In this article, we’ll shed some light on several points on how to clean an acoustic guitar that might come in handy when you start cleaning your guitar.
Caring for an instrument like an acoustic guitar goes far beyond using a simple cloth to wipe it down. In fact, a deep clean is almost always required, and it should always be part of your guitar maintenance routine. As a guitar-player hobbyist myself, I know two or three things about playing and caring for one.
Like how, for instance, the skin gets easily oily and sweaty by time and while it’s not pleasant to talk about, it’s a fact and one that will most definitely take a toll on the guitar’s body, strings, fingerboard and/or frets in the long run. Periodically cleaning your guitar will extend its life and will minimize the chances of finding yourself in need to replace it or pay an arm and a leg for professional maintenance every now and then.
We’ll highlight the items you’ll typically need during the process and finally, we’ll mention a few safety measures you’ll want to consider while cleaning your instrument to help preserve it and prolong its life.
Most Effective Ways to Clean an Acoustic Guitar:
Start with The Fretboard
Your Guitar’s Fretboard is pretty much the essence of the whole guitar. After all, it’s where the strings run over and where one hand always rests. Since you obviously can’t play the guitar without fingers resting on that area, it’s a given that this area will likely require the most cleaning. All the dirt and oil that comes off your fingers will somehow make its way there and might affect its performance in the long run.
A dirty fretboard will also affect your strings and may cause their tone to deteriorate at a faster rate than normal, which will then require replacing more often. While changing strings every 6 months or so may be called for, changing them every other month because of an oily fretboard isn’t going to be budget-friendly. Keep your fretboard clean, it will maximize the lifetime of those strings!
First, you’d need to remove those strings before starting. We recommend that you also do that whenever you decide to change strings or adjust them. Now let’s take a look at some cleaning procedures you can follow.
For the Frets, you could start by wrapping a soft microfiber cloth around the top of the needle-nose pliers and then carefully making your way downwards, scraping each fret from the base. Consider using a toothbrush next, because the bristles might help you with cleaning the dirt out of the fret grooves.
As stated before, a guitar’s fretboard is the most susceptible to grease and grime build-up. To remedy that, try using a few drops of lemon oil* on a soft cloth, then use it to move downwards, from the headstock, using circular motions to ensure proper cleansing.
[* Here we are not referring to use 100% pure lemon oil but special lemon oil products for the guitar which contain mostly mineral oil and very little real lemon oil or lemon scent and color. Also, avoid using furniture wood cleaners.]
Using a toothbrush, give the bridge and the soundboard a good scrub, after removing the saddle and nuts, of course. Use the lemon oil once again to rub the bridge, using circular motions, give it some time for the wood to absorb the oil, and then carefully wipe off any excesses. Finally, use cotton swabs to clean the inside of the saddle slots and string holes.
If you are interested to know more details about using lemon oil on guitar, check this great article from Guitar Answer Guy.
Our main areas of concern are smudges, grease, grime, and dirt. Since these tend to affect the guitar’s lifespan, wiping them off and ensuring there is no residue is one of the most important aspects of the cleaning process.
If your guitar still has some dirt or grime on it, use a cloth sprayed with detergent and carefully wipe it. Do not spray the detergent directly, though, because it can damage its wood.
There are plenty of polish types in the market, some are oil-based or water-based and some are creamy cleaners. Make sure to use a soft microfiber or lint-free cloth while polishing. Most acoustic guitars have a lacquer or wooden finish and using that cloth is essential because you wouldn’t want to alter any of the original resonance of your guitar.
Before you start using any kind of polish, we recommend you try it out on an unnoticeable area in your guitar to test the waters and find out whether it’s too abrasive to your guitar or not.
Clean Your Strings
If you’re a hardcore player who has lots of gigs or if you play in a band and happen to use the guitar more often than not, changing your strings frequently is advised. However, if you happen to be a hobbyist like myself, we strongly advise you to at least clean your strings after each guitar playing session, this will ensure their longevity and performance.
There are plenty of string cleaner brands on the market, just purchase one that matches your taste and spray a little on a clean, lint-free or microfiber cloth. Carefully wipe the strings, not putting too much pressure on them. This will remove all the oil, grease, and sweat from the string surface. If you happen to use coated strings, you’ll find out that they require less frequent cleaning because their protective coating helps in the long run.
Final Touch: Inside Guitar Body
Using a dry cloth, wipe off the dust and cobwebs from the inside of your guitar body using the soundhole to reach that area. Make sure to clean the insides of your guitar before restringing it. That way, it’s more convenient because the soundhole sits right underneath where the strings normally get attached. You can use a piece of dental floss to floss the area where the strings lay on the nut. It will help clean the dust from the groove.
Guitars are one of the coolest instruments around, and that’s a fact we can attest to. We all have that rock-star side of us who wants to hang the guitar on a wall or on a stand or even in the corner of our room. The weather conditions are very fickle, however, and they’ll get dirty and dusty in no time. There’s also a higher chance of someone or something breaking it or damaging it in some way. Stay on the safe side, and store your guitar in its case.
Storing and General Information You Should Know:
- Store your guitar in a solid case, this will ensure that it’s away from anything potentially dangerous and damaging.
- A guitar is prone to cracking, so to ensure that it doesn’t happen, store it in a room that has consistent humidity and temperature.
- When polishing your guitar, only use guitar polish. Avoid furniture polish because it’s unsuitable for your guitar and might muffle its sound.
- Before each session, wash and sanitize your hands to prevent the grease, oils, and grime building up on your strings and affecting your playing. Always keep a soft lint-free cloth with the guitar to wipe it down after every session.
Also Read: Guitar Maintenance Complete Guide
To wrap up the discussion on how to clean an acoustic guitar, I have to remind you that having an instrument is a responsibility. If you invested money and time into it, you must also take the time and take good and proper care of it. Creating music is a beautiful gift, and making sure that this gift is maintained, is through the wellness and the proper care for the instrument itself. Give your acoustic guitar love and care, and we guarantee you’ll be making beautiful music for life.