Get The Most Out Of Your Strings

Here I will give you some tips, both obvious and not so obvious, that will help the budget guitarist get the most life out of his or her strings. Please note that this works with most string types.

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As I have noticed that the coated strings are becoming ever more popular, the price for these "everlasting" strings keeps rising and rising. However, for those of you whom do not want to pay $10 or more for a pair of strings that may only last you a month or two, I have a few tips to get that cheap $5 pair of strings to last almost just as long as those super-duper coated strings. Here is how you can "coat" almost any of your favorite guitar strings: 1. When you purchase a new pair of strings, do not put the strings on the guitar yet. Instead if the strings come in a bag, then just tear a hole in the bag, or if they come in paper or other packaging, then put them in a small zip-lock bag or sandwhich bag. 2. Grab a can of WD40 or other similar product and spray a light coat on the strings while they are still in the bag. Let them sit up to 30 minutes. This will allow the WD40 to soak in to the wound wire and will create an overall even coating that is both water and tarnish resistant. Best of all, WD40 does not create a slick or otherwise noisy coat that will create finger sliding feedback while your guitar is plugged in. 3. Once you have soaked your strings with WD40, take a bottle of lemon oil and apply a small amount on a soft cotton rag. You can then use the rag to wipe any debri or grime off your fretboard and frets. This will give you a clean start so that any previous debri does not automatically start attacking your strings as soon as you install them. (please note that you should make sure to test the lemon oil in a small spot before using as in some instances it may remove small bits of finish or laquer on a fretboard & make sure that the fretboard is the only place you apply the lemon oil) 4.You may now install your new "coated" strings onto your guitar. Now, here are some tips that will even further the life of your strings: 1. When your strings become dirty and start losing their "sound", you may apply a small amount of WD40 or lemon oil (both will remove grime) to a soft cotton cloth. Then loosen your strings and wipe the strings down with a light squeezing pressure from your hands so that the oil gets down and removes the grime and dirt. WD40 and lemon oil are both great products to use in removing dirt because the oil actually gets down in the coils of the wire and will break up the compressed dirt and then the cloth (along with pressure from your hand) will help remove it completely. When done wiping down, carefully tighten your strings and tune them back to however you like. 2. The number one cause for string decay is the grime and sweat that is transferred from your hand to your strings when playing. To greatly reduce the amount of dirt that is transferred, wash your hands before playing your guitar (especially when you have brand new strings). This is by far the best method of making your strings last longer and I swear by this method as every time I play my guitar I wash my hands before hand. This has allowed me to get my D'addario strings to last up to 3 months in which they still sound almost as great as when I first purchased them. 3. One thing that I do while changing strings is to completely condition and clean my guitar. As this sounds kind of stupid, you are removing your strings from the guitar, so you have a chance to get all the hard to reach spaces along your fretboard and pickups that are normally hard to clean when strings are installed. I normally just use some wood polish or other product that is safe on the wood and finish of your guitar. I wipe the entire guitar down and remove almost all finger prints. I also take a Q-tip and clean out the dust along my pickups. This method not only removes some dirt buildup that could possibly effect your strings, it also just gives you a clean, shiny, and in most cases better sounding guitar (since grime often dampens the sound of your guitar). I hope this has at least given you some ideas and will help some people that do not wish to purchase coated strings such as Elixer strings. I am in no way saying that any string is better over the other, but I do prefer this method over purchasing "coated" strings as they cost much more than I am willing to spend for one set of electric guitar strings. I also must tell you that while these products have in no way harmed my guitar, I urge you to test products like WD40 or lemon oil in a small spot before using all over the entire guitar. This way, you will prevent any large damage that could result. Lastly, this is my first lesson so I hope that this was a satisfactory tutorial. If you feel that I could improve upon this lesson, please feel free to leave CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. If you do not like my methods of "coating my strings", feel free to post any other products or cheap DIY methods in a calm and non-aggressive manner. Thanks and I hope everyone gets a long string life by using these methods/tips.

35 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    sewoo55
    i'm really surprised by the fact that most of these comments here are positive. i tried the wd40 method. the strings were smoother and easier to play on, but the tone suffered ALOT. guys, use the GHS fast fret instead. do NOT use the wd40 on any music instrument. ever
    rockula
    I know it doesnt have nothing to do with the article but I have to say the congratulations movin ad and its noise are more than I can relaxedly stand.U.G. could do somethin about it I guess. Yeah and keep your instruments clean. Its a good advice.
    ten_years_after
    im going to try this next time. i live in florida where theres 24/7 humidity, i have to replace my strings every 2 weeks even when i keep it in a case, wash my hands, ect
    decamel
    Just a note to some that might try this ... I've found that it is a bit more even coating if you leave the strings in WD40 for 24 hours or so. You can also add a small amount of baby oil gel on a clean lint free cloth and wipe that on to the fret board after cleaning it. Though bare in mind that you will have to clean your fret board at a later time. The pluses to doing that though at that it gives a nice shine. It's all natural (if you get the right kind, please check the label) and adds some protection to the fret board and frets. Don't over do it though on the baby oil or you will notice the sound different and have slick fingers after.
    b_sin
    im trying this right now - two weeks in of intermittent playing: no real sign of anything coming up, most of the things make sense: WD-40 has its safe stuff as well as some bad stuff, thats why i just wipe clean with petroleum distillate key oil (originally for my clarinet) rather than wd-40. and oh, if you really dont like that oily feel, wipe it again after with a clean cloth, oil is a pretty good wetting agent so wiping with a cloth won't make all that hard wd-40 work go away. personally i have no complaints...just trying to get my head around on the 'soaking idea' and whether it is confirmed a sounds practice... ah well i guess i have to wait and see, great article
    merrihew
    I use WD40 after awhile, but not prior to stringing. I think strings sound best when new (duh!). I have a Monster 1200watt steamer that I have used to clean the strings. I put a towel under the strings, blast the strings, fold over the towel, and wipe the strings. Then, I hit it with some Wd 40. I agree with your technique, it sounds right. The steam thing really cleans off the strings well. New strings are overrated, in my opinion. Even, if you play out a lot, the electronics and technique are way more important.
    andrew ward
    WD40 is great for all kinds of jobs,the only problem i have with it is the smell its quite strong and tends to linger around for a while not great if your in a confined space
    wesleyteoh93
    An amazing article! Quick question with regards to conditioning and cleaning the guitar however, what exactly do you use?
    andyboygenius
    I agree with DriHeaves. In my opinion, and these are all opinions written here folks is that it is a really bad idea to put WD40 or RP7 and its equivalents on guitar stings born anywhere near your guitar in any quantity. One of its confirmed ingredients is fish oil which if left undisturbed as a coating will provide antirust properties and repel water as its intended use. However...ON guitar strings you might get some anti rust action until your fingers wears it off, it will be finding its way into your pickups and fretboard leaving a residue that will attract gunk. Use Olive oil or lemon oil SPARINGLY. Don't be a tight arse strings on ebay are so cheap now das and play your guitar enough to wear those babies out. Or buy plastic coated ones and suck it up buttercup!
    sixwheeledbeast
    Some good stuff in here but don't like the sound of the WD-40. I work with motorbikes alot and i know that ... WD40 - water dispersal 40th edition - Generally should be used to clean/disperse before using a lubricant. When the surface breaks after a week or two, it can accelerate corrosion in some cases. This is why you have to re-apply regularly. It has a horrible smell and not something you want on your fingers on a daily basis, as they recommend using gloves on the can. As for washing your hands before playing, lem-oil on the fretboard and general cleaning spot on. I'd prefer to get a pro-pack of strings and save that way I am sure it's just as cost effective. I have also heard twanging your braided strings after playing removes dead skin and dust.
    metalonastrat
    dark templar wrote: I tried this once and it worked! soaked my new strings in vinegar, i don't know what happened but that set lasted over 4 months, frequent playing almost everyday, never cleaned them after installing, the sound was still brilliant until the high E snapped so I had to change after 4 months
    lol, the vinegar chewed through it. seriously though, this really worked?
    AXmichigan
    im not sure, since you mention electric but not acoustic strings does this method only apply to electric? or it for both? (great article by the way!)
    shino_namikaze
    WD-40 is a fine product and has many uses, but it is not real contact cleaner. It leaves a sticky residue that can attract dust.
    retka
    For those of you who asked about accoustic strings: I do not play my accoustic guitar nearly as much as my electric, so I do not often change the strings on it. However, I have not had any problem with these methods on accoustic strings. Hope that helps!
    jtbull
    sounds good. The only thing I may have included is to mention some brand names. I may try this as i have been using dr 10s and i think i spend $9 per set, but thought about using ernie ball.
    21fretz
    very nice,thanks for those tips ..save me a couple bucks..i've been using Fast-Fret but it doesn't work all that well..time to move on to WD40
    retka
    Ahh yes....I did forget to mention what blusebreaker says above. WD40 does in fact work great to remove any rust from metal parts....so you dont have to keep replacing rusty screws. Also, I have not used Fast-Fret before as I have had no reason to switch from WD40. However, things like fast fret may also work. I have not really experimented with different "mass-marketed" products that specifically are meant for coating your strings. Some of them may work....and some of them may not work. I do urge you to try out these products if you can get small cans or trial sizes (or just borrow some from your friend) as these may well be acceptable solutions also. Also, I did not tell you guys in my tutorial that when you use the WD40 to clean your strings when they get dirty....you are also "re-coating" your strings....so when your strings get dirty you can both clean and recoat at the same time!!!
    7footman
    As for washing your hands... Reguardless of how well you wipe the strings after the WD-40 treatment, there will still be a residue, and it will actually attract the dirt from your skin. So wash them filthy hands, and keep it in a case. Great article.
    bluesyriffer
    Good Info...not just when you change strings but Also after playing and sweating all over your guitar make sure to wipe your strings,neck and guitar down with a soft rag before returning to the case,this stops any decay from your body oils and acids
    moto_psycho
    Wow, apparantly I lied What does WD-40 contain? While the ingredients in WD-40 are secret, we can tell you what WD-40 does NOT contain. WD-40 does not contain silicone, kerosene, water, wax, graphite, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), or any known cancer-causing agents. Still would avoid skin contact though, Ive worked with it enough and practically bathed in the stuff, I know its not good for your skin.
    dark templar
    I tried this once and it worked! soaked my new strings in vinegar, i don't know what happened but that set lasted over 4 months, frequent playing almost everyday, never cleaned them after installing, the sound was still brilliant until the high E snapped so I had to change after 4 months
    cyborg_monkey
    Good article, very helpfull when it comes to maintenance. Still, i dont see why and extra $5 is to much to ask for decent quality srings every couple of months. Besides, grimy guitars give a more grungy feel. Mine does anyway.
    yaaarp
    Sorry but what is WD40? And can you clean & re-coat elixir strings?
    plochp
    this is great another good thing to do is to clean the strings when you finish playing XD
    cueva101
    i think buying strings already coated is beter but the cleaning and washing hands is real good never thought of that i ave some elixer strings and um ive had them for about a month and a half and there gets kind of old
    bluesbreaker88
    Great article, ill be trying that WD40 tip next time i change strings. Another use for WD40 ive found is its great for cleaning rusty screws on things such as the pickup mounts....no guitarst should be without it