Cleaning your Guitar
The following tips will explain why, when, and how to clean your guitar, whether it is an electric or acoustic.
Why clean my guitar?
First and foremost, you want to keep your guitar in good condition. A clean instrument not only looks better, it sounds and plays better. Plus, it looks much more professional to have a clean instrument when you are playing with or for others.
Keeping your guitar clean and well maintained will not only greatly increase the life of the instrument, but it will also prolong the life of the strings and other components. This ultimately saves you time and money. Just like maintaining your automobile, regular cleaning and maintenance of your guitar is a good practice to keep if you want to enjoy your guitar for years to come.
Famous guitar players even go so far as to pay a guitar technician to clean and service their guitars for them. Luckily, it is not difficult to clean your guitar yourself, so you shouldn’t have to pay for such services until you are traveling and playing more than one guitar during your many gigs.
When should I clean my guitar?
Parts of your guitar should be wiped down every time you play. These include the strings, tuning keys, body, and headstock. Depending upon how often you play, you may want to do a thorough cleaning at least once per month.
How often and how thorough you clean also depends upon the type of guitar you play. An acoustic guitar is somewhat easier to clean, but should be cleaned more often. Conversely, an electric guitar may need to be taken apart to clean certain parts and may not need to be babied so often. Again, this varies by how often and how long you play. Your climate may have an effect, as well.
Set your guitar on its back. Using a clean, soft cloth – preferably a non-treated, non-lint cotton cloth – pull the cloth through between the strings and the fretboard. Fold the cloth over the top of the strings and run it up and down several times. If you’ve been playing hard, you may see the grime on the cloth. Some players use soft paper towels.
The above method can be used on both electric and acoustic guitars. For a bass guitar, clean each string individually.
Body and headstock
Typically, the body and headstock of your guitar will only need to be wiped down with a clean, dry cloth. Do this after each playing session and the finish of both should shine.
Frets & fretboard
It’s easiest to clean the fretboard after removing the strings. For this reason, it’s good practice to do a thorough cleaning every time you replace your strings. Once you have removed the strings, wipe down the entire fretboard with a dry cloth. This should remove most of the surface dirt and dust. Next, spray a clean cloth with a guitar cleaning liquid and rub it over the fretboard vigorously. Take special care to get the grime that gathers in the corners of the frets. You may have to use a toothpick to get the gunk out of the crevices.
When you’re done cleaning every nook and cranny, use another dry, clean cloth to polish the fretboard. Restring your freshly cleaned guitar with brand new strings.
Guitar cleaning products
Generally, you can simply use a soft, untreated rag for regular maintenance. When doing a more thorough cleaning, use a guitar cleaning solution. Brands such as Fender, Gibson, and Martin (to name only a few) each put out products specific to the type of guitar and its finish.
There are products designed specifically for cleaning guitar strings. “The Swipe” and “The String Cleaner” are two such items. Some guitarists even use WD-40 cleaner on their string cloths. You’ll pick one based on how your guitar plays and sounds once you’re done.
Take good care of your guitar, and it will take good care of you.
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