many of them do not have satisfactory experiences. Acetone is a powerful cleaner; however, it is not that soft. Due to its harsh effect, you can severely damage the fretboard instead of cleaning it.

Few Practical Tips on How to Thoroughly but Gently Clean Your Guitar Neck

  • Use the finest steel wool to remove dirt and polish the frets
  • Check the frets for damage or nicks and other signs of wear. If you find extremely damaged chopsticks, have them changed from a profile. You can easily correct smaller bumps with steel wool.
  • Is it a lacquered or an unpainted fingerboard? Answering this question has a major impact on guitar care.
  • Lacquered fingerboards require a cleaning agent for lacquer that is only available from specialist retailers. Oil would only smear your throat here.
  • An unpainted fingerboard is suitable for the above-mentioned lemon oil and other fingerboard oils. Under no circumstances should the oil contain mineral components. If necessary, you can simply use gun oil such as the well-known Ballistol from the hardware store for fretboard care.
  • Rub some of the oil on the fingerboard with the cotton cloth and massage it gently. Never use too much detergent for this. By the way, the wood gets a very nice shimmer and looks extremely well kept.

Can Scratches on Nitro Lacquer be Polished Away?

In principle, it matters how deep the scratches are in the paint. With superficial scratches, in particular, you can achieve very good results if you use a special polish. Grab a soft cotton cloth or polishing cloth to spread it evenly. Some players recommend toothpaste. However, the silicates it contains are completely unsuitable abrasives for the paintwork of the guitar.

Essential Tips for Maintaining Guitar

Cleanliness ensures longevity – at least in the case of guitars. The more you use its parts, the more they wear out.

With such fiddling around, it should come as no surprise that the neck of the guitar gets dirty faster than any other part of your guitar. Between the dust that accumulates and the oily deposits deposited by your fingers, there are good reasons to want to wipe it down! After all, this slightly greasy surface can affect your strings and change their sound.

The remedy is to loosen your guitar strings – just enough that you can run a wet microfiber between the frets and strings. The keyword here is wet. Your cloth should be barely soaked in water. Above all, do not clean your sleeve with a wet cloth! If the handle absorbs too much moisture, it will damage the structure.

You can take advantage of this regular maintenance to dust off the rest of the guitar and, while you are at it, tighten the screws a little loose and polish the keys!

Pay attention to the temperature

Temperature changes and prolonged extreme temperatures are situations to be avoided absolutely if you want to properly maintain your guitar! Never carry your guitar in your car trunk. The temperatures are more intense there than in the passenger compartment. Also, if your guitar gets cold while traveling, wait before taking it out of its case and into playing in a warm room. In this way, the guitar can adapt more slowly to the large temperature range.

Control humidity

Even more serious than heat or cold, humidity is a sensitive and potentially dangerous factor for your guitar. If it is too dry, the wood will crack in the long run. If it is too wet, then after a while you will find deformations in your guitar and an altered sound.

Store and transport

Invest in a well-padded case to secure your travel, and a good guitar stand at home. An accident happens so quickly! Note that if you are storing your guitar for long periods, it is advisable to release the strings. Otherwise, the constant tension could bend the handle.

To Sum Up

Anyone who is thinking of buying a new guitar would do well to deal with guitar care right away. It is your job to clean the guitar and guitar neck and to thoroughly clean the guitar strings. This is the only way you can be sure that you will enjoy your instrument for a very long time.


Hello! I’m a Kyle Dixon, and I’m a guitarist in a metal band. I like to play guitar for my friends. Besides, I always choose the musical equipment for us, and I’m going to share my experience with you.

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