#1
Well, you are probably familiar with the dark "gunk" that tends to form on a guitar's neck after a period of daily playing.

When I change the strings I give it a thorough degunking, but here's the thing: I use Elixir strings, and often my guitar's neck gets pretty disgusting before I truly intend to break out a new set. With other brands I used in the past, by that point the strings got rusty and structurally deformed and couldn't play an intonated scale, thus requiring restringing anyway. But with the Elixirs I could probably squeeze several extra weeks if I could just clean the fretboard without removing them.

Does anyone have some technique for doing that? Maybe the name of some simple guitar-cleaning gizmo that's designed to scrub below the strings?

And also, I've seen several people recommend using an old toothbrush to clean the fretboard. Is that really safe? Are the nylon bristles softer than the wood? Does it get gunk out well? Perhaps if it's recommended for cleaning, loosening the strings a bit and going with a toothbrush in between the strings could work.

Thanks in advance.
Last edited by TLGuitar at Apr 26, 2017,
#2
You can loosen the strings, put a piece of blue painter tape around each group of three strings and move them off to the side while you work on them

#4
Quote by TLGuitar
dspellman Why is there a blue tape on the guitar body, though?

Because it's pretty? I really don't remember -- this is Neal Schon's guitar and that photo was taken about 2008/9, maybe. 
Note the rolls of gaffer tape on the side of the guitar -- that's where he sticks his extra picks. 
Other items of interest while we're taking the tour: the neck pickup is not *a* neck pickup -- it's a single coil size Sustainer driver sharing the pickup ring with a DiMarzio Fast Track II, and the two miniswitches behind the Floyd (sorta hard to see in  a crappy phone shot) control the Sustainer. Note, too, the position of the volume knob where that bright flare of light is, between the bridge pickup and the bridge? Behind that is a master tone, and the knob in the lower left is actually a push-pull for a sweepable mids cut, and out of the shot is a Sustainer Intensity pot. He prefers this over the standard LP quad, and these are spread out farther than the standard knob quadrant on an LP. 

The two "digs" in the finish are from his pinky (he anchors just outside the strings) and from the pick digging in (that appears just inside the space between the two pickups). It's a Gibson Neal Schon Sig guitar, and aside from the ones made for him there are somewhere between 35 and 90 of them on the planet (depending on if you talk to Gibson or to Gary Brawer). 
#5
dspellman Hm... interesting, I guess. I meant that I was wondering whether that blue tape being on the guitar's body serves any purpose, after you recommended using it to group the loosened strings together.
#6
A great cleaner for the fingerboard with or without strings is a small nylon pile carpet sample, about 3"x4" or 4"x5" is fine. Your fingerboard will look and feel great and the strings will stay clean and shiny if you apply just a little Chapstick to the carpet sample (make a light "x"). If you give the strings/fingerboard a good 30 strokes up and down after each playing your strings will stay shiny and feel clean for over 100 hours of playing (about the time where they need to be changed for other reasons anyway).

The advantage of Chapstick over other oil products is that it is a wax, does not soak into the finger tips and soften them like oils, and because it is very similar to the natural waxy oils of your hands it feels natural and does not leave the fingerboard feeling "weird" for a few hours... 
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#7
I wouldn't recommend detuning all the strings at once unless you know how to perform your own setups - the tension will be drastically changed and you may screw with the intonation/setup.  I recommend detuning only one string at a time and cleaning around it, then retuning it to picth and detuning the next string - clean under that one etc. That way you are less likely to have issues and have to reset your intonation/setup, saving you time.
#8
Start washing your hands before you pick up your guitar, that will help. And wipe it down after playing. And there's no real substitute for taking the strings off for a really good fret board cleaning. Sure it can be a pain with some bridges, but even with a floyd it can be done. I use a staedler eraser to keep the trem close to the neutral position, remove strings, clean then restring. If one of my rosewood boards gets really dirty, I break out the naptha, clean and then use some conditioner.
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#9
If your guitar has a Floyd Rose you can just pop off the Floyd and clean the fret board.  Then pop the Floyd back on and your all back in tune and never have to loosen or remove the strings.  If you don't have a Floyd I would just wait for a string change to clean it thourughly.  Make a practice of washing your hands before you play, it greatly helps to keep the board clean.  Also if you have a Rosewood or Ebony fret board don't oil it every time you change strings.  Once- 2 times a year is all it needs.  If you over oil, it can damage the fretboard and lift frets and it will also leach out oil and can make the board collect more grime.  If you use some kind of string lube/conditioner don't spray it on the board, just wipe it on the strings and nothing else. It's not good to spray that lube/moisture on it all the time. I would avoid using it completely myself.  
Last edited by Way Cool JR. at Apr 27, 2017,
#10
Washing your hands before you play will help, I use cotton swabs to clean the fretboard without having to remove the strings you'll go through quite a few of them, it won't be as clean as when you give a proper cleaning with the strings off but it will remove most of the gunk.
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#11
Quote by reverb66
I wouldn't recommend detuning all the strings at once unless you know how to perform your own setups - the tension will be drastically changed and you may screw with the intonation/setup.  I recommend detuning only one string at a time and cleaning around it, then retuning it to picth and detuning the next string - clean under that one etc. That way you are less likely to have issues and have to reset your intonation/setup, saving you time.

Nah -- I have none of these issues and remove all the strings at once all the time. If I've got a bridge that might come off, I'll tape it down with blue painter's tape, clean the guitar and then take off the painter tape before re-stringing.  Like Way Cool JR. , I'll pop the Floyd off the guitar with the strings still locked into the saddles, clean everything and then put the Floyd back, re-attach the springs. Most of the time you're still in tune and at the proper tension, etc. 
#13
reverb66 I don't think most guitars actually have problems with this. Probably most people, including me, remove the set completely when changing strings (and wanting to clean). Nothing should break and you introduce the original tension back after you finish restringing. https://music.stackexchange.com/questions/1511/changing-the-strings-one-by-one-or-by-taking-all-strings-off-at-one-time

DarthVWay Cool JR.Evilnine I usually clean my hands, but I don't think it helps THAT much when I end up playing for 2+ hours. And I never oil my fretboard, to be frank.

hotrodney71That seems simple enough. It substitutes dspellman's suggestion of taping the strings together, though in my mind I was wondering whether there's some device that's simply designed to go under the strings and rub the dirt out of the fretboard.

And what about the old toothbrush thing? Do you recommend using it to clean a fretboard?
#14
Clean the fretboard with some lighter fluid and a toothbrush head or a rag. Toothbrushes are good because the bristles help loosen any dirt clogged in the pores of the wood. And no they don't harm anything to use.

Then add a few drops of mineral oil afterwards to replace the moisture that the lighter fluid had evaporated.

I also suggest polishing the frets with a stainless steel fret guard and some 4000 grit polishing paper. That'll remove all the tarnish off the frets without doing any damage to them.
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