Cleaning The Fretboard

The great thing about guitars is making music with them. But, quite often, the bad bit is having to spend time doing a little maintenance work when you'd rather be playing.

Cleaning the guitar fretboard

Look at the health of your guitar a little like your own personal health. Actually, that could be a bad suggestion. I don't advise pouring a couple of gallons of beer inside your guitar every week or waiting until your neck is seriously damaged before you consider getting it looked at.

Still, you should know what I mean. Looking after a guitar will not only help you sound good and make playing a bit easier, but also maintain the value of your instrument. Plus there's a bit of vanity to take account of. A beautiful guitar is something to behold.

What we're interested in today is the fretboard. For those of you that are going 'what?', a fretboard is the part of the guitar where you form the chords.

Fretboards need to cleaned regularly. Think about it like this, you have a lot of dirty stuff on your hands and fingers when you play. There's sweat, your own body oil, dust, possibly blood and perhaps the odd booger. No! It happens. Honest.

Cleaning the fretboard is a pretty simple process that doesn't require a lot of effort. Take the strings off the fretboard first.

Grab a clean, dry cloth or rag and wipe down the fretboard. You'll find that the bulk of the dirt will come off without much trouble. There will likely still be build-ups of 'gunk' here and there. Each to their own when it comes to getting the gunk off - some people swear by using certain tools such as steel wool - but here are a few techniques that get used.

Steel wool: Use the finest wool available. Be really attentive to this or you will end up scratching the frteboard needlessly. Polish the fretboard in a motion parallel to the frets, not across them. This should get rid of a lot of residue while improving your action at the same time! If you end up with some markings on the fretboard, courtesy of the wool, try using another piece of wool and polish along the grain lines. Make sure to remove any steel wool residue as it will only end up getting attracted to the magnets of your pick-ups.

Knives, steel rulers and credit cards: Yes, these can be used, although I wouldn't recommend it. In this case, be careful with both your own personal safety as well as the fretboard. You're more likely to be taking this path if your fretboard has really tough build-up on it or if you've got nothing else at your disposal. Be gentle as you work, espcially if you decide to be flash, are in a doom-metal band and use a bayonet.

Plastic scrubbing pads: These are less likely to scratch the fretboard but they still have the staying power to get at the gunk.

OK, if all goes well, you should find that you'll have a clean fretboard. The final thing you should do is apply a bit of oil to your board. The oil will help preserve the board. Some people recommend furniture oil while others go for lemon oil. You can debate which oil is best in the discussion forum I've set up. Simply use a soft cloth with a small amount of oil and apply it to the fretboard a couple of times a year. Too much oil could give you soggy wood!

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Related Items:
Home Fretboard Care
Guitar FAQ
Tube Amp Care

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