Tips to Clean Your Guitar
One of the best ways to take care of your guitar, and the easiest part of guitar maintenance, is cleaning your guitar.
Simple enough, right?
Dirt, dust, sweat, skin oil, spilled drinks, smoke, and a multitude of other things can dirty and age guitars.
Luckily, there are a few preventative measures you can take that will go a long way in prolonging your guitar's life and keeping it clean.
We'll go over the best ways to clean a guitar in the article below. These tips can work for an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar.
Table of Contents
- How Does Your Guitar Get So Dirty?
- How Can I Keep My Guitar Clean?
- How To Clean Your Guitar
How Does Your Guitar Get So Dirty?
How dirty your guitar gets depends a lot on where you play and for how long.
If you gig a lot on the weekends, you and your guitar are probably used to sweltering stages and intense stage lights.
Playing in that kind of environment is a ton of fun but it likely makes you sweat, and that's your guitar's arch enemy. Other than a quiet amp, but that's a completely different topic!
Sweat is the kryptonite to your guitar because it not only makes your guitar's finish look bad, it can actually wear away the lacquer and cause irreparable damage to your fretboard over time.
If you sweat heavy enough, it can also reach and damage the electrical components of your guitar, causing rust and even more technical headaches.
On the other hand, if you practice for an hour or so a day in an air-conditioned room or studio, keeping your guitar clean won't be much of a chore.
How Can I Keep My Guitar Clean?
If you sweat a lot and you do need to clean your guitar, we should first talk about keeping your guitar from getting so dirty in the first place.
If you don't want to regularly clean your guitar, knowing what to do to keep it cleaner longer is important.
Make Sure Your Hands Are Clean Before You Play Guitar
Everyone is washing their hands more often these days, so there's no reason not to wash your hands before you pick up your favorite six-stringed instrument.
Many players already do this, but you would be surprised at the number of musicians who pick up their instruments after eating greasy food and then wonder why their guitar is covered in fingerprints.
Washing your hands is such a simple thing to do, so you should start doing it right away if you aren't already.
Not sure if your hands are impacting your guitar? Take a look at your strings. Is there a color mis-match where you typically play?
This will keep your guitar clean, and it will lengthen the life of your guitar strings.
Washing your hands will save you time and money in the long run because you won't have to buy new strings as often or spend hours changing them.
Keep Your Guitar In A Case
If you like to keep your guitar out on display, you probably don't want to hear this. But, it would be best if you keep your guitar in a case.
The major downside of leaving your guitar out is that it will accumulate a lot of dust.
Dust isn't as harmful as sweat, but if enough dust accumulates, it can build up in the crevices of your guitar, affecting its electronics (if it has any) and its functionality over time.
If you've ever noticed a crackling sound when you move your guitar's pickup selector or volume, it is usually caused by dust.
This can be easily remedied by removing the cavity plate on the back of your guitar and blowing the dust out.
When your guitar isn't in its case, it is exposed to everything else around it.
So, just put your guitar back in its case when you aren't using it. It will keep the dust off of it and protect it from everything else around it. You can show it off later.
How To Clean Your Guitar
Before we get started, here's a list of the things you will need to clean your guitar properly:
- Paint cleaning clay
- Microfiber cloths
- Guitar polish
- Polish pad
- Guitar wax
- Guitar detailer
If you don't have guitar polish, wax, or detailer, you can substitute them for their car cleaning counterparts.
You can purchase most of the products easily online or from big box stores or music stores. If you already have car cleaning products lying around, they will work just fine on your guitar.
Paint cleaning clay looks a lot like modeling clay, and it can be purchased online or in an auto parts store.
This is probably the last thing you'd think of using when cleaning your guitar, but it works every time.
While you're at the store, pick up some quick detailing spray to act as a lubricant as you slide the paint-cleaning clay back and forth. When you do this, you are removing dirt, gunk, grime, and other contaminants.
You should be able to hear the clay picking up the contaminants as you clean.
When you're done, the finish of your guitar will be very smooth, and you will restore some of its lost gloss. When you're done with the clay, wipe down your guitar with dry cloth, or preferably, a microfiber cloth.
Microfibers cloths are made from thousands of tiny loops that will trap the dirt in its fibers without scratching your paint.
It would be best if you never used steel wool, paper towels, socks, a t-shirt, or the like because they tend to scratch guitars.
This step can be kind of confusing for some people. Typically when you think of polishing, you think of shining something. But really, when you polish, you are removing light scratches that are embedded in the clear coat.
There are several detailing companies that will make guitar polishes that do exactly that. Sometimes it's called a paint restorer, and these can also be picked up from an auto store.
Just ask them for car paint polish, and make sure it's designed to remove light scratches.
Depending on how damaged your guitar is, there are different polishes available. Most guitars will have at least light scratches caused by clothes, picks, and the like.
Using a small polish pad will get you the best results, and this can also be purchased from an auto parts store.
When you're done, and you have a light haze from the polish in your paint, buff your guitar with your microfiber cloth. When done well, this will leave your instrument fairly scratch-free.
Your guitar's rich, deep color should be restored as well.
Now it's time to wax your guitar. Waxing will protect your now clean and polished pat from oxidation and light scratches.
The best wax to use will be made from 100% Carnauba.
The wax will harden, forming a protective barrier. You can use your microfiber cloth to apply the wax, and after a light haze to buff it out.
Please don't use too much because it can get messy and make the wax hard to remove.
If you do have trouble removing the wax, use your car detailing spray. To make your guitar look brand new again, put on a light coat of wax and let it dry.
Then add another coat of wax, let that one dry, and then buff everything with your microfiber cloth.
This is what most people already have as they've attempted to keep their guitar clean.
Some detailers are labeled as polish, but since we've talked about polish already, we can call them detailers.
After using the clay, polish, and wax, use your detailer every day to wipe off your fingerprints and keep the finish looking glossy.
Use your handy microfiber cloth to do this.
Every once in a while, you will need to clay and polish your guitar again to make sure it stays looking its best.
Turn Your Guitar Passion into a Successful Career
A clean guitar is great, but if you don't have the skill, education, or experience, that's all it is - a clean guitar.
Chances are, if you're reading this article about how to clean and protect your guitar, you are fairly dedicated to the instrument and craft. Why not turn that dedication and passion into a successful career?
It may seem impossible to turn a fun hobby and passion into a financial success, but it truly is not! At the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media, we put our guitarists in the best possible situation to land a successful career in the music industry.
AIMM provides guitarists the opportunity to master the guitar and increase your precision and guitar speed and learn valuable music production techniques. You can even enroll in an online guitar program if you prefer.
Check out our Guitar Programs below and take the first step toward a music career today.
- Music and Technology Associate Degree: Guitar Concentration
- Performance Certificate: Guitar Concentration
- Online Certificate in Music and Technology: Guitar Concentration