Cleaning Your Guitar: 4 Essential Tips

Hey there, fellow guitar enthusiasts! Ever wondered, ‘How do you clean a guitar’ to keep it in top shape? In today’s exploration of the wonderful world of guitar cleaning, we’ll share essential tips and tools. Guitars can accumulate dirt over time, but with a little TLC, you can maintain both the appearance and sound of your favorite six-string. So, grab your guitar, and let’s dive into how to clean it properly, ensuring not only the strings but the entire instrument stays in optimal condition.

How Does a Guitar Get Dirty?

Before we jump into the cleaning process, let’s take a moment to understand how guitars can accumulate dirt and grime. As you play your guitar, your hands transfer natural oils, sweat, and dirt onto the instrument’s surfaces. Additionally, the strings can gather dust and debris, especially if you’ve been rocking out with some serious enthusiasm. It happens to an acoustic guitar as well as electric.  It is impossible to find a guitar without at least a little bit of dirt, if it is used frequently.

How Do I Keep my Guitar Clean?

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Regular cleaning is crucial to maintain the appearance, playability, and longevity of your guitar. By incorporating a cleaning routine into your guitar maintenance, you’ll ensure that your instrument stays in top-notch condition. And the cleaning kit is very simple, but essential, especially for vintage guitars.

To Prepare Your Guitar for Cleaning:

1.    Before you start, find a safe and comfortable spot to work on your guitar. A clean and flat surface is ideal. Gather all the supplies you need like guitar polish and wax. You can even keep them in your guitar case, because regular cleaning might expand the life of your guitar.

2.    If your guitar has a removable neck, it’s a good idea to remove it to make cleaning more accessible. This is usually mentioned in a ready-to-buy guitar cleaning kits. Just be careful not to damage your guitar.

Loosen the guitar strings slightly to provide better access to the fretboard and other areas that need cleaning, so that you can finish polishing your guitar quicker and enjoy the sound with a clean guitar hardware. Do not leave your guitar with loose strings for long.

How Do You Clean a Guitar?

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After you learn how to clean a guitar fretboard, the choice of cleaning products depends on the type of finish of your guitar, for example dunlop formula 65 guitar polish. Here are some recommended options:

  • For the guitar body: Use a guitar polish or a guitar cleaner specifically designed for your guitar’s finish. Be cautious with household cleaning products as they may damage the finish.
  • For the fretboard: Use a fretboard cleaner suitable for the specific material of your fretboard, such as rosewood or maple. The best way to clean is to have the best cleaning supplies.
  •   For the guitar strings: Use a dry cloth after each playing session to remove oils and grime before putting in a place where you store your guitar. For a more thorough cleaning, you can use a string cleaner or specialized string-cleaning wipes that will not damage the body of your guitar. Cleaning your guitar’s strings is just as important as cleaning the fretboard.

How to Clean the Fretboard?

The fretboard is an essential part of your guitar’s body that can accumulate dirt and oils over time, especially if the instrument is always in the guitar case when you’re busy with something else. But the process of cleaning your fretboard is not that difficult, even if it has a satin finish. Here’s a step-by-step guide to cleaning your frets.

1.    Remove the excess dirt and grime by gently scrubbing the fretboard. Use a toothbrush or a fretboard brush for cleaning on your guitar. Be careful if you decide to lacquer the fretboard or use steel wool, because it is a coarse material. But for some types of guitar, it is important to clean with a bit more force.

2.    Apply a small amount of fretboard cleaner onto a clean and dry cloth.

3. Rub the cleaner into the fretboard, focusing on one section at a time.

4.    Take a separate clean cloth and gently wipe off any excess cleaner.

5.    If your guitar’s fretboard is unfinished, it’s recommended to use lemon oil sparingly to condition and protect it. Your guitar will look well cared for.

6.    Once the cleaning process is complete, restring your guitar if necessary and tune it to perfection. Remember to keep your guitar clean.

Is It Okay to Wash Your Guitar?

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We do not recommend cleaning an acoustic guitar (or any other) with water or immersing it in any liquid. Excessive moisture can damage the finish and potentially affect the wood, so do not think about washing your guitar with water. Make sure you use appropriate cleaning products and a slightly damp cloth for stubborn grime. The quality of the sound might depend on the product you use. Avoid cleaning solutions that might damage the guitar in any way and reduce the life of your guitar strings. Playing the guitar will be ruined after that.

Is it OK to Clean Guitar with Wet Wipes?

While wet wipes may seem like a convenient option if you do not have a cleaner and polish, they are not the best choice for cleaning your guitar. Some wet wipes contain chemicals that can harm the finish or leave residue, affecting the overall look and feel of your instrument. Make sure to use dedicated guitar cleaning and conditioning products for the best results before putting it back in its case.

Is it OK to Clean Guitar with Alcohol?

Using alcohol to clean your guitar is not recommended. Alcohol can damage the finish, especially on vintage or satin-finished guitars, or even a part of your guitar. Opt for specialized guitar cleaners and polishes instead, even if it is a cheap and used guitar. Be careful with any music equipment.

Tips for Effective Guitar Cleaning:

1.    Always wash your hands before playing or cleaning your guitar to minimize transferring dirt and oils.

2.    Use a clean microfiber cloth for general wiping and polishing your guitar first.

3.    Before you wipe down your guitar, protect the hardware on your guitar, such as the tuning pegs and bridge, by covering them with a cloth.

4.    Regularly clean your guitar’s hardware to prevent buildup and give your guitar a shining look.


1.    Avoid using steel wool or abrasive cleaners as they can scratch the guitar’s finish and bring damage to the guitar neck.

2.    Never use cleaning solutions not specifically designed for guitars, as they may contain chemicals that can damage the instrument, especially for a satin-finished guitar or an instrument with a maple fretboard.

3.    Exercise caution when cleaning an electric guitar to avoid damaging any electronic components. Set your guitar on a stable flat service to avoid accidents.

Congratulations! You’ve learned everything you need to know about cleaning your beloved guitar. By incorporating regular cleaning and maintenance into your guitar care routine, giving extra care to the top of your guitar, you’ll not only keep your instrument looking and sounding fantastic, but also prolong its lifespan. I am all for regular cleaning my guitar. When I pick up my guitar after a cleaning, it shines! Remember, a clean guitar is a happy guitar, and a happy guitar makes for a happy guitarist. So, go ahead, pick up your guitar, and let the music flow!

Kristy Bennett/ author of the article
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