From The Factory | March 23, 2022

Guitar Care Tips

Cleaning and Polishing Your Guitar

by Kristi Bronico

If you recently purchased an acoustic guitar, congratulations! A good instrument is an investment and, like anything else that is valuable to you, it will need some care and maintenance. 

Some common questions that we get are “How do I clean and polish my guitar?”, “How often should I clean my guitar?” and “How do I clean the fingerboard?”. We are going to answer these questions today so you can keep your guitar looking and sounding great for a lifetime. Or maybe even several lifetimes! Please note that we will reference “guitar” throughout this post, but you can apply the same practices to your ukulele.

Before we get into the cleaning and polishing nitty-gritty (pun intended!), I want to mention that the best way to clean your guitar is to keep it clean by washing your hands before you pick it up and by storing it in its case when not in use. That being said, we all have natural oils in our skin, including our fingers, and the guitar is also exposed to environmental elements that are often out of our control.

How Often Should You Clean Your Guitar?

We recommend getting in the habit of wiping down your guitar after you are done playing it for the day and doing this every time you play it. This is very easy and only takes a few minutes. But, yes, we get it. You won’t always do that and, even if you do, your guitar will need to be cleaned periodically when fingerprints and other gunk build up.

How to clean your guitar?

This part is pretty straightforward. You can simply take a soft cloth and gently wipe the guitar down on all sides, up the neck, and even go over the strings and the tuning machines. We sell a great guitar cloth in the 1833 shop and on our website here. You can also use a soft t-shirt or similar soft material. You want to wipe it down anywhere that your body touched the finish because you want to wipe off any of your skin oils that may have transferred to the guitar. 

If you really want to give your guitar some extra care, you can try our Luxe by Martin Guitar Detailer. It is a premium wax that cleans and protects all surfaces of guitars. Developed exclusively with Zymöl™, this is the ultimate natural cleaner and protectant and it comes in a quick, single-use packet containing a wax-infused towelette so you can always keep a few in your guitar case. Formulated with all-natural ingredients this cleaner-wax combo is safe for all guitar surfaces. If you want to give it a try, you can find it here.

How to Polish Your Guitar

Some people like to use polish on their guitar to give it some extra shine. But keep in mind that the guitar’s finish is porous so you don’t want to use a harsh polish with a lot of chemicals because you could do more harm than good. If you really want to use a polish, you can feel safe using the polish/cleaner that we sell in our 1833 Shop and on our website here. It is designed to be used sparingly and all you have to do is spritz a small amount on the guitar top and then take the soft cloth and wipe it across the surface in a circular motion. It cleans quickly and self-dries, so you just go over the surface lightly to make sure you get all the excess polish off. Then turn the rag over to the dry side and wipe it again, just like you would if you’re polishing your car or anything else. You can repeat those steps on the back and sides of the guitar. 

Please be mindful when you are working with an instrument that has a satin finish. You don’t want to spend a lot of time rubbing a satin finish with a cloth because it will cause the finish to get shiny and you don’t want that with a satin finish. 

There are no abrasives in our polish, so you don't have to worry about it scratching the finish if your cloth is clean and free of debris. This is why it’s so important to wipe it down with a soft, dry cloth before you use polish.

How to Clean the Fretboard

When it comes to cleaning the fingerboard, it’s best to clean it when you are changing your strings, because you will have easy access to it. There are some products that slide between the strings and the fretboard if you want to give it a once over more often. But with the strings off, you can take a soft cloth (best to start with a fresh one) and wipe off the fingerboard and frets. 

You can also take a minimally abrasive steel wool and lightly rub it along the fingerboard and the fret wire. This will help shine up the frets and clean off any excess gunk that the cloth didn’t take care of. Remember, this is the part that your fingers are touching the whole time you play, and grime can build up even if your hands are always clean.

You can also condition your fingerboard and bridge because there's no finish on them. They are basically raw wood with a little bit of stain. You only need to do this one or two times a year, depending on the humidity, just to make sure that wood stays moist, so it doesn’t crack over time. For this, there are a few different products you can try. One is 3-In-1 Oil and another Dr. Duck’s Axe Wax. You can also check with your local guitar retailer for their recommended products and follow the instructions on the package.

I hope this information is helpful to you and, remember, if you love your guitar, it will love you back!

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