You already know what a guitar is. It’s the most popular instrument in the world. It has become part of almost any music style in the world. It’s a beautiful instrument, passionate and with the right player, it could create some of the sweetest sounds. But it’s not just a toy, an object, it’s something much more. It has a soul, it has an identity.
Any respectable guitar player should know how to maintain his instrument. If you want to keep the soul alive, to preserve the good looks, and most importantly – to keep the good quality of the sound, you will have to learn to clean your guitar the proper way.
It doesn’t matter if you have an electric, classical or bass, the guitar has some main components that are always there – neck, strings, fretboard, body. Ornaments and hardware are not hard to clean, so you don’t have to read a special guide for that.
If you have played for awhile you will see how the strings are not as clean as they used to be. The sound might have changed, the looks, the feeling, too. It’s very essential to maintain them regularly. Some players even like cleaning the strings after every play. When you are doing your deep cleaning, you will need more than a simple cloth. Speaking of clothes, always use soft cotton ones. They are the best for cleaning, plus they are cheap – use your old T-shirt even.
You will have to buy a product. There are many homemade recipes for string cleaners, but buying a special product is always the best choice. Go to your local music store, browse the internet for suggestions. Just try finding one with less oil and good for deep cleaning, not only for dusting. Now lubricate a cloth and pinch the wet spot so you can do the strings one by one. Go from end to end. It’s important not to put too much detergent, because you might wet the wood, which will dry it. Always use a fresh cloth.
You will notice how the dirt falls off. You can even use this method with brand new strings, it can improve the feeling.
For this step you can remove the strings. It’s a lot easier for the cleaning part, but re-attaching the strings and tuning them again is really annoying, so it’s up to you. But with the strings off you have better access to the fretboard and the hard to reach parts. Just remember to remove no more than two strings at a time – removing all can damage the neck.
Get a spray from your local provider. Just spray a few times on the body and clean the area firmly with a clean cloth. Do this procedure again on the back. Just polish everything until all the fingerprints, grime and dust is gone. Do this again with the neck. Some people use gloves, preventing the appearance of new prints. That’s it, the body is ready.
It’s very important not to use any home-made, water-based cleaning products. Remember the surface of your fretboard is different from the rest of your guitar. Some liquids can make the wood dry and simply damage it. That’s why you must use specialised products for this part.
Generally, you will just do like before – use a cloth, clean the dirty bits and you are done. But if there is more dirt than normal you might have to use extra fine steel wool. It sounds radical, but it will help you a lot. Just be very, very gentle and try not to touch the metal surfaces. It’s a tricky process, but thankfully you will have to do it two or three times per year.
If your wood is dryer than it has to be, use fretboard conditioners. Every guitar brand offers such products.
All those places – edges, pickups etc, are harder to clean and need more attention. Grab a small soft brush and clean them with it. Always be gentle so you don’t leave scratch marks. If you have rust on some metal elements, be very careful when using rust-dissolving products. They are strong and can damage the wood for good. If you have to, remove the element and clean it separately.
Take good care of your guitar!
Photo Credit: Flickr/Chris Hawes