People are often so concerned with playing the guitar properly that there is one crucial element they forget. What we are talking about here is cleaning a guitar.
Most people go the first few years without ever even thinking about cleaning their guitar. That said, keeping your guitar clean is essential. Of course, this is true in terms of the way it looks.
However, even more important is its functionality. This is especially the case when it comes to the fretboard of your guitar. Simply put, a dirty fretboard makes it much harder to play the guitar properly.
Therefore, today, how to clean a guitar fretboard is exactly what we are going to teach you. It’s not an overly difficult process, although you will need the right tools, and the good deal of time as well.
How to Clean Guitar Fretboard: Step by Step
Right now, we’re going to go through an in depth tutorial on exactly how to clean a guitar fretboard. By the end of today, you should be left with a clean and pristine fretboard.
1. Gather Your Supplies
The first thing that you need to do here is to gather your supplies. First, you are going to need grade #0000 steel wool. You will also need guitar fretboard oil. You will then also need a roll of masking tape, a towel, a work mat, neck support (to prop up the guitar), string cutters, a dust mask, and a plastic scraper of some sort. Once you have gathered all of your supplies, move on to the next step.
2. Prepare Your Guitar Cleaning Workspace
You now want to prepare the space that you are going to use to clean your guitar fretboard. Being organized certainly helps. If you are working on your kitchen table, you definitely want to put that guitar work mat down.
This will help protect the bottom of the guitar from any damage. It will also help prevent any debris from getting on your table. At the same time, you also want to put the guitar neck support underneath the neck of the guitar. This will further help prevent damage from occurring.
3. Remove the Guitar Strings
To clean the fretboard of your guitar, you need to be able to get to the fretboard. This means that you need to remove the strings.
You do first want to loosen the strings before you use the string cutters to cut them. If you cut the strings while they are at full tension they will snap back. This can be dangerous and can potentially cause injuries.
If you happen to have a guitar that has a floating tremolo, you first want to block it by putting something soft below it. This will help to prevent it from tilting backwards and going into the cavity or resting on the body of the guitar. You can use something like a large block eraser, or anything else of the sort, to block it.
4. Protect the Important Components
Here is where you are going to use low tack masking tape to protect all of the crucial aspects of the guitar. When you go to clean the fretboard, steel particles from the steel wool are going to get everywhere.
You want to prevent these from causing damage to your guitar. You also want them from sticking to the pickups, in the event that you have an electric guitar.
On a side note, the reason why you want to use low tack masking tape is because it won’t ruin the finish of your guitar. If your tape is way too sticky, it might actually pull some of the finish right off.
If you have an acoustic guitar, you want to completely cover the large sound hole. You want to cover any and all metal aspects using that masking tape. This is especially the case with any metal components that you might touch with the steel wool.
However, one thing you do not need to cover are the fret wires. In fact, your steel wool is actually going to nicely shine and polish these. The bottom line is that more or less anything and everything that can be damaged by the steel wool should be covered with masking tape.
5. Scrape in Between the Frets
You’re now going to use a plastic scraper to scrape in between the frets. You can use any kind of plastic card for this purpose. Just be sure that you scrape with the grain, not against or across it.
You do need to exercise caution here, because you don’t want the wood to get scratched. This is also the point where you want to put on your dust mask to prevent yourself from inhaling dirt.
You should now have a bunch of gunk on your fretboard. After the scraping has been completed, use a vacuum to suck it all up. If you haven’t gotten it all yet, repeat the scraping process, and then vacuum again.
At this point, the fretboard of your guitar should be fairly clean. However, we aren’t going for fairly clean, we’re going for perfect. Let’s move on and put that steel wool to use.
6. Take the Steel Wool to the Fretboard
What you’re going to do now is to rub in between all of the frets with your steel wool. This is going to remove any remaining debris. It’s also going to help polish the fretboard a little bit.
Once again, rub with the grain of the wood, not against it. If you rub against or across the grain, you’re going to leave extremely visible marks. Once the desired result has been achieved, get your vacuum, and suck up all of the steel wool particles and debris.
7. Remove the Tape & Apply Fretboard Oil
You now want to very carefully remove all of the masking tape. Once all of the masking tape has been removed, the only step left is to apply the fretboard oil. Apply some fretboard oil to the fretboard, just a few drops.
Then, use something like a soft cotton cloth or a microfiber towel to rub it in. Rub it in, and then let it sit for a few minutes. Then, use a new and dry cloth to wipe off any excess oil.
You should now have a perfectly clean and brand new looking fretboard. Of course, the one step left here is to put new strings on your guitar.
How to Clean a Guitar Fretboard – Final Thoughts
The one tip we have for you here is to be very thorough and cautious. You want to be thorough enough to remove all debris, yet cautious enough to prevent damaging your guitar. If you follow all of the steps as outlined above, you should have a perfectly clean fretboard within about an hour.