Acoustic guitars are beautiful instruments that can last a lifetime with proper care. Unfortunately, over time, your guitar will accumulate dust, grime, and other build-up in different spots all over it. These deposits can affect the sound and playability of your guitar, and it can look unsightly, so it’s essential to clean it regularly, and this article will show you exactly how you can clean your acoustic guitar so it can stay in top shape!
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Steps To Keeping Your Acoustic Guitar Clean
There are a handful of simple steps you can use to take care of your acoustic guitar by keeping it clean and healthy; here’s how you do it:
For The Body, Neck, Headstock, & Hardware:
1. Use a clean, dry cloth to wipe down the body, neck (not the fretboard yet), and the headstock of your guitar. Be sure to get in all the nooks and crannies, such as around the sound hole and bridge. Microfiber cloths like these are pretty cheap and get the job done.
2. For tougher build-ups, use a cloth that’s slightly dampened with a little bit of guitar polish specifically designed for cleaning guitars. You’ll definitely want to use guitar polish and not furniture or generic wood polish. Guitar polish is specifically designed for the wood’s finish on a guitar and won’t strip the lacquer away.
3. If you notice any rust on your guitar’s hardware, once again, use your cloth to remove it. You can also use a bit more guitar polish to help loosen and remove rust or oxidization. In the hard-to-reach spots, you can use a Q-tip if you need to also.
For The Fingerboard, Frets, & Strings:
1. When cleaning your fretboard and everything around it, you’ll want to use a different cleaning supply. Wipe down the fretboard with a cloth with some lemon oil designed specifically for cleaning guitar fretboards. Lemon oil for guitar is a solution that you can buy that contains a specific formula that’s diluted enough so that it doesn’t damage your fretboard.
Don’t use lemon juice or pure lemon oil, as this can be too harsh for the porous fingerboard wood, which can quickly dry up if you use something too abrasive like these. The “lemon oil” created for guitar fretboards is typically a mixture of mineral oil with some lemon extract added to it. Alternatively, you can simply buy some mineral oil at your local grocery store.
2. Be sure to clean your strings and under them, as well. Use a clean, unused toothbrush or Q-tip to get in between the frets and remove any grime that has been collected there. Some fret polish can make this easier if your fretboard is pretty dirty.
3. If you plan on keeping your strings on, feel free to use some string cleaner, but if they are getting old and you’re doing a complete cleaning of your instrument, it’s best to replace them and get a fresh set of strings on your acoustic guitar. You might as well go the extra mile, right?
4. When you’re finished cleaning, wipe down the fretboard with a clean, dry cloth once more to remove any residual cleaner. Having excess stuff on there can attract more dirt and grime, so you want to ensure it’s cleaned off before you start playing again.
Here is some useful and even critical advice on how to preserve your guitar’s longevity when cleaning it.
Don’t Use Harsh Chemicals or Cleaners
As mentioned before, you’ll want to avoid using certain chemicals on your guitar. In addition to avoiding furniture polish and pure lemon oil, I do not recommend using any general cleaning supplies like soap, detergent, alcohol, degreaser, WD-40, or anything along the lines of these chemicals. If it seems questionable, you probably shouldn’t use it.
Harsher solutions can damage the wood and finish of your instrument. If a cleaning solution is too aggressive, it can also strip away the natural oils from your skin that help protects the wood.
These cleaners I mentioned above may be convenient and probably lying around your house, but they’re a poor choice when trying to care for acoustic guitars, or any guitar for that matter.
I can think of only a few household items that could be considered safe to use on your guitar. One of them is distilled white vinegar, but the smell of it isn’t for everyone since it can be a little off-putting. The mineral oil I mentioned earlier is something some people have stored at home, too, since it can be used for multiple health purposes.
When in doubt, always err on the side of caution and use a cleaner that’s designed specifically for cleaning acoustic guitars and smells alright too! You can find an excellent cleaning kit that’s reasonably priced and will give you peace of mind when cleaning your instrument.
Don’t Overdo It!
Remember that it’s important to clean your acoustic guitar regularly, but you don’t need to go overboard. A good rule of thumb is to clean your guitar every time you change your strings. This way, you’ll remove all of the dirt at once, and your acoustic will feel like a million bucks every time you do a little bit of maintenance on it.
It can be tedious, but you can also choose to get in the habit of wiping down your guitar with a cloth every time you finish playing. This will help to remove any sweat or oils that can seep into the wood and cause problems down the road, and it will get rid of fingerprints that just flat out make it look less pretty.
Also, remember to wash your hands before playing, as this can slow down the accumulation of the aforementioned issues.
In short, the best advice for beginners is to not overdo it when cleaning your acoustic guitar, but don’t neglect it either. A little bit of regular care will go a long way in preserving the life and beauty of your instrument.
By following these simple steps, you can clean your acoustic guitar and keep it looking and sounding fantastic for years to come! Easy maintenance like this should be a regular part of your guitar-playing journey so that you can enjoy your instrument for as long as possible.
To find other goodies that will benefit your experience playing guitar, check out my guide to the top 10 acoustic guitar accessories you should own. If you’ve been playing for a bit now, chances are you already own some of these, but be sure to go into see if there’s anything you’ve missed!