Top Guitar Care Things You Dont Remember To Do

Guitarists, new and experienced, often overlook the minute aspects of guitar maintenance. While the aspects covered in this list have but small effects on their own, they can really add up to make a guitar more attractive, easier to play, and can increase life longevity.

Ultimate Guitar
Authors Note: While most of these remedies are common, a few are a little far out. For the safety of your instrument, please realize that all methods in this article are simply suggestions and not necessarily recommendations, so don't send me angry emails if you put lighter fluid on your neck accidentally and it get stained! My best friend recently got a nice new Ibanez RG series for a good price. Both of us were surprised and eager to get it home and do some work on it. It needed to be set up, cleaned, and re-strung. Of course, these are the first things that popped in my mind, and by the time my friend came over I had everything from rags to rubbing alcohol to Dunlop 65 polish out on my desk. Ironically, my friend, a player of only about 7 months, came in with a whole set tools that I, a long time performer, didn't even think to grab. I think it's funny that it took a knowledgeable yet new player to make me remember some of the important aspects in guitar care. And I have a feeling many of you readers forget these little things often too. They're quite important little aspects, however, and while each of them individually doesn't have a very huge affect on the playability or sound of the instrument, their effects do all add up, leaving you with an instrument that not only looks nice, but sounds nice as well. The Strings The first major piece of work that is actually overlooked at time is changing strings. Yeah, many people know that strings aren't eternal, but new players quite often are mistaken and will play on the same set for months. As the oils on your fingers saturates the ridges on the strings, their structural integrity begins to diminish and the tone quality does as well. Within the first few weeks, it's not a huge difference in playability. After a few months, however, the quality of sound can really be impacted. There is no set time for which to change strings, because everybody plays different amounts. Generally, I change mine every months, while some people wait about three, and some change every two weeks or so. It's just essential to stay aware of your playing frequency and to change when necessary. Now that we're past the obvious, we can start learning some new tricks which can help in the long run. As stated before, the oils on your fingers damage strings. So how can one stop the degenerative process? Cleaning the strings after playing sessions can remove the oil and keep it from sitting on the strings for too long. Simply wiping the strings with a cloth vigorously after playing will clean off the majority of oil. A variety of wipes are made by companies such as Dunlop and Ernie Ball for the purpose of cleaning strings, and often include chemicals to help strengthen and protect strings from further wear. The Fretboard Next up, the fretboard, which takes just as much punishment as the strings. Oils and dead skin cells can work their way into the wood grain, making it rougher and hindering it's ability to reverberate sounds. The defense is of course prevention; wiping the fretboard down after playing will help remove most oils. Whenever you change your strings, however, it's good to give the fretboard a nice treatment. Wiping down vigorously with a cloth and fretboard oil will help remove grunge, while using fine sand paper and wiping with the grain can also work up dirt. Wood, as an organic compound, has a healthy level of moisture which a player must maintain to keep the natural sound and qualities of the wood. Using a fretboard oil also keeps the wood hydrated, which in turn can not only make the fretboard smoother, but also helps life longevity. The Frets One of the parts of your guitar which can get the absolute dirtiest are the frets. They attract dirt, they tarnish, they get sticky. After removing all your strings, its essential to wipe them. Begin by taping off around the frets; you don't want to sand down the fretboard. Move fret by fret and use 0000 grit steel wool to polish each fret. The steel wool should work off tarnish and make them shine like never before. After wiping them down, ensure that you use a magnet to pick up the steel wool fibers; if not, they can end up sticking to the pickups. Removing Stickers Many guitars often have stickers on them, either from the production line or previous owners. After peeling off the sticker, there may be residue. The quickest way to remove sticker residue is to use either rubbing alcohol on a cloth, or to use a classic household remedy, lighter fluid. Butane doesn't harm wood finishes or lacquer (try at your own risk, however). Pickups As one of the most complex systems in your guitar, the pickups often are overlooked. While they aren't physically handled and don't get dirty often, they can attract dust, which can actually interfere with the magnetic field if built up over time. The obvious and easiest solution is to use compressed air to blow dust off, but another good solution if they are really dirty is to use q-tips with rubbing alcohol on the heads to clean inside the electronics cavities and around electrical equipment. So there's a few tips to help keep your guitar in good shape. With a little care and maintenance, your instrument can stay in almost as good of condition as the day you bought it. Hope you enjoyed the article; feel free to email me with any questions. By Kevin Heiland

25 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I remember when I got my first guitar. I didn't even realise that you needed to change strings for quite some time. Now I'm in the habit of changing strings regularly, because not only does it mean a fresh set (obviously) but it gives me a chance to give the fretboard (and now frets, I've been neglecting them) a good cleaning. Thanks for the tips. Another great article.
    thanks so much....i am pretty bad about most of that stuff but ima do better now.....
    Pretty good article. I have used lighter fluid on my rosewood neck and it works awesome! However, dries is out fast...lemon oil! I have also found that 0000 grade steel wool is great for polishing up the frets.
    good article man. i wonder if there's a fingerboard oil at my local shop..hmm..
    Good article. One thing to keep in mind if you're new to bass is that the strings don't need to be changed as often.
    good article. I think theres plenty more to remember (that said right now I'm drawing a blank!), but a good basis. I recommend to everyone getting a notepad and writing maintainence tasks down as you remember them. Then you can itemise and end up with: - Everytime I play - Every string change - Every 6 months Or something like that anyway... nice one mate! cw
    I just changed my strings yesterday, also using fretboard conditioner for the first time. I've been playing guitar for about a year now and I was baffled by the amount of dirt on my fretboard. Next time I'm changing the strings I'll try to polish my frets as well. Thanks man, this made me more aware of the mess on my fretboard and such. I have an acoustic btw, so I wouldn't really know about the pickups, nor do I have any stickers on it so that's not an issue either. Also, after playing a bit today, I actually noticed there was a lot of grime on my strings (specifically the B and high E strings). Wiping them down really helped a lot! All in all, great article with some great suggestions (as far as I've tried out).
    Kevy Absolution
    This is correct, and perhaps I should say "gunk" instead of "dust". Most dust contains very few metals. However, degenerative metal fibers, like strings, do slowly wear and begin to "peel", somewhat like skin. It takes quite some time to built up enough to interfere with a pickup, but then again it also takes quite some time to actually build up a noticeable amount. In relics and older guitars this is a more prominent problem.
    Kevy Absolution wrote: JayLacelle wrote: umm dust on pickups doesn't affect the magnets... Would you like to argue that, because I can do this all day.
    Please do. I'll start: Dust doesn't interfere with magnetic fields because it's generally not metal, and therefore not magnetic. Let's keep this argument as polite as possible.
    Kevy Absolution
    JayLacelle wrote: umm dust on pickups doesn't affect the magnets...
    Would you like to argue that, because I can do this all day.
    Thanks for the Q-tips idea for The Pickups I've been looking for a way to clean them
    Nice. I knew most of it and, personally, would never put stickers on my guitar. I did find that I neglect some of these things too.
    Haha you might just be exceptionally forgetful! But regardless, good job and the lighter fluid is certainly innovative
    Kevy Absolution
    hellbound_jonny wrote: Good writing, but didn't like the assumption that we all might forget these things- a bit pretentious! But on the other hand, good article.
    Well as I said, these are all things I myself forgot, so it's safe for me to say that others probably do too. :]
    Good writing, but didn't like the assumption that we all might forget these things- a bit pretentious! But on the other hand, good article.
    Oiling the fretboard should only be done once a year or so. Too much oil can lead to buildup in the truss rod cavity and cause glue failure. Maple fingerboards aren't supposed to need oil, but I do it anyway. Other than that, good article.