How do I clean an acoustic guitar

Guitar care: the great guide to guitar care with cleaning, polishing & Co.

How should i mean Caring for the guitar? Here are all the tips so that your instrument will last a lifetime and won't scratch the paint. Learn everything about * thorough * cleaning of guitar and bass including the strings with a cloth, toothbrush, a few drops of oil such as Ballistol or Lemon Oil, polish and more. Everything you need to know about guitar care with different types of wood as well as unpainted and varnished surfaces (including nitro lacquer) ...

This is how you should care for your guitar - clean and protect the body, fingerboard, the back of the neck and the frets of your instrument using every trick in the book! This is how guitar care works today ...

From Philipp Mahler

Caring for the guitar from A to Z.

If you take these tips to heart and regularly remove sweat and dirt from your guitar, you will definitely enjoy your instrument for a long time. Here you will learn the tricks and tricks for guitar care that are really important. There are differences from wood to wood and from lacquer to lacquer.

But first we want to go into a few things that are often overlooked:

Good investments to protect your instrument

1. Gig bag or guitar case

If you don't have a good case for your guitar, you should definitely get one. It's kind of the cheapest insurance for your guitar. If you don't play your guitar continuously, the guitar case or alternatively a gig bag is the best place to store it.

2. Guitar stand

The guitar falls too quickly when it is put down in the rehearsal room between two songs and is at least visually damaged. If it falls unhappily on your neck, even more can break. With a guitar stand you can reduce this risk to a minimum. When buying, make sure that the material of the guitar stand is compatible with the paintwork of your guitar.
It is also advisable to choose a guitar stand that is lightly padded or covered at the points of contact with your guitar.

3. Guitar strap

Investing in a durable guitar strap and so-called security locks is also an option. The latter prevents accidental loosening of the belt - if you want to carry and play your precious instrument in a fall-proof way, you should make this investment.

The D’Addario Auto Lock Guitar Strap guarantees a firm hold of your guitar on the stages of this world!

We were recently able to test the D’Addario Auto Lock Guitar Strap in the new colors and can recommend it to you without reservation. Not only the design scores, but also the workmanship and the auto lock mechanisms, which ensure that your guitar does not get unsightly scratches.

General guitar care tips

  1. Don't expose your guitar to extreme heat, cold, or changes in humidity - it's made of wood. Above all, this means that you shouldn't keep the guitar near a heater, in the car, or outdoors for long periods of time.
  2. In order not to damage the varnish during guitar care, you should only use a product (oil & Co.) that is suitable for your guitar - more on this in the chapter "Cleaning the guitar". When cleaning, you can use non-fluffy cloths that should be washed regularly.
  3. To prevent the neck from twisting, you shouldn't relax or remove all of the strings at once. The neck tensioning bar is adjusted so that it offers resistance to the pull of the strings.
  4. New strings sound “fresher” than worn strings - and you can hear that later in the recordings.

Caring for the guitar - cleaning & surface treatment

In general, the order listed below is recommended - if you want to treat the fingerboard with oil, it can be pulled into the wood while you take care of the body. So you can play your instrument again very quickly after cleaning it. The sweat sometimes penetrates relatively deep into the wood of the fingerboard, so that cleaning is only possible after removing all the strings.

Guitar care in 4 steps

  1. Clean the fingerboard & treat with oil + clean the frets
  2. Clean the body and the back of the neck + polish if necessary
  3. Wipe off any remaining oil on the fingerboard
  4. Polish the whole guitar

For all of this, of course, you have to remove the strings and put them back on at the very end. Need advice on how to do it most skillfully? Then take a look here:

»All tips on changing guitar strings

Caring for the guitar light vs. basic cleaning

The steps just listed cover pretty much everything you will ever need to take care of your guitar. However, this is of course not absolutely necessary after every session - more on this in detail below.

Only when dust, dirt, skin residues and sweat have accumulated over weeks and months on the neck, fingerboard etc., more thorough guitar care is necessary.

Clean the fingerboard

One thing no guitarist can avoid is cleaning the fingerboard. Frequent gamers know this: the fingerboard is increasingly contaminated with a layer of tough skin and sweat residues. It doesn't look pretty, nor does it feel good when you play.

The best way to clean the fingerboard is to wipe it with a microfiber cloth (like those used to clean glasses) after each game. Anyone who waits too long to clean the guitar and has never used the cloth in between will ultimately need more time.

But of course we now have all the tricks for thorough fingerboard cleaning ready - caring for the guitar from A to Z ...

Oil - lemon oil, Ballistol & Co.

If the simple use of a rag is really enough, an oil like Ballistol is a good choice. This versatile oil (universal oil) was originally designed for gun care.

Ballistol consists mainly of pharmaceutically pure white oil and is skin-friendly, food-safe and biodegradable. Its alkaline composition works well against the acidity of sweat and it also has a disinfectant effect.

So drizzle two or three drops of Ballistol onto a soft, lint-free cloth and apply it evenly to the fingerboard. Alternative: With a few drops of lemon oil (see also the section on the body) it works very well in this case. Lemon oil is one of the most proven substances that cleans, cares and gives the wood some moisture again.

So much for the recommended substances. For the sake of completeness, a warning to be careful: Furniture polishes or other cleaning agents are not recommended, especially for untreated wood, if you want to care for your guitar.

Caring for the guitar with a credit card, toothbrush, etc.?

If the dirt is already emblazoned in a thick layer on the fingerboard, a credit card (or similar) made of plastic is recommended for guitar care. This is easy to clean at a flat angle without damaging the wood of the guitar.

The problem here, however, is that the dirt is pressed into cracks, wood pores and the edges around the frets and is difficult to remove there. delamar has advice: a soft toothbrush can help.

Unpainted fingerboard - e.g. ebony or rosewood

I got the following tip in a shop whose core competency is guitar maintenance and the repair of guitars and basses: For a guitar whose fingerboard is made of an unpainted, open-pored wood such as rosewood or ebony, I was given extremely fine steel wool (fineness No. 0000) recommended.

Attention, protect the pickups of your guitar with tape or painter's tape before you use the steel wool! Otherwise, the fine steel particles will be attracted to the magnetic pickups and collect there - they could cause short circuits when playing!

Now rub the steel wool in the direction of the wood grain - that is, lengthways along the neck and across the frets. 15 to 20 seconds should be enough. The crumbs of dried sweat and skin residues that remain are best vacuumed up.

Lacquered fingerboard - e.g. maple

On a guitar with a lacquered fingerboard - typically maple - you must NOT use steel wool. This would not only remove the dirt, but also the finish successfully.

Therefore, first try the care products described above and, in the case of heavy soiling, be extremely careful with a credit card, fingernail or pick.

Clean the frets

Caring for the guitar also includes cleaning the frets at longer intervals. The first thing to do here is to mask the fingerboard wood with painter's tape (caution: only press lightly, otherwise residues will remain on the wood). Because the stainless steel polish, which is suitable for cleaning the frets, must not come into contact with the wood!

An alternative, with which you do not have to worry about any residues, is the use of a small, stencil-like protective plate. This is usually called a “fretboard guard”, is usually made of stainless steel and can be placed around a fret to fit perfectly. This reliably covers the surrounding fingerboard wood.

A utensil of this kind can be bought for around three to five euros in music stores or at Amazon & Co. You only need one or two of these - a thicker one for convenient cleaning of the deep frets and a narrower one for the high ones.

The next step in caring for the guitar is the body and the back of the neck

Body & back of the neck

Clean the body and the back of the neck of your guitar regularly - at the latest after every third intensive session - with a slightly damp cloth. Suitable for this are ...

  • Lemon oil (also called "citrus oil")
  • Linseed oil (also called "linseed oil")

I myself use Kyser Lemon Oil for the body of my guitar, but there are also products from other manufacturers such as Planet Waves or Peavey. You can remove the dirt residue after using the oil with a cloth.

Polish the body

The more complex polishing with a paint care product (Polish) is only due every few months. For example when changing the strings. There are differences from guitar to guitar - depending on the paint, different liquids or pastes are recommended to remove grease and dirt from your guitar and maintain it.

In the following you will find the procedure for using the various polishes for guitar care.

Paint is not just paint - polyurethane vs. nitrocellulose

A guitar with a contemporary plastic paint (based on polyurethane, acrylic resin or polyester) can be polished to a high gloss with any polish or paint cleaner without hesitation. With a cloth you "massage" the product of your choice into the lacquer in circular movements. Then you polish the body to a high gloss with another, still clean and dry, soft cloth. Here, the surface of the paint is removed - the dull layer on which scratches have accumulated is removed and the surface is smoothed.

Caution: It looks different with a guitar with nitrocellulose lacquer (often called "nitro lacquer"), as is usually used on concert, western and high-quality vintage guitars. Here you leave it with a slightly (!) Moistened cloth for guitar care (this is why we also speak of »mist-moistened«). Use a mixture of water and soft soap for this. Alternatively, lemon oil can be used here again. In general, the following applies: It must be a solvent-FREE substance.

WHAT do I use to polish the body of my guitar?

Special polishing cloths made of (lint-free) cotton are recommended. Every well-stocked music dealer has them in stock. Old cotton T-shirts will also work, but we cannot guarantee anything.

The strings - don't forget to take care of the guitar!

A set of strings will last much longer if you take good care of them. When playing, dust, skin deposits and sweat hit the strings - the latter can even cause the strings to rust.

By the way, the frets don't wear out as quickly if you clean your strings often. Because the above-mentioned deposits and rust form mainly on the back of the strings.

So it is a good idea to clean the strings after each session and remove sweat and skin residues. To do this, soak a firm cloth with a special string cleaner ... or simply a standard window cleaning agent.

Now you go through all the strings individually - put the cloth around the string to rub it off. If there are no residues of dirt - easily recognizable by black stripes - on the cloth, the string is clean. The string cleaner should of course be gone too, so rub the strings dry with a second cloth.