How to Clean and Polish an Acoustic Guitar
Having to take care of your guitar is a no brainer, but some times we let our guitars go a little too long without maintenance. Before you know it, a year has rolled by and at closer inspection, you notice that your guitar is losing some of it's luster.
It only dawns on you because you broke a string, and as you remove the old set of strings, when you inspect your fret board, you find it dull and dry.
If you live in an area where the weather changes enough to swing 50 degrees or more in any direction, you'll probably have to do this at least once or twice a year. If you live in an area with heavy weather changes, it is probably best to keep your guitar in a case when you're not playing it. This will help to protect your guitar from warping, during it's stretching and shrinking.
It was a nice warm day today, so I took my guitar out on the porch and gave it some tender loving care - it always seems to feel nicer, sound fuller, and play easily after cleaning and polishing.
In this hub, I'll cover the following topics:
- Re-Stringing a Guitar
- Guitar Cleaning
- Fretboard Cleaning
- Guitar Fret Polishing
- How to Polish a Guitar
Re-Stringing a Guitar
Okay, you're looking at cleaning your guitar right? Well, chances are, if your guitar is dirty, you need new strings anyway. Any time you re-string your guitar, you should take the time to do some deep cleaning. Cleaning and polishing your guitar will not only make it look good, but it will add years to the life of your guitar.
Slowly and purposely loosen all strings a little at a time - start by making a half turn on the keys for each string. This way, the guitar won't have too much stress on a few strings only. Since these strings are a safety hazard to you and those around you, make sure to coil your used strings and place them in the bag that your new strings came in. This way, you can safely discard the strings without risk of hurting anyone.
Now that the strings are off, go over every square inch of the guitar to see where your trouble spots for cleaning is - or if your guitar will need repair. Inspect the tuning keys for any rusting or build-up is always a good idea since they are easily overlooked. Look over your frets to see if there are any signs of corrosion - usually a blueish-green color. Inspect the hole for dust or dirt that may give mold or mildew a foothold to start. Look over the ivories and pegs where the string's metal coils will be pegged into place. Look for any damages, cracks, or anything else that may need to be replaced, then decide if it's something you can handle, or send in for professional repair.
This over-view will give you an indication of the condition of your guitar. If everything looks fine, let's continue with the clean-up.
Guitar cleaning is very simple, and easy to do - it is entirely up to you to what extent you want to have your guitar cleaned. If it has been wiped down habitually after every play, you probably don't have too much to worry about. But if you play your guitar like you ride a horse and put it away wet and breathing heavy - you probably need a bit more than a thorough wipe down.
For daily wipe downs, like my iPad and other electronics, I like to use micro-fibered cloths to wipe finger prints and little kiddie smudges off. You can use this to wipe down your guitar, and some of the dust and grime that accumulates.
If your guitar has been through a lot, you'll probably need a little more 'oomph' in your cleaning. I use a soft cloth - an old t-shirt will do - dipped into warm water and some mild dish detergent. Make sure you ring out the cloth before wiping. This will cut any greasy residue and give you a clean slate to start with. Wipe down any moisture immediately after to preserve the wood, finish and metal works of your guitar.
This is a part that never gets the attention - check out your frets. Sometimes there's a build-up of tarnish or gummy substance that needs to be cleaned off. You can use a very 'fine' grade of steel wool (using a #0000 grade of steel wool is adequate) but make sure to efficiently and totally cover the sound hole of your guitar to avoid any fine bits of steel getting into the pick-ups.
To avoid any possibility of metal pieces getting sucked up by the magnetized pick-ups, I use a green scrubber. You might already have this available, and if not, these scouring pads can be found in any store with a cleaning supply department.
Gently scrub the frets on every side and be careful not to scour the fret board itself. Wipe any dust free of your guitar fret board and to prepare the surface for polish.
How often do you have your guitar "Set-Up"?
Guitar Fret Polishing
Now that your fretboard is nice and clean, it's ready for a good polishing. I particularly like using GHS Fast-Fret. It's a cleaner and lubricant for strings and fret boards. Rubbing Fast-Fret liberally directly onto the fretboard and using the supplied cloth to spread the formula over the entire length of the fret board. Wipe away any excess.
This product not only enriches and treats the fret board, but you can rub it directly onto your strings and board each time you finish a playing session. The good thing about this product is that it won't attract dirt to any treated ares, and you can use it as often as you like.
How to Polish a Guitar
Okay, two different attitudes towards polishing guitars. We should talk about a few things before you go out and slap on a layer of wax onto your guitar. There are two schools of thought out there, and depending on your particular guitar and your own perspective, you need to make the best decision for your personal situation.
First, for the newer guitars, the finish is so thick and clear, that you actually won't need to do any kind of polishing for years to come. Like me, I just use the micro fiber cloth and wipe it down after each play. However, if your guitar needs a little spit shine, some guitarists like using a spray-on car wax. Using a spray on wax will ensure that you can use a very thin layer of wax that you can spread over the entire guitar.
The wax will help to protect your guitar from accidental spills, and improve the look and feel of your guitar.
Second, there are some out there that would not dream of putting on a coat of wax over their guitar. One reason is that wax build-up can occur, and after many years of this, it can actually change the sound of your guitar. To correct this, there are some enthusiasts that use non-wax Pledge or Endust on their guitar finishes.
For professionals, the fading finish of a guitar is just one phase of the guitar's life. I don't have a guitar that's really expensive, but if I did, I would probably not put anything on it except a good wipe down after every play.
One thing is for sure, if you're not sure what to do, you should check with your guitar professional at your local music shop. Because of the different types of finishes on the market, and the finishes that have changed over the years in guitars, it's best to check with a professional.