How To Clean An Acoustic Guitar Fretboard – 2022

Fretboards are the strings that go across the neck of an acoustic guitar. They’re the part the player uses to pluck or strum the strings and are usually made of metal. If you want to make your guitar sound better, you need to clean the fretboard.

One of the dirtiest parts of the human body is the hands. Every every day, our fingertips come into contact with hundreds, if not thousands, of different surfaces, animals, and people.

We scratch our bums, wipe our eyes, pick our noses, touch our meals, and when we’re chilly, we even put them in our armpits. They still become somewhat soiled, despite how frequently we wash them.

Acoustic guitar players also spend a lot of time holding their instruments in their hands, so any dirt or other material that accumulates on our hands winds up in the strings and fretboards of our instruments.

Why Is It Necessary To Clean The Guitar?

Your acoustic guitar is a big investment. It will cost you hundreds of dollars. To preserve your guitar investment, it is very important to make sure that your instrument is properly cleaned.

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You should clean your guitar fretboard periodically. If your fretboard is dirty, it will affect the sound of your guitar. It will also make it difficult for you to play.

This fretboard grime not only makes your guitar appear a little dingy, but it may also somewhat alter your instrument’s tone, feel, and playability.

But apart from simply being more pleasurable, the fretboard is actually the most crucial component of your guitar that requires regular cleaning.

Consider this: compared to all other parts of your guitar, the fretboard experiences the most wear and tear. Without any cleaning, excessive perspiration and dust can harm an object permanently. Your salty perspiration gradually dehydrates the wood, causing stains or even fissures.

Cleaning an acoustic guitar fretboard

If you’re a guitarist, you probably know how important fretboard maintenance is but aren’t sure how to clean your fretboard correctly. You probably play for at least 30 to 60 minutes per day, whether it’s for gigs, practice, or simply for enjoyment.

And that’s wonderful. The main issue is that with time, your palms’ perspiration and oil deposit on both the fretboard and the guitar strings. This may actually accumulate over time on your fretboard, especially around the individual frets.

Routine Cleaning

Routine cleaning can help to maintain the integrity of the fretboard. Regular cleaning will prevent deterioration of the surface of the fretboard. You will get rid of the damage that has already occurred. You can avoid having to spend money on costly repairs by keeping your guitar in good shape.

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Cleaning an acoustic guitar fretboard on a daily basis will ensure that it stays in good condition and won’t require repairs. After cleaning your guitar, you will notice a huge difference in its appearance.

Steps

  • Take the strings off.
  • Warm water or fretboard conditioner should be applied to one cloth.
  • If using water, squeeze as much water as you can from the towel.
  • Thoroughly clean the fretboard from between each fret and up against it.
  • As the rag becomes dirtier, switch to a different place on the rag.
  • As you wipe the fretboard, use a separate towel to dry any water or surplus oil left behind.
  • The majority of fretboard conditioners, which are readily accessible and secure for use on ebony, rosewood, and lacquered fretboards, are only mineral oils.
  • Use caution when using a conditioner on a fretboard that has been lacquered. However, they shouldn’t be used on an unfinished maple fretboard.
  • Use food-based oils (such as olive, walnut, canola, etc.) sparingly because they can deteriorate with time. Applying oil on the fretboard is not required.

But it aids in preventing subsequent residues from sticking to the wood and conditioning the wood, keeping it from drying out. Since wood shrinks as it cures, the frets may eventually loosen, or the fret ends may start to split.

The solution to this problem is still very straightforward, even if you’ve ignored your cleaning regimen and your acoustic guitar fretboard has acquired heavy dirt that won’t easily wipe off.

Heavier Cleaning

If you are planning on re-dressing a guitar, it’s best to use a slightly damp cloth to get rid of any dry residue. Make sure to blot the surface before moving on to the next step. Use a razor blade only where the trash is.

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This method of cleaning the fretboard doesn’t have to cover the entire surface. Since steel wool is very abrasive, fretboards that have been stained or painted shouldn’t be cleaned. When using steel wool on a fretboard that has been lacquered, take care not to “sand” through the finish.

When you are through cleaning, you will need to polish it again since steel wool may diminish the shine. Lacquer polish and fine micro-mesh can be used for this. For lacquered fretboards, I advise using an old, gentle toothbrush.

Steps

  • Always go with the grain of the wood.
  • Remove the debris by rubbing a piece of steel wool the size of a half-dollar on the affected region.
  • Brush the region with a toothbrush after dipping it in warm water and shaking as much water out as you can. Dry the area right away with a fresh, dry cloth.
  • If the debris is really glued on, softly scrape it off with a razor blade held parallel to the frets and at a 90-degree angle to the fretboard.

Etiquettes

One has to be familiar with the fundamentals of fretboard cleaning etiquette before beginning to clean a guitar with common household materials.

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The fretboard is thought to be the most difficult section of a guitar to clean, in contrast to other parts. Therefore, we have included a list of certain standard manners you must adhere to while cleaning a fretboard with household items.

Removing Strings

Remove all the strings from the guitar before you begin cleaning the fretboard, which is one of the first steps. One of the most difficult portions since nobody wants to harm their strings.

And for this reason, it’s usually advised that you clean the fretboard whenever you switch out your string set. However, if you need to attend a performance or a photo session and your fretboard is good, but your string set is not, you will need to remove the strings and store them safely and carefully.

Prior to removal, watch out that no string is harmed or twisted. You will need a new string set even if only one string is damaged.

Properly Place Your Guitar.

Guitars should always be treated with love, care, and compassion. No guitar owner, I think, would want even a small ding on the body of their instrument.

Therefore, be careful to put your guitar on a soft woolen towel when cleaning the fretboard if you want to keep it secure. It will offer a smooth surface and let you protect the instrument from scratches of any type.

Removing The Dirt

Eliminating oil and debris from a guitar’s fretboard is one of the most crucial steps before cleaning it. We can appreciate your horror at the idea of oil being applied to the fretboard.

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But trust me when I say that while you play, your fingertips’ wetness, filth, and grease are transmitted to the fretboard. Therefore, wiping your fretboard with a dry woolen towel before applying any polish or cleaning agent would be beneficial.

Polishing The Fretboard

You now need to polish your fretboard with a cleaning agent after completing all the possible. With the use of a soft, dry cloth, apply the polish or cleaning on your fretboard and allow it to dry. After that, reinstall the strings before wiping the fretboard with a clean, soft cloth.

Items For Cleaning Guitar Fretboard

You don’t need special equipment to clean your guitar. Various cleaning methods can be used to clean your guitar. The easiest way is to use a wet cotton cloth. Dip the cloth in warm water and rub it on the fretboard.

Once you are done, blot it dry with a clean cloth. You should not apply too much pressure when cleaning the fretboard. If you do, the wood fibers will swell and weaken. Don’t use a wire brush to clean the frets.

The bristles on the brush will dig into the fretboard, damaging it. A soft, old toothbrush is the best tool for cleaning your guitar.

You can use different tools to clean a fretboard. The best way to clean a fretboard is with wood grain. You should go with the grain and remove the debris by rubbing a piece of steel wool the size of a half-dollar on the affected region.

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Brushing the region with a toothbrush after dipping it in warm water and shaking as much water out as you can is another method. You can also use a dry cloth to wipe the frets. The best tool that you can use to clean your guitar fretboard is a good old toothbrush.

First, make sure that the area where you are going to clean it is clean. Wipe the area clean with a new, dry cloth.

You may clean your guitar in a variety of ways without purchasing any products. The following goods, while not a replacement for genuine guitar cleaning supplies, will help you maintain the condition of your instrument.

Plain Water

We use the same water to wash ourselves every day and to drink. Water might be a superb substitute for the majority of cleaning agents that you might use yet risk damaging your instrument. It works very well as a cleaning solution.

It’s easy to use, and it doesn’t harm your guitar in any way. Just place the instrument on a hard surface. Next, dip a soft cloth in the water and wipe the entire fretboard. Make sure to keep it away from the strings.

Using a cloth to wipe the bridge and the sound hole is also a good idea. This will help to remove dust. A dry cloth is also a good idea. The best time to use it is after you have cleaned your guitar. You can use a dry cloth to wipe the strings.

Some people prefer using a brush. You can use a dry toothbrush to clean your guitar if you don’t own one. Whenever in doubt, use water! You won’t need any protective gear because plain water is free, widely available, and devoid of harsh chemicals, health threats, and fire hazards.

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But I’m not referring to doing anything extreme, like spraying your entire instrument with water. Take a cotton ball or microfiber cloth, add a little water, and carefully and slowly clean each fret on your musical instrument.

Many people argue that using water to remove heavy grime on your instrument could cause problems. Definitely true! And if that’s the case and your guitar is actually damaged, you ought to use another instrument.

However, this approach is always the best if your fretboard is only lightly soiled and needs a quick clean-up.

Guitar Picks Or Some Old Plastic Cards

Depending on how dirty your fretboard looks, you might want to lightly scrape it before using any treatments if the dirt is obvious enough for you to see it.

Your guitar picks (assuming they haven’t already vanished) or old plastic cards (such as old credit cards) might be helpful. In my situation, I’ll utilize a little piece of cardboard from Listerine Pocketpaks packaging.

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This one even had corners cut, which proved to be a really wise strategy. If the dirt is too close to the real fret, just use one of the card’s edges, or the tops of your guitar picks to remove it by pushing it away horizontally.

Although it may seem apparent, avoid using anything that might scratch or leave markings on your fretboard, such as a knife. The sheer number of people who have had this issue could surprise you.

Vegetable Oil Soap

Check if you have any soap made of vegetable oil lying around your home as an additional option. You’ll note that I’m not referring to the vegetable oil you use at home to prepare meals.

This unique oil soap is made with water, coconut, cleansing agents derived from plants, natural aroma, and 2% artificial components. Pure vegetable oil and components that are 98% organically sourced make it extremely safe to use on almost any form of wood.

Vegetable oil soap is another method you can use. You will need a bottle of vegetable oil soap and a cotton swab. You can get a bottle of vegetable oil soap from any grocery store or department store.

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Just make sure you buy the one that has no added chemicals. You can also get a small cotton swab from a drugstore or dollar store. If the dirt on your fretboard is very light, you can gently use a Q-tip to remove it. If the dirt is heavy, use a brush to clean it. A toothbrush would be a better option than a guitar pick.

You can clean a fretboard with a toothbrush by taking the tip and dipping it into the water to moisten it. These are common household items, so they offer an excellent substitute for expensive guitar cleaning supplies.

This particular solution doesn’t include any unneeded chemicals and cleans to a natural sheen. Check to check if you have any soap made of vegetable oil lying around your home as an additional option.

You’ll note that I’m not referring to the vegetable oil you use at home to prepare meals. After you’ve removed all the dirt from your fretboard, use a small amount of this oil soap on a cotton ball or microfiber cloth to give it a fantastic sheen and feel.

If there is a lot of dust, get rid of it first before applying it quickly and easily until you are happy with the results. The benefit of using these kinds of wood cleaning products is that you can use them on your fretboard, guitar body, and neck in addition to the fretboard.

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Use extremely small amounts of the oil soap at a time, combine it with some water, or, once you’re done, delicately wipe it away with a dry microfiber cloth. In either case, if you clean your guitar frequently, you shouldn’t usually need to use a lot of any one substance.

Lemon Oil

Lemon oil is good for removing the grime and polish from your guitar. The oil will make the strings sound clearer, making your guitar sound better. It will also help remove stains from your guitar and restore the original color to your guitar.

You should mix the oil with some water or lemon juice. Dip a clean cloth into the mixture, rub the cloth on the strings, and then gently wipe it off. When you clean your guitar, you should avoid using harsh solvents.

You should only use a light-saturated lemon oil solution containing no alcohol. If you make your own cleaning solution, keep the lemon oil amount to a minimum.

Your fretboard will be readily cleaned with lemon oil, and if the wood has dried up, it will be given a chance to shine once again. However, you must exercise caution when selecting the sort of lemon oil you use.

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I’m not advocating that you just slice a lemon and use it to clean your fretboard; neither am I referring to lemon juice. The lemon content must be almost nonexistent in this product because it is a different kind.

It is okay to use lemon oil on a rosewood fretboard if you have any lying around the home. However, it’s crucial to remember not to use genuine lemon juice and to use lemon oil with a low lemon concentration if you do.

If you use lemon oil to clean your guitar, you will find that your fretboard gets much more shining. Lemon oil is a natural cleaner that can be used to remove dirt.

Spirits

Very light mineral spirits won’t damage the finish. It’s worth a shot because it works wonders at removing sticky items from your fretboard. It may be hiding anywhere in your house! But first, a word of warning.

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If you quickly search online, you will discover that there is a great deal of skepticism among guitarists on forums, just like there is with any other product. Mineral spirits are okay to use for cleaning your fretboard on occasion. Still, prolonged exposure or even vigorous rubbing with the incorrect mineral spirits can negatively affect your fretboard.

So be sure to only use these solutions as a temporary fix rather than a permanent answer until you locate the ideal one designed specifically for guitar fretboards. Additionally, be sure to check the ingredient lists on all of the items you use.

Usually, a list of all the compounds used may be found on the back of the bottle. Some of them will have labels that say “paint thinner” or other specific names for chemicals that won’t do anything for your instrument.

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Before doing anything hazardous to your guitar, be aware that different manufacturers may also use various formulas or chemicals.

Spirits are not the only thing to clean guitars, fretboards, and other wooden parts with. Acetone and other solvents can also be used for that. But there are times when you need to use something other than acetone to clean your guitar.

What To Avoid While Cleaning A Guitar Fretboard?

Clearly, there are more goods on the list of things to avoid using than things to use. If, for example, you combine some of the following items with water or merely use a tiny quantity, many of them may pass as a very effective substitute for cleaning your fretboard.

But given that a number of them cause confusion among guitarists, range in opinion, and have varied effects depending on the type of wood, I’ll simply list them as things you shouldn’t use. This will allow you to play it safely and stop you from utilizing anything that could harm your instrument.

Bleach

Bleach is not a good choice for cleaning your guitar fretboard. This is because it has a negative effect on the quality of your guitar. You should never use any chemical products to clean your guitar.

But there are times when you need to use something other than acetone to clean your guitar. Do not ever use bleach unless you are specifically attempting to modify the color of your fretboard.

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When you check for it on Google, and the only results you get are folks wondering how to give their fretboards a lighter hue, you know it is horrible for a straightforward cleaning approach.

Toothpaste

Many guitarists have complained online about how toothpaste has caused them problems and that they cannot remove the effects without effectively causing more harm. What you specifically intend to do with toothpaste has to be made clear.

Do you only polish the frets—that is, the metal strings that make up the fretboard—?

Do you intend to scrub the wood? Or are you making an effort to accomplish both?

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The products won’t be the same whether you’re attempting to clean metal vs. wood, so it will provide you the perfect opportunity to refocus your search. For other people, the same reasoning holds true because people have been using toothpaste to wipe CD surfaces for as long as I can remember.

Applying toothpaste to the frets—the metal components that span your fretboard—can be useful, but avoid doing it on the wood. Additionally, if you’re attempting to polish the frets, Ensure that the wood is taped.

Vinegar

Vinegar use is one of those goods that also generates a lot of conflicting opinions. You are undoubtedly aware of the fantastic cleaning properties of white distilled vinegar, which many people even use on their fretboards. But consider the odor.

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Even when used sparingly, the fragrance can be rather overpowering. However, many would counter that it dissipates on its own after a short while.

Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is another product that gets used as a cleaner for a number of surfaces. For instance, many people like to use rubbing alcohol to clean guitar strings, but the problem is that it tends to dry out the strings.

Other people prefer to use alcohol to polish guitars. Some people even use it as a cleaner and protector. When cleaning your fretboard, stay away from ammonia and rubbing alcohol. These things have the potential to dry out and discolor the fretboard’s wood.

Alcohol will deteriorate and eventually eat away at the lacquer on your fretboard if it is lacquered. Isopropyl alcohol or ammonia are unlikely to be able to remove any material that cannot be removed using steel wool, a toothbrush, or a razor blade.

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You should see your preferred luthier and have them take care of the problem if your fretboard has anything on it that cannot be removed using any of the methods mentioned above. They probably already miss seeing you.

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, we will answer a few FAQs to clear your mind further.

What is a fretboard?

A fretboard is part of a guitar’s neck and contains the frets. It is where strings come off and are used to make sounds. You can’t play a song without the strings. They allow the guitar to make a sound. The frets are where the strings are attached to the fretboard.

How do I clean a guitar fretboard?

It is important to clean your guitar’s fretboard before applying a new finish or polish. The first step is to soak the fretboard in a solution of dish soap and water. Then, use a soft brush to scrub the fretboard gently.

Can I use vinegar to clean the fretboard?

Coconut oil, olive oil, lemon oil, or vinegar are not permitted to be used on any part of your guitar, including the strings and fretboard. Due to their acidic nature, these products have the potential to harm the wood of your guitar irreparably.

Can I use detergents to clean my acoustic guitar?

You might want to use some soap if your guitar is particularly grimy. Get a spray bottle filled with water and mild soap. After that, wet your dusting cloth. Do not spray the instrument directly, as the aim is to use as little water as possible.

Can we clean the fretboard with water?

Using a gently moistened cloth on your fingerboard is often safe. It might be problematic to get the fingerboard moist, especially in the fret slots, where any swelling or weakening of the fretboard wood could result in loose or burst frets.

Should we use oil on my guitar fretboard?

A spotless fingerboard looks and feels better, and it also makes your strings last longer. Your fretboard drying out, cracking, and wearing are longer-term problems. For this reason, a lot of manufacturers advise cleaning your fretboard with a specialized wood oil every six months.

Conclusion

This was all about cleaning the fretboards of acoustic guitars. For efficient working and long life of a guitar, it is crucial to take care of the guitar’s body. Electric guitars also need thorough cleaning for efficient playing.

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Follow the cautious tips such as not applying the conditioner on maple fretboards and using food-based oils sparingly. The steps would be different for cleaning the fretboard of an electric guitar. So make sure you don’t use the electric guitar cleaning technique on an acoustic guitar.

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