Guitar is one of the most bought and played musical instruments that is owned by majority of teens and college guys. This instrument is easy to learn and produces very attractive sounds. But if not maintained properly, the sounds can be quite terrible. Guitar cleaning is as important as its tuning and adjustments. Dust and jammed strings cause trouble in playing the guitar and enjoying great sounds. It’s necessary to keep each and every part of this instrument well cleaned to enjoy rich and loud sounds.
People who don’t play regularly face much problems with the performance of their guitars and end up buying new ones every time. Instead of wasting money, the best option is to keep your guitar clean and packed when not playing. The cleaning of guitar is not as daunting as it might seem to many people. It’s a time consuming process but helps in maintaining the sound and performance of your guitar for longer duration.
Step 1: Gathering the Materials
To carry out guitar cleaning procedure, you will be needing a few important things. Gather the essentials that include a soft cloth, guitar cleaner, water and guitar polisher containing pure carnauba wax. You may use some clean socks or t-shirt as a cloth that will do just fine. Whether you want to clean an electric guitar or acoustic, both will require the same things for cleaning. People who want to carry out high level cleaning can use distilled vinegar to clean guitar as it doesn’t cause any damage but provides a shinier and cleaned surface.
Don’t use household cleaning items like furniture polishes, thinner or bleach as they may contain strong elements that can be damaging for guitar finish. Avoid everything containing silicon or heavy waxes because such elements are not good for the body of guitar and reduce the shine. Many people think using paper towel is better than a piece of soft cloth. But you must never use paper towel for cleaning guitar as it creates scratches on the surface and ruins the final finish.
There are a number of options for cloth so just make sure you choose a relatively soft one to enjoy a smooth and scratches cleaning. When applying the cleaning solution to the guitar, this piece of cloth will help you apply it in a better way. Instead of spraying it directly to the surface of the guitar, damp the cloth into the solution so there will be no imbalanced cleaning. If you have a nylon string guitar, you may simply use a non-dampened cloth or a slightly water dipped cloth to clean it. For guitars with steel strings, a proper guitar cleaning kit is required that includes items like fast-fret string cleaner. So, don’t buy such guitars if you cannot afford their cleaning requirements.
In short, when gathering the materials for guitar cleaning, you need to determine what your guitar strings are made up of. It will help you choose the right cleaning solution to clean your guitar in an appropriate way. Those who cannot afford high quality cleaning solutions can use 70-90% rubbing alcohol as well as shaving gel for effective cleaning.
Step 2: Position the Guitar
Do not hold the guitar throughout the cleaning procedure as you need free hands to carry out proper cleaning. Place the guitar on its back very carefully. You can put it on table, guitar case or even in your lap to clean it easily. If your guitar has a neck strap, wear it and enjoy free hands to clean it properly. During the cleaning process, make sure your guitar’s top is not colliding with anything as it might mess up the tuning and increase your work. The best option is to clean your guitar in an open area with a lot of space.
Step 3: Remove the strings
Before you begin with the cleaning process, it’s best to remove the strings carefully so they must not get damaged during cleaning. Aside from that, removing strings also makes it easier to clean the fretboard. That’s why whenever you are changing your guitar strings, it’s an ideal time to clean your guitar properly. Don’t get harsh with the neck when removing strings and keep it slow by losing one string at a time.
If you don’t know, cleaning materials include oils and waxes that can be extremely damaging for strings. No matter whichever polisher or cleanser you are using, the best option is to remove the string beforehand. They should be totally free of oil, wax and polishes to produce rich sounds and clean tones. Moreover, many people apply a lot of force when cleaning guitars and break the strings so it’s best to remove them.
Step 4: Cleaning
Clean the Fretboard and Neck
Mostly don’t understand how to clean a guitar fretboard and neck because this part has strings. When you play guitar using your fingers, it catches the oil and moisture that should be remained on it for better performance. This is why, professionals recommended to clean the fretboard only once in a year. With the use of clean and soft cloth, dampened in the water of distilled vinegar, you can clean the guitar fretboard easily and softly.
One thing you need to keep in mind is to clean the guitar with slightly dampened cloth and not overly moistened one. You don’t want your guitar to get over saturated by water or cleaning solutions and result in lower performance. Considering this key point, wet the cloth with the use of spray bottle or wring it well after dipped in the liquid. There should be no dripping drops to destroy the interior or exterior of the guitar.
If there are some heavily dry spots of dirt that are not easy to clean with as oft piece of cloth, you may use steel wool to scrub them. Don’t get too harsh when scrubbing the dirt spots as it might destroy the guitar finish. When using steel wool, cover the pickups as it might get caught with them and because you trouble. There is a magnet in pickups that attract steel wool and make scrubbing difficult.
Clean the Body
If you don’t know how to clean a guitar body, don’t panic. Start from the head and move down the length of your guitar while cleaning the body including front, back and sides of it. If you have only one piece of cloth for cleaning, wash it after the first step. You don’t want the dirt to spread all over the guitar so rinse it in water properly and wring to proceed with further cleaning. Don’t put much pressure and always move the cloth in circular motion to clean the surface without causing any scratches.
While cleaning guitar, you will see many stubborn spots that don’t come out so easily. You cannot clean them with a single wipe so be ready to take the pain. Spots like fingerprints and dirt smudges require a little bit moisture to come out. So use the slightly dampened cloth for such dirt marks and enjoy a shinier guitar. Sometimes, even the wet cloth won’t be enough to remove the stains so you may use detergent with water in such cases.
Clean the Bridge
The bridge is a very important part of a guitar that supports the strings and is located on the body. It’s cleaning is also as necessary as fretboard and body of the guitar. The method to clean it is almost same as of fretboard. Use a slightly damp cloth to clean the dirt and dust from the bridge. Unlike body of the guitar, you cannot use steel wool on the bridges to remove the stubborn spots. Here you will need to use the toothbrush or pipe cleaner to scrub the strong stains.
Make sure you don’t use heavily dampened cloth for bridges as they might get jammed due to extra moisture. Their cleaning should be done with great care because they give support to the strings and help in the adjustment.
Clean the Strings
Next comes the most crucial part of cleaning the guitar, the string cleaning. Most of the guitarists don’t know how to clean the guitar strings with household products. Take the piece of cloth in a long direction and fold it into two halves. One half should be under the strings and the other one should come above the strings, covering them from both sides to clean properly. Now drag the cloth from one end to another to remove the dirt from every single string covered by the rag. Make sure you go all the way from top of the strings to the bottom with folded rag.
Be very careful when cleaning the strings near to fretboard as you will touch them every time you come near ad might disturb the settings. Many people only clean the strings from the above side but that’s not right. Both sides of strings should be cleaned properly if you want to enjoy rich sounds.
Once the dirt is removed from the strings, you can change the fold of the rag to continue with clean sides. If the cloth is not clean from the other side as well, you may use an entirely new piece of cloth because using the same dirty cloth will not help you clean the guitar. If you are using some lubricant for better results, make sure it doesn’t contain any sort of petroleum as it can cause damage to your guitar overtime. You may also use Vaseline, baby oil and even olive oil as lubricant to weaken the spots and clean them in no time with less efforts. Don’t pour lubricants directly onto the strings. Damp a clean piece of cloth with it and then use it the same way you cleaned the strings earlier. Fold it and cover the strings from both sides to grease them properly.
Step 5: Wipe Down the Tuning Keys
Most of you may have no idea about how to clean guitar tuning pegs. What makes or breaks the performance of a guitar are its tuning keys. They are located on the top of the guitar at the sides of the fretboards. Using these keys, guitarists can adjust the strings and tighten or loosen them to enjoy rich sounds.The cleaning of tuning keys is very much necessary otherwise they might get jammed and won’t be easy to set.
You can take the tuning keys out and put them in the solution for a few seconds to clean them properly. Tuning keys are like iron nails that get stained due to moisture and are not easy to clean with dry or wet piece of cloth. It’s necessary to put them in a rust cleaning solution and dry them afterwards. The clean tuning keys set perfectly and allows guitarists to enjoy quick adjustments.
Step 6: Polish the Pickups
If you want to enjoy rich performance and loud sounds of your guitar, clean the pickups properly. The pickups are the portion of strings where guitarists pick the chords and strum them to produce desired sounds. Cleaning of pickups is as important as any other part of the guitar. They must be rust free so you may enjoy rich sounds without any trouble. Cleaning guitar pickups rust can be a little time consuming.
You can clean the pickups with a piece of cloth but if there they are rusted, you will need to unscrew them in order to clean them properly. Put them in s rust dissolving agent for few second depending on the harshness of the rust. It will weaken the rust marks and make it easier for you to remove them by using a cloth. If the rust spot is very minor, don’t remove the entire pickups but only dip the cotton bud in the solution and apply it to the spot.
Step 7: Polish the Finish
Many guitarists don’t know how to polish a guitar with household items. Professionals are of opinion that guitars should not be polished frequently as it might damage the sound of the instrument. Make sure you use a good and appropriate polish for guitar. The polish may contain carnauba wax but not any other heavy wax or petroleum. Such elements can cause serious damage to the product and ruin the sounds.
Don’t polish the guitar by pouring the solution directly on the instrument. Always spray the material on the rag first and then use that dampened rag to polish the guitar. If your guitar has a satin finish, you must not polish or buff it as this will make it look spotty. Polishing a vintage guitar is also not a good idea. Cleaning a vintage guitar is a different method and requires specific materials.
Tips for Cleaning Guitar
For better performance and long term usage, it’s necessary to keep your guitar clean and well-maintained. Here are few guitar cleaning tips for beginners as well as pro guitarists. The first thing to keep in mind is to never use liquid cleaners as they have potential to ruin the look and finish of your guitar. You should always clean the guitar when changing the strings. It is because fretboard cannot be cleaned thoroughly without removing the guitar strings. So whenever the strings are removed, clean the fretboard first and then install new strings.
Another tip for guitarists is to never polish or buff satin finished guitars. You may use a dry or damp cloth to clean it but polishing with any polisher can be seriously damaging and might result in blotchy look. Same wise, when cleaning vintage guitars, be very careful about not removing the layer of patina. Vintage guitars have nitro finish that changes color and develops into patina. Using any harsh lubricants or solutions will result in removing the patina that will eventually devalue the guitar and ruin its overall look and performance.
Old guitars have a very thin layer of finish which makes them sensitive enough when it comes to polishing. The polishers contain waxes, oils and petroleum that are much harmful for the delicate finish of vintage guitars. You should also avoid using any liquid or wet cloth but simply breathe moist air onto the spotty areas and rub them instantly with clean cloth to get rid of stains. Vintage guitars are quite delicate that you should clean with much care.
Most of the guitarists make a mistake when cleaning their instruments. They apply the solution or lubricant directly onto the guitar surface that result in excessive damping. You should always spray the material on the cloth and then use it to clean the body of guitar. This way, the guitar will not be overly saturated or moistened.
Another most important thing to keep in mind while cleaning guitar is to never use paper towel. They create scratches on the smooth surface of guitar body. Always use something soft as socks ort-shirt.
Guitar is no doubt an amazing instrument with an incredible power of producing soothing and rocking music. But, to enjoy their high performance and rich sounds, make sure to keep them clean and well maintained. From the fretboard to the body and strings to the tuning keys, every part of the guitar needs proper cleaning. Using a few essentials like soft cloth, cleaning lubricants and rust dissolving solutions, you can clean your guitar at home. Just follow the above guidelines and tips to carry out this procedure properly.