Guitar Care is Easy With this Guide

December 20, 2016 4 min read

Pink guitar strap laying carefully on a guitar.

The more you play your axe, the more you’ll need to think about guitar care. After all, a clean guitar sounds so much better than a filthy one.

Sweat and grime from your fingers become a magnet for all sorts of dust and moisture. That is definitely not going to improve your playing.

You can take your guitar to your local technician for maintenance. Or you can follow these tips and perform your guitar care yourself. It’ll save you money and give you real satisfaction!

So read on to discover the easiest ways to keep your guitar singing for years to come.

Start with the absolute basics – storage!

Don’t put your guitar on the ground when you’re not using it. Buy a floor stand, or put it in its case.  Either option should lessen the chances of your guitar being knocked over or dinged.

Prevention is better than cure. So using a good quality strap is an easy way to avoid your guitar coming loose while playing and having an accident.

It’s also a good idea to keep your guitar in its case when you’re not using it. Exposure to sunlight can damage the finish on the body.

Storing the guitar in its case also helps to keep the dust and any random grime away. It just means you’ll need to clean it less often.

Some players also recommend using a humidifier in the room where you keep your guitar. Overly dry conditions can warp the wood. It’s best to keep your guitar at around 70°F and 45% humidity.

Wherever you keep it, make sure it’s not too hot or too cold. Avoid damp and overly humid places too. Remember your guitar is made of wood, and wood responds to changes in the environment.

You have to take care of the strings

The most obvious aspect of guitar care comes down to your strings. They get dull over time and really wreck your sound.

Yes, it can get expensive, but it’s the very least you can do for your guitar.

So change them now if you can’t remember the last time you did change them. When you remove them, do it two or three at a time. You don’t want to cause any damage to the neck.

It goes without saying, but when you do change the strings, make sure you have the right ones for your guitar!

But if you really don’t want to change the strings too often, you can at least clean them. Get into the habit of wiping them every time you play.

A dry lint-free cloth is all you need. Loosen them a little so you can get the cloth around the whole string. Just pinch the string using the cloth and move your fingers along the string.

Keeping the strings clean will definitely help them to last longer.

Guitar care for fretboards and bodies

The fretboard is pretty easy to deal with and doesn’t need constant care. If you play regularly, you might only need to clean it 2-3 times a year.

Once you’ve taken the strings off to change them, give the fretboard a rub down with a soft damp cloth. You can use a soft toothbrush or toothpick to get any grime from the edges of the frets.

If your fingerboard has any hairline cracks, it’s a sign that the board has dried out. Linseed or almond oil will help condition it. Just use one or two drops and wipe off any excess oil.

But if you have any problems with wear spots on the fretboard, see your local technician. You don’t want to use sandpaper to try and remove them if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Guitar care for the body is simple. Use a clean lint-free cloth to remove any dust. Then use guitar polish on the whole body, avoiding the electronic components.

It goes without saying, but never use a furniture polish on a guitar. Ever.

If you really want an amazing finish, there’s one final step you can try. Add a tiny amount of carnauba wax to a micro-fiber cloth.

Polish the whole guitar body. Once it’s dried, rub the body gently with a polishing cloth then remove the wax.

What about the hardware?

Unless it’s all gotten really icky, you shouldn’t need to touch the hardware too often. It generally just attracts dust and fingerprints.

You can use basic glass cleaner on a clean cloth to polish your metal tuners, and a slightly damp cloth will sort out any dust or prints on the bridge.

Just make sure you let them dry out thoroughly before you put the guitar back in its case. You don’t want to introduce any dampness to its storage area.

But it’s vital that you keep any kind of moisture away from the pickups. Use a bone dry cloth, or compressed air, to remove any dust.

Failing that, you can always use a clean paintbrush that you keep solely for the pickups to brush away dust. Choose a good-quality paintbrush as you don’t want it to shed hairs all over the place.

And for players into more advanced guitar care…

Keep your old strings!

You can actually use them as backups for 1/2 or 3/4 size guitars. They also work as backups in case you break a string. They’re not perfect, but they’re better than nothing.

You should also start a stockpile of guitar parts. It might sound strange but pretty much anything from your guitar can be kept as a spare part. Pickups, electronics, jacks, bridges – keep everything.

That also includes the neck or the body. You never know when you might need any of them!

These parts will also come in handy if you decide to build your own guitar.

It’s also worth putting together a kit you can use for touch-ups. You might be horrified at the idea of using a magic marker on your guitar. But what would you rather have – a visible scratch, or an inked in line?

Besides, Sharpies are a great way to customize your guitar.

Even if you don’t want to slap sticks on your axe, starting a guitar care habit is really easy. Practicing a regular maintenance routine is a good way to keep your guitar in tip-top condition.

So start by changing your strings and try out these tips. You’re sure to hear the difference a clean guitar makes!