Best Way to Clean Your Electric Guitar

A well-maintained electric guitar not only looks and feels great but also performs at its best. Regular cleaning is essential to preserving your instrument’s appearance, playability, and longevity. But many new players don’t know a safe and effective way to do this and end up wondering “what is the best way to clean my guitar?”. In this guide, I walk you through the process of cleaning your electric guitar in the best possible way, covering everything from the tools and products you’ll need to expert tips and techniques. Additionally, will also provide some more detailed information for the advanced users towards the end of the article, so read on!

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Start With Gather Your Cleaning Tools and Products

Before you begin, gather the following tools and products:

  1. Soft, lint-free cloths
  2. Guitar polish or cleaner
  3. String cleaner or lubricant
  4. Fretboard oil or conditioner
  5. Small brush (such as an old toothbrush)
  6. Screwdriver (for removing hardware if necessary)
  7. Guitar string winder and cutter (optional)

Step-by-Step Guide to Cleaning Your Electric Guitar

Follow these steps to thoroughly clean your electric guitar:

1. Remove the strings:

Before cleaning, remove the strings from your guitar. This allows for easier access to all areas of the instrument and prevents dirt and grime from spreading. Use a string winder to speed up the process, and a cutter to snip the strings if they are difficult to remove.

2. Clean the body:

Begin by wiping down the guitar body with a dry, lint-free cloth to remove any surface dust or dirt. Next, apply a small amount of guitar polish or cleaner to a clean cloth and gently rub it onto the guitar’s surface in a circular motion. Avoid using regular household cleaners, as they may damage the finish. Once you’ve applied the polish, use a separate clean cloth to buff the surface, restoring the guitar’s shine.

3. Clean the fretboard:

Over time, the fretboard can accumulate dirt, sweat, and oils from your fingers. To clean it, start by using a small brush to remove any loose debris. Next, apply a small amount of fretboard oil or conditioner to a clean cloth and gently rub it onto the fretboard, focusing on one fret at a time. It is best to use a guitar cleaning cloth specifically, as not to damage your guitar. This will help to condition the wood and prevent it from drying out. After applying the oil, use a separate clean cloth to remove any excess and buff the fretboard. See below for a more advanced tutorial on how to best clean your fretboard in more detail.

4. Clean the hardware:

The hardware on your electric guitar, including the tuning machines, bridge, and pickups, can become tarnished or corroded over time. Use a small brush to clean any dust or dirt from these components. For more thorough cleaning, consider removing the hardware using a screwdriver and gently polishing it with a clean cloth. Be cautious when cleaning the pickups, as they contain magnets that can attract metal particles. Will will focus again on the process of cleaning the guitar pots specifically in another section.

5. Clean the strings (if reusing):

If you’re planning to reuse your strings, clean them with a string cleaner or lubricant (yes some people reuse their strings). Apply the cleaner to a cloth and gently rub it along the length of each string. This will help to remove dirt and grime and prolong the life of the strings. Remember to wipe off any excess cleaner before restringing your guitar. A string lubricant I recommend with high regard is Finger Ease; it does an amazing job of preserving and keeping your strings clean.

A better option is to clean the strings and then repurpose them for something new like a piece of art or home decoration. You can read my article on repurposing old guitar strings to get a ton of ideas!

6. Restring your guitar:

Once your electric guitar is clean, it’s time to restring it. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for string gauge and type, and use a string winder to make the process more efficient.

Expert Tips and Best Practice

Here are some tips to get you started, from the experts!

1. Clean your guitar regularly:

To keep your electric guitar in top condition, clean it regularly, ideally after each use. A quick wipe down with a dry cloth can help to remove sweat, oils, and dust before they have a chance to accumulate.

2. Pay attention to the environment:

Store your electric guitar in a stable, climate-controlled environment to prevent damage from fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Excessive humidity can cause swelling and warping of the wood, while low humidity can lead to cracking and shrinking.

3. Use the right products:

Invest in cleaning products specifically designed for electric guitars to avoid damaging the instrument’s finish or components. Avoid using household cleaners, abrasive materials, or alcohol-based products, as they can harm your guitar.

4. Keep an eye on the frets:

Over time, frets can accumulate grime and become tarnished. Use a small brush or cloth to clean around the frets gently. If you notice significant wear or damage, consider taking your guitar to a professional for a fret dress or replacement.

5. Polish hardware sparingly:

While it’s essential to keep your guitar’s hardware clean, over-polishing can wear down the plating and finish. Polish your hardware only when necessary and avoid using abrasive materials that can scratch or damage the surface.

6. Maintain your electronics:

Regularly check your electric guitar’s electronics, including the pickups, input jack, and control knobs, for signs of wear or damage. Clean these components with a dry cloth or a brush and avoid using liquids that could damage the electronic components. If you notice any issues with your guitar’s electronics, consult a professional for repair or replacement.

For your reference I have included a YouTube video to help the visual learners get the basics of cleaning your own guitar.

Advanced Section: In-Depth Techniques for Guitar Fretboard Cleaning and Cleaning Guitar Pots

So, you’ve learned the basics of cleaning your guitar and maintaining its pristine condition, but what about more advanced techniques? In this section, I will dive deeper into guitar fretboard cleaning and cleaning guitar pots, ensuring your instrument stays in top shape for years to come.

Guitar Fretboard Cleaning: Going Beyond the Basics

A well-maintained guitar fretboard not only looks great but also helps your guitar sound its best. Here are some advanced techniques for guitar fretboard cleaning:

a) Hydration:

One crucial aspect of cleaning a guitar fretboard is ensuring that it remains hydrated. A dry fretboard can crack and warp, which will affect your guitar’s playability. When cleaning your fretboard, consider using a specially-formulated fretboard conditioner or lemon oil to keep the wood moisturized. Apply a small amount of the product onto a soft cloth, and gently rub it into the fretboard, avoiding contact with the frets.

b) Fret Polishing:

Over time, your guitar’s frets can become tarnished and dirty, affecting playability and intonation. To polish the frets, you can use ultra-fine steel wool or a specialized fret polishing product. Before polishing, make sure to cover your guitar’s pickups and body with masking tape to prevent any damage. Gently rub the polishing material along each fret, moving up and down the neck until all frets are clean and shiny.

c) Fretboard Deep Cleaning:

For a thorough fretboard cleaning, you may want to remove the strings from your guitar. This allows you to access the entire fretboard and clean it more effectively. Use a soft brush or cloth to remove any accumulated grime and dust. Then, apply a small amount of fretboard cleaner to a soft cloth and gently clean the fretboard, focusing on areas with stubborn dirt. A product such as the MusicNomad Total Fretboard Care kit is a perfect example of something you can purchase that has all the required cleaning agents and cloths.

Cleaning Guitar Pots: Ensuring Optimal Performance

Guitar pots, or potentiometers, control the volume and tone of your instrument. Over time, they can become dirty and cause crackling sounds or erratic behavior when adjusting the knobs. Here are some advanced techniques for cleaning guitar pots:

a) Disassembly:

To clean guitar pots effectively, you may need to remove the knobs and access the potentiometers themselves. Start by loosening the strings and carefully removing the knobs from your guitar. This may require a small flathead screwdriver to pry them off gently.

b) Contact Cleaner for Guitar Pots:

A specialized contact cleaner for guitar pots, such as DeoxIT or another reputable brand, is the best choice for cleaning these components. These cleaners are specifically designed to remove dirt and grime without causing damage to the delicate electrical components.

Deoxit cleaning solution for cleaning guitar pots

c) Cleaning Procedure:

With the potentiometers exposed, spray a small amount of contact cleaner into the openings of each pot. After spraying, turn the potentiometer back and forth several times to help distribute the cleaner and dislodge any dirt or debris. Allow the contact cleaner to evaporate fully before reassembling your guitar.

d) Preventative Maintenance:

Regular cleaning of your guitar pots can help prevent issues and extend their lifespan. Consider cleaning your pots every six months to a year, depending on how often you play and the environment in which you store your guitar.

By utilizing these advanced techniques for guitar fretboard cleaning and cleaning guitar pots, you can ensure that your instrument remains in excellent condition and performs at its best. Proper maintenance is essential for any guitarist, and these methods will help you keep your guitar looking and sounding fantastic for years to come.

Conclusion

Proper cleaning and maintenance of your electric guitar are vital for preserving its appearance, playability, and longevity. By following this comprehensive guide and using the appropriate tools and techniques, you can keep your instrument in top condition and enjoy its optimal performance for years to come. Remember that regular care and attention will not only make your guitar look and feel great but also contribute to a better playing experience.

Conclusions of Best Way to Clean Your Electric Guitar

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