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How to Clean a Guitar Fretboard with Household Items?

How to Clean a Guitar Fretboard with Household Items_
If you are playing the guitar for plenty of time or even if you are just a beginner you will have to deal with taking care of your instrument. It included cleaning the fretboard. It is common to this area to get a lot of tough skin and sweat residues as it is normal during playing. With time, such dirt piles up and you would like to clean that as it is pleasant to have a clean instrument. One of the best things you can do is to get a microfiber cloth. Quite often it is used to clean glasses. Anyone who postpones this care step of cleaning guitars 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

Cleaning the fretboard begins with the preparation. 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. You should keep in mind that in cases where you change your strings, you only remove one string after another. There are reasons why you should not get off all of them at once.

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

Clean the Frets

There are different parts of the guitar fretboard that you will be dealing with. One of them is frets. In the beginning, it is highly recommended to cover wood with a tape. It is necessary to mention that it should be a painter tape and it has to be attached very lightly. Otherwise, you can leave some residues on the wood. As you will be using steel polish, it can cause some damage to the wood. Thus, you simply protect it.

In case you do not want to use this method, you can try a 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?

There are options to make your instrument shine like a new one. This is why you should know what kind of wood and type of surface your guitar fretboard has. Here is a short list of the most common materials that can be used on guitars:

  • oiled and waxed;
  • Varnish of different types. It includes highly polished polyester, polyurethane, and acrylic resin;
  • matt or highly polished nitrocellulose lacquer;
  • Semi-gloss and open-pored paintwork.

The traditional manufacturer Gibson, for example, is famous for using nitrocellulose paint during manufacturing. It is an old technique that has been used for many years since the thirties. Iit ensures that the wooden surface properly vibrates. 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. You should be careful of using plastic stands as this type of paint is not very compatible with the plastic. It can receive damage simply by being in contact with it. However, by using polish for pain from the same manufacturer, you can easily solve this problem.

There are paints that manufacturers get in a chemical and artificial way. It makes guitars look differently. Moreover, they are more reliable as such materials are more resistant. Nevertheless, it will not save your instrument from scratches.

Home Remedies To Take of Fretboards?

Of course, you would prefer to stay at home and clean your guitar fretboard with something that you have, without going to a special store. There are various things that you may try to use, but no one will give you a guarantee of success. Simple and common wood care products can be useful when you want to clean the wooden part of the fretboard or to make it look better. In most cases it is care oils. They have linseed oil among other ingredients. Thus if you would like to use a pure linseed oil it can be useful to you. Among the benefits that you receive from such cleaning is low risk of damage. Such oil does not have additives that can be harmful to your fretboard.

Nevertheless, if you think of using natural oils, you should check the expiration date. Even with a long lifespan they can become harmful to the guitar. After time they change their smell which means that they go rancid. This is when you should not be using them.

However, it is not advisable to use viscous cooking oils. Most of them cannot get into the pores of fretboards. Thus, you will not receive much success with them. Instead, you make a lubricating film on them. It requires to be properly polished, which takes much more time than a polish remedy from the store.

You can try to find a ballistol universal oil. It is white oil product that is very common when you need to clean and take care of guns.One of great advantages is that you do not need to worry about its expiration date. It is so large that some people say it is almost unlimited. This remedy is non-resinous which is very good for wooden surfaces. However, you may not like the smell, which needs time to evaporate. Moreover, it can be used when you also want to take care of metal parts of the guitar.

Oil – Lemon Oil

You may be surprised that such a remedy for cleaning actually exists. It consists of pharmaceutically pure white oil, which is not harmful. Due to its alkaline composition, you can easily deal with the acidity of sweat. It also has a disinfectant effect. You do not need to use much of it. You do not need much of it. Start with several drops and see the result, then you can add more. With lemon oil, you can give high-quality care to your instruments. It also makes wood a bit moist again.

A Credit Card, Toothbrush Etc.

It can happen that some dirt piles up on the fretboard. This is where your old or new credit card (or something similar) can be of great help. Such tools can be used at a flat angle and not cause damage to the wood. However, it is different if dirt is in the pores, cracks, and edges of the frets. This is when you will need a soft brush to carefully remove all the dirt.

Glass Cleaner or Furniture Polish

You can save the clean appearance of the guitar if you use glass cleaner or furniture polish after playing session. It allows users to easily deal with grease and dust. After that, it will be much easier to store the guitar. Nevertheless, this requires you to be very careful. Some of these remedies are based on alcohol. Depending on what kind of paint you have, alcohol can damage it. You can easily use furniture polish on some precious woods. Just several drops are needed to make your guitar shine again. Therefore, you should always check the compatibility of your guitar to the cleaning remedy you are going to use. It is wise to try the cleaner first, somewhere not very noticeable parts.

Plain Water

Every day we use water to wash our hands. Even without soap and detergents, it has a cleaning effect. Water as a cleaner liquid can be a good choice. It helps when your guitar is not covered with old dirt. Thus, you should remember to not use too much of it. Always use a bit of wet microfiber cloth. It allows you to wipe the fretboard and then again using a dry one. 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 allow cleaning with less chance of damaging the guitar. When you rub with the steel wool you should pay attention to wood grain. You need to move according to their directions. That is, lengthways, which goes all along the fretboard neck and across the frets. You should not rub it very long. Around 19 seconds can be enough. The crumbs of dried sweat and skin residues that remain can be easily cleaned with a simple 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.


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 kind of strong 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.


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.


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, cracks, scratches, etc. If you find extremely damaged chopsticks, have them changed from a profile. Smaller bumps can be easily treated with steel wool.
  • Is it a lacquered or an unpainted fingerboard? Answering this question has a major impact on guitar care.
  • If you have lacquered fingerboards, then you will need a cleaning agent, which you will not find simply. Only specialist retailers can provide it to you. Oil would only smear your throat here.
  • In case you have unpainted fingerboards, then lemon oil is the remedy you need. It should not contain any mineral components. If necessary, you can always just use gun oil under the brand Ballistol. You can find it in hardware stores for fretboard care.
  • Use a cotton cloth to rub and massage the fingerboard while applying the oil. It is better to use less than too much detergent for such cleaning. It will also help to make wooden parts shimmer and look almost new.

Can Scratches on Nitro Lacquer be Polished Away?

It greatly depends on the condition and deepness of the scratches. In case you have some superficial scratches you should not worry much. You will improve the situation with good polishing. You should use a polishing cloth or soft cotton cloth to polish evenly. Some players recommend toothpaste. However, it contains silicates, which are completely unsuitable for the guitar paint.

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

All those who wish to purchase a new guitar will have to take proper care of a new instrument from the beginning. This is your responsibility and job to keep the guitar clean and check all its places to treat immediately. This is the only way you can be sure that you will enjoy your instrument for a very long time.