How To Clean An Ebony Fretboard & Achieve A Pristine Look

Taking care of your instrument is essential to maintain its playability and longevity, and one crucial aspect of guitar maintenance is cleaning the fretboard regularly. 

Ebony, in particular, has a reputation for being a luxurious wood used for fingerboards and other goods around the world, and if you’re a proud owner of an instrument with one, luckily, it doesn’t require any special treatment compared to the other types of fretboards. So, in this article, I will guide you on how to clean your ebony fretboard and make it spotless easily!

The Importance Of Taking Care Of Your Ebony Fretboard

Like other types of wood, cleaning your ebony fretboard is essential for several reasons. 

Firstly, regular cleaning removes dirt, grime, and sweat buildup that can affect the sound and playability of your guitar. Over time, these substances can cause the fretboard to become unsightly with uneven spots and even sticky, affecting your ability to play smoothly.

Additionally, cleaning your fretboard helps to preserve its natural beauty as ebony is best known for its rich color and elegant appearance. This can range from nearly jet black to having exotic stripes and streaks, like pale moon ebony.

By keeping it clean, you can showcase its unique grain patterns and enhance the overall aesthetics of your instrument.

Guitars with ebony fretboards tend not to be very cheap either; in fact, they are often on the expensive side, so caring for your instrument will help preserve your investment. To do so, you’ll simply need some inexpensive supplies, which will be covered next.

What Do You Need To Clean An Ebony Fretboard?

Before we dive into the main part of the guide, let’s gather the necessary materials for cleaning your ebony fretboard:

  • Soft, lint-free microfiber cloths
  • Guitar cleaning solution (i.e., fingerboard polish or lemon oil for fretboards)
  • Toothbrush with soft bristles
  • New guitar strings (if removing them entirely)

Having these materials ready will clear the way for a smooth and effective cleaning process, and you’ll be pleased with the results.

Ernie Ball Microfiber Polish Cloth (P04220)
  • Safely polish your guitar or bass with Ernie Ball’s microfiber polish cloth.
  • The fiber density of microfiber cloth makes it much more effective than traditional cloth for instrument care.
  • Dimenstions: 12″ x 12″
  • Stitched edging.

The Best Cleaning Products For Ebony Fretboards

Here are a few great solutions for caring for your ebony fretboard that I highly recommend!

Music Nomad F-One Fretboard Oil Cleaner

I love Music Nomad’s products, and this all-natural oil cleaner is designed to remove dirt and grime while rejuvenating the wood. It is safe to use on all types of fretboards, including ebony. Even if your fretboard isn’t dry, this oil-based cleaner is superb. It does it all!

Dunlop 65 Ultimate Lemon Oil

This lemon oil is specifically formulated for fretboards and will keep it in optimal condition by moisturizing the wood. You can also find this paired with their guitar body polish and a couple of cloths if you have a dry ebony fretboard and need an all-in-one cleaning kit for your whole guitar.

Ernie Ball Wonder Wipes Fretboard Conditioner

These pre-treated wipes are convenient for quick and easy cleaning. They condition and protect the fretboard, leaving it smooth and polished. Simply unpack, clean, and dispose of the wipes once you’re done with them. 

Steps For Cleaning Your Ebony Fretboard

Now that we have the materials you need to clean up your ebony fretboard, let’s proceed with the step-by-step guide on how to do exactly that:

1. Loosen or remove the guitar strings:

Start by loosening the tension of the guitar strings. This step will make it easier to access the fretboard without any obstacles.

2. Wipe the fretboard:

Take a soft, lint-free microfiber cloth and gently wipe the entire fretboard. Doing this will remove any loose dirt or debris on the surface.

3. Apply the cleaner:

If you have a guitar polish, cleaner, or lemon oil designed explicitly for fretboards, apply a small amount onto the cloth or to each fret. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. 

4. Clean the fretboard:

Using the cloth with the cleaner, rub the fretboard in small circular motions. Pay close attention to the areas around the frets where dirt tends to accumulate. Be gentle yet thorough in removing all the grime, then let it sit for a few minutes.

5. Clean the frets:

To clean the frets, use a cleaner and gently scrub each fret with a microfiber cloth. This will remove any residue or tarnish on the metal frets, enhancing their appearance. Click here for more tips on how to clean your frets thoroughly with the right products.

6. Wipe off excess cleaner or oil:

After cleaning, use a clean section of the cloth to remove any excess cleaner or lemon oil from the fretboard and frets and be sure that no residue is left behind.

7. Re-string the guitar:

Once the fretboard is clean and dry, re-string your guitar and tune it back to its desired pitch.

Here’s a video by Music Nomad themselves that show you exactly how you can do it with their F-One cleaner:

Is Lemon Oil Good For Ebony Wood?

Unlike maple fretboards, lemon oil is a safe choice for cleaning, conditioning, and moisturizing ebony fretboards. However, ebony is naturally oily, and its properties help to prevent the wood from drying out and maintain its lustrous appearance. 

Still, if in the wrong conditions, such as low humidity and not using a humidifier, ebony can dry out and start to crack and must be treated. If an ebony fretboard is too dry, you may also be at risk of developing fret sprout. Lemon oil is an easy way to treat dryness!

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t use pure lemon oil on any fretboard. Instead, you’ll be looking for solutions that are specifically made for guitars, like the Formula 65 Ultimate Lemon Oil by Dunlop mentioned earlier.

 If you choose to use lemon oil on your ebony fingerboard, follow these steps:

  • Apply a small amount of lemon oil onto a clean microfiber cloth.
  • Gently rub the oil onto the entire fretboard, following the direction of the wood grain.
  • Allow the product to penetrate the wood for a few minutes.
  • Wipe off any excess oil with a separate clean cloth.

Remember, only use a minimal amount of lemon oil, as an excessive application can lead to an oily residue on the fretboard that you’ll need to clean off.

Tips For Maintaining Your Ebony Fretboard

Now that you have successfully cleaned your ebony fretboard, it’s important to maintain its newfound condition. Here are some tips to help you keep your ebony fretboard in top shape:

Clean regularly:

Make it a habit to clean your ebony fretboard at least once every few months, depending on how frequently you play. Regular cleaning will prevent dirt and grime buildup and keep your ebony playing smoothly.

Wipe after playing:

After each playing session, take a soft microfiber cloth and wipe the fretboard to remove any sweat or oil residue. This simple step will help prevent long-term damage and maintain the fretboard’s cleanliness. You can also do this to your strings to preserve them too.

Avoid excessive moisture:

All fretboards can be sensitive to changes in humidity, so you should prevent your guitar from being exposed to extreme moisture or dryness, as it can cause the wood to swell or crack. Use a humidifier or dehumidifier to maintain the ideal humidity level for your instrument. You can keep track of the humidity by using a hygrometer.

Use a guitar case:

When not in use, store your guitar in a suitable case. A quality guitar case protects your guitar from dust, humidity, and physical damage, ensuring your ebony fretboard remains in excellent condition. You can also find humidifiers that easily fit your case.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Fretboards

While cleaning any kind of fingerboard, not just ebony, it’s important to avoid some pitfalls that can potentially damage the wood or affect its playability. Here are a few mistakes to steer clear of:

Using harsh chemicals:

Avoid using abrasive cleaners or solvents that can strip the natural oils from the wood. Stick to guitar-specific cleaners or mild solutions recommended for ebony fretboards.

Scrubbing too hard:

Be gentle when cleaning the fretboard and frets, as using too much pressure can cause scratches or remove the finish, compromising the integrity of the wood.

Allowing excess moisture:

After cleaning, make sure that the fretboard is completely dry before re-stringing the guitar. Wipe it down as necessary.


Cleaning your ebony fretboard is an essential part of guitar maintenance, and not only does it enhance the playability and sound of your instrument, but it also preserves the natural beauty of the wood. 

By utilizing this simple-to-follow guide to ebony fretboard care, having the proper materials, and taking precautions, you can ensure that your’s glistens for years to come and continues to provide a smooth and enjoyable playing experience.

Ebony is one of my favorite fretboard woods, but have you ever owned a guitar with a roasted maple one? If not, check out my guide to the benefits of roasted maple necks and fretboards – who knows, maybe your next guitar will have one!