Tuners are essential for keeping a guitar’s strings in tune. If you can’t turn those tuners, you’ll have problems.

Over time, tuners can get rusty, especially if they are regularly exposed to humidity or moisture. If they rust shut, you won’t be able to turn them again.

Therefore, if you notice that your guitar tuner is developing rust, you should remove it as soon as possible, or it will worsen. So, do you remove rust from guitar tuners? Keep reading because that’s what we’ll discuss.

How to Remove Rust from Guitar Tuners

Removing rust from guitar tuners should take only a few steps, especially if the buildup is not too severe. However, as you will see, if the buildup is severe, there are additional steps you can take.

Loosen and Remove the Strings

First, you’ll have to remove the strings from the guitar’s headstock to remove rust from the tuners. Then, turn all the tuning pegs clockwise to loosen the strings.

If you plan on saving the strings, simply take them out of the little hole on the tuning peg; if you are replacing them, you can cut them using wire cutters. However, don’t cut the guitar strings while there is still tension on them, as they can snap back and hurt you.

Remove the Guitar Tuners

The next step is to remove the guitar tuners from the guitar’s headstock. To do this, you will likely need a Phillips head screwdriver. Next, flip the guitar over so that rear of the headstock is facing upwards.

You will see some very small screws on the tuning pegs that must be unscrewed and removed.  However, if you have a guitar with nuts instead of screws holding the tuning pegs to the headstock, use a wrench to loosen them. Then, with the nuts or screws removed, you can remove the tuners from the guitar.

How to Remove Rust from Guitar Tuners

Soak the Tuners in Vinegar

One of the best things to remove rust from the tuners on your guitar is vinegar. Vinegar’s properties allow it to loosen up and remove rust without you having to do any scrubbing.

Therefore, soak the tuners in pure vinegar for at least one hour. If the rust is severe, you might have to soak them for longer. Once you remove them from the vinegar, you should notice quite a difference. However, if there is still rust remaining, move on to the next step.

Soak the Tuners in Rust Remover

Professional rust remover chemicals are available if vinegar doesn’t work. The method you will use will depend on the product you are using.

However, generally, it will involve spraying it onto the tuning pegs and letting it sit, followed by scrubbing it off. Then, once the tuners have soaked in the rust remover, move on to the following step.

Scrub the Tuners with Steel Wool

Now, you’ll need pretty durable steel wool. Use this steel wool and scrub the rust off the tuners. Steel wool is a fantastic tool, but it might not be able to get into tiny cracks.

Use Fine Tools to Remove Remaining Rust

To remove any remaining rust from the guitar tuners, such as in cracks in small spaces, you will need an assortment of small tools. Dental tools are best for this job, although anything very thin, long, and sharp may work. Use the tool to scrape away any remaining rust that steel wool didn’t remove.

Reattach the Guitar Tuners and Strings

With all the rust removed, the only thing left is to reattach the tuners to the guitar and then attach the strings.

Put the tuners back in their appropriate locations, and use either your wrench to tighten the nuts or a Phillips head screwdriver to tighten the screws

Ensure you have tightened the tuners so that they won’t wobble. Then, take your strings, put them through the small holes on the tuners, and turn the tuners counterclockwise to tighten the strings. Now you can use a clip-on tuner to properly tune the strings.


Removing rust from guitar tuners is not that difficult, although it may take some time. However, if the tuners are exceptionally rusty and can’t move, you may want to consider replacing them.

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