How to clean fretboard: optimal ways

Every guitar owner knows how important it is to keep your guitar and the parts of your guitar clean. Especially, it is essential for the fretboard, one of the most vital parts of the guitar. If you keep your electric guitars in general and your guitar frets, in particular, clean, then you will save time and money that may possibly go to the repair of the guitar.

And you will keep the sound of your music pure and beautiful. 

So, if you are looking for an optimal way to clean a guitar fretboard, then you will definitely learn it from this article. 

how to clean fretboard

Why your guitar should be clean?

Cleaning the guitar is essential but the most important thing is to know why should you do it at all in the first place. When you know for sure, you will never miss the time when you need to clean your guitar. So, let’s get to the point.

What is dirt?

The guitar may look pretty good even when it is actually dirty, but the thing is not in the look, it is in the damage which can be caused because of the dirt. Well, what can be considered dirt?

Dust, the oil from your skin, spilled drinks, sweat, and smoke.

All of this makes your guitar dirty.

The skin and the sweat

The skin is especially dangerous for the guitar. Actually, it can be very toxic to the guitar. It is so, because of the oil which the skin creates and because of the sweat.

Why is it dangerous?

All of this will start to erode the guitar and the fretboard. It will also wear away the guitar’s lacquer. This is especially bad because this will inevitably cause damage to your fretboard. 

After all, your guitar will be impossible to repair. 

What it does to electric guitars

If you have an electric guitar, this will cause damage as well. The hardware and the electric components of your guitar will be damaged, and if you will not clean it at all, rust will occur on the electric guitar. And if there is rust, this will destroy your guitar very soon.

How to prevent it

But this nightmare happens only if you do not clean your guitar regularly. If you play very often, it is especially important: the oil of the skin and the sweat gets in the guitar and on the fretboard every time you play. 

Why do conditions matter?

And it even depends on the conditions in which you play the guitar. Why? Because if the conditions are very warm rooms, then you are going to sweat even more, just because it is too hot. And it also depends on how long you play your guitar. And it depends on how intensely you play your guitar. If it is pretty hard, there is a big probability that you will sweat more.

But most of the time you are not the one who can choose the conditions. 

But what you are pretty much able to do is clean your guitar and the fretboard quite regularly and do it carefully. This will save your guitar from all the sweat that has gotten into it.

Is it possible to just stop your guitar fretboard from getting dirty?

When you are cleaning your guitar, and you get tired, this is probably the first question that comes into your mind. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your guitar clean, and it is just several rules to follow every time you get your guitar in your hands. Just follow them and there will be fewer times when you should clean your guitar in general.

Several easy ways to keep your guitar clean

So, there are several tips that you should follow from the first day you have got your guitar. Follow them carefully and do not forget. Otherwise, your guitar may be damaged.

Wash your hands

You should wash your hands every time before you play your guitar. It may sound pretty obvious, but this is something that many guitar owners forget to do at all.

It is simple, it will take just several minutes, and then it will save hours that you can spend cleaning a lot of parts of your guitar. And of course, it will save you money. 

Why does it matter?

You will not be quite excited when you buy new strings for your guitar and then spend a lot of time setting them up.

But you can change them not very soon from the time you have bought your guitar or have bought your last strings.

You can do that if you just keep your hands clean.

Keep the guitar in the guitar case

And this is another obvious tip, it is something that you actually have to do. The case was made not only to provide safe transportation, to protect the guitar from any damage but also to keep the guitar clean, away from dust.

Why is it dangerous to not keep a guitar in the case?

When you leave your guitar in the room or in some other place, but not in the case, the dust that the place contains will inevitably get on your guitar. The dust may cause the same damage as the oil of the skin and the sweat, especially when there is a lot of dust in the place where you leave your guitar. 

Where you shouldn’t keep your guitar

And this is strictly forbidden to leave your guitar near the bathroom or another damp place. The humidity is very dangerous for the guitar. It is easy for mold to appear on the guitar.

The place where your guitar will be under direct sunlight or near the fireplace is dangerous and very unrecommended as well. This will damage your guitar and this will especially damage the hardware of your electronic guitar. 

You will know that the place where you leave your guitar is not perfect when you hear the cracking noise from your guitar. This is also what dust can easily cause.

If you want your guitar to be not damaged, keep it in the case. It is easy, and it will save you money and time.

The guitar strings should be wiped down

It would help if you also wiped down the guitar strings of your guitar every time when you have finished playing the guitar. And you should wipe guitar strings down with a lint-free cloth or with a microfibre to clean guitar strings. This will surely provide guitar strings with a wider lifetime. 

What else to use?

You can also clean guitar strings with GHS Fast Fret or another cleaning lubricant. Apply them to the guitar strings. It will help to remove any grime, fingertip-induced dust, and dirt, and then your strings will be just perfect for the next time you play the guitar. You can easily clean guitar strings this way.

Choose the cleaning products wisely

You definitely should choose only specific guitar cleaning products that will be safe for the guitar and will only help it to maintain performance and provide a wide lifetime of your guitar. 

And of course, it is strictly unrecommended to clean your guitar with furniture cleaners or household cleaners. This will destroy your guitar for sure. They are not designed for the guitar, for its delicate wood. And they contain dangerous chemicals, such as ammonia, bleach, and acids. These chemicals should never touch the guitar.

Also, if you want to keep your guitar clean and safe if you would like to avoid repairing your guitar frequently or buy a new one, follow these tips. This is what requires from the guitar owner. 

What should you use to clean your guitar?

It is obvious that such delicate wood and other components of a guitar require a special attitude, special cleaning methods, and cleaning means. Of course, you cannot clean your guitar just with water and some kind of rag. You need something designed specifically for the guitar, like guitar polish options.

And there is a list of guitar cleaning kits and guitar polish options that you should use.


GHS Fast Fret string cleaner

GHS Fast Fret string cleaner is one of the most popular cleanings means that you definitely should try to use. It is perfect for several components of your guitar. You should just apply GHS Fast Fret to the fretboard, guitar neck, and strings of your guitar. You will hear that this cleaner has helped your guitar.

Boss BGD-OI Guitar Detailer

The Boss BGD-OI Guitar Detailer is another popular guitar polish option, and this popularity is definitely deserved. It is designed specifically for delicate guitar wood since there are no ammonia, acids, alcohol, or other chemicals that are harmful to your guitar. You should spray this cleaner on a microfiber cloth and rub it. All the dust will be gone.

Dunlop Formula 65 Guitar Polish & Cleaner, IOZ

This guitar polish is another good cleaner that will not damage your guitar, but help it to stay clean and safe. It is especially perfect for the Nitrocellulose finishes, but it is not that good and actually unrecommended for vintage guitars, since they have to check in the finish. So, use this guitar polish wisely.

Planet Waves Lemon Oil

It is one of the best cleaning options for the fretboard of your guitar. It is quite easy to use: you should just use it sparingly and do not forget to use two drops per four-five frets. If you follow this short instruction, your fretboard will be safe and sound, and you will get no cracking noises. 

Kit for a guitar

Ernie Ball Wonder Wipes Combo Instrument Care Kit

This cleaning kit is one of the best in its series. It contains everything you need to clean your guitar, so you do not even need to buy something extra by yourself. It has one fretboard conditioner, three string cleaners, and two instrument polish wipes. This will help you keep your guitar clean for more than a few months. It is especially good for beginners.

How to clean a guitar fretboard

So, finally, we can get to the point of the article: how to clean the fretboard. There will be several instructions for different types of guitars. Choose which one is yours and follow the instructions carefully to provide proper cleaning to your guitar.

But before you clean the guitar, you need to prepare your guitar for cleaning and make sure that nothing will be an obstacle while you are cleaning the guitar.


Prepare your guitar and yourself for the cleaning process. 

Wash your hands

You need to wash your hands, this is strictly required. You have learned what happens if you do not wash your hands and then touch the guitar, so ensure that this step is properly done.

Prepare a place

Then you have to set up an appropriate area for cleaning the guitar and simply for placing it. 

What kind of place you should choose

It is recommended to clean the guitar in a well-lit space. It is significant because in these conditions you will see everything that you need to clean your guitar and will not make any mistakes during the whole process of cleaning.

How to clean maple fretboard

You must be very careful when you clean maple fretboards. It is hard-wearing and tends to be lacquered. 

The lacquered fretboard

So, if your fretboard is finished with a lacquer, then you should use only a dry microfiber cloth. And do not use any abrasives: it is strictly forbidden since you can easily damage the lacquer of maple fretboards. 

You need to rub the dry cloth against the dirt very gently.

You should clean each fretboard, and do it separately, so it will be safer for the guitar. Only this way will help you to clean your fretboard properly.

Can you use steel wool?

You can also use ultra-fine steel wool. Actually, this method is one of the best, so do not worry when you use it. Just clean the fretboard gently.

Unfinished maple board

If you have an unfinished maple fretboard, then you can use an abrasive. But it is recommended to use it very gently and carefully. You should use abrasive only if there is a lot of gunk on the guitar. 

How to clean rosewood, ebony, and Pau Ferro fretboards

Now we have come to the next category of fretboards, and this is also a lot of information that you should learn not to harm your guitar when you clean a guitar.

You should clean a rosewood fretboard regularly. You should rub the excess gunk off very gently, using a damp cloth or dry cloth. Furthermore, you can also use fine steel wool, but this wool must be of excellent quality.

About steel wool

You have to use only 0000 steel wool.

It will definitely remove all the dust, and unwanted dirt and can even polish your guitar’s fretboard. And what is also important, it will not cause any damage to your guitar body if you just use it gently.

How to clean with steel wool

If you want to clean a guitar with steel wool, then follow these instructions.

First steps

You should ensure that you cover the guitar’s pickups with masking tape before you use steel wool. You need to do it because it will help you to prevent all small metal particles to stick to the magnets. Then you need to put on latex gloves and thereafter, you have to rub the steel wool into the fingerboard and do it gently.

Second steps

And by the way, you should make some kind of circular movement on the guitar’s body. This will make your cleaning process even more effective. Then, when you have done all of this, you should wipe away the debris that got into the fretboard. You have to make sure that there is nothing else on the surface, and that this is cleaned. 

It may sound strange, but you can use a toothbrush, but carefully. 

Condition a guitar

You should also condition these types of fretboards every few months since it helps to ensure that a lifetime of a rosewood, ebony, and Pau Ferro fretboard is wide enough. You can use Jim Dunlop’s Guitar Fingerboard Kit.

It has everything you need, and it will help you to clean a guitar.

Use it with a slightly dampened cloth.

But do not apply a big amount of the liquid which you use to clean the guitar.

Lemon oil

It is recommended to use lemon oil to clean a guitar, and the good of this means is proven. The oil can easily and efficiently rejuvenate the fretboard. This is a quality to appreciate.

And by the way, it can protect the fretboard from dirt. This will definitely help you to keep your fretboard clean.

How to clean with the oil

To clean the fretboard with lemon oil, you need to carefully remove the strings, then put the oil on the soft cloth, but in a little amount, and then put it into the fretboard, to the guitar body, slowly and gently. This then will definitely help you to clean your guitar’s fretboard. Use it, you will not be disappointed.

An acoustic guitar: how to clean it

You can clean an acoustic guitar fretboard easily. Most of the time you can use lemon oil, it is best for cleaning and polishing in this case. 

You should use a dry cloth and lemon oil or even a bit of water and gently rug it on the acoustic guitar fretboard. This helps you to remove all the dust and remove all the stubborn marks. Do it carefully and do it regularly, since acoustic guitars require a specific cleaning attitude.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use to clean my fretboard?

There are a lot of things that you can use to clean the fretboard of your guitar. But do not forget to figure out what kind of fretboard your guitar has beforehand, since the wrong information can be very harmful to your guitar. Every type of fretboard requires an appropriate cleaning method. 

But generally, there are several things that you should know. You can use a microfibre, a damp cloth, and a dry cloth, steel wool. Some people even use household cloth and a toothbrush. Then there are a lot of polish and cleaning options.

There are Jim Dunlop’s products, Planet Waves Lemon Oil, GHS Fast Fret String Cleaner, Boss BGD-01 Guitar Detailer, and many others. Choose what is the most suitable for your guitar fretboard and use it following the instructions.

Can you clean a fretboard with water?

Actually, you can use it to clean your fretboard, but it is safe and not harmful if you use it in little amounts. Put water on the soft cloth and then rag your fretboard gently. 

Can you use alcohol wipes on fretboard?

Well, unfortunately, it is not recommended. The alcohol may be very harmful to your guitar fretboard. It can easily dry out the wood, and it can damage the guitar’s finish. You definitely should use other methods and cleaning options to clean your guitar’s fretboard.

In conclusion: clean the guitar carefully

There are a lot of ways to clean your guitar fretboard, and a lot of cleaning options to use, which can easily help your guitar stay clean and undamaged. You can use the methods which are perfect for your guitar, which will not destroy it at all.

And fortunately, there are a lot of things to choose from. But it is even better when you keep your guitar clean. This means not only cleaning the fretboard regularly and carefully but also includes following the cleaning tips that require only a few minutes, which are very easy but will save you money and time. Select what is suitable for you and keep your guitar out of any damage.

Read More About Guitar Fretboard

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James/ author of the article

If you got to my page, it means that you are fond of music and are trying to record songs on your own. In my blog, you will find out exactly which options for sound equipment will be appropriate, depending on the specific case.

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