How To… Clean your electric guitar

Fight grime to ensure your electric guitar stays in tip top condition for longer!

'57 Les Paul Gold Top

To ensure your guitar is performing at it’s very best, it’s essential that you clean it regularly. Even if all looks spic and span on the surface, hidden grime could be lurking in your strings and frets, effecting not only the playability of your instrument but also the sound quality. And then there are the health implications of having a grotty guitar…

Below are some basic tips on keeping your guitar clean – don’t even think about pulling this move before you’ve followed them!

In you need extra help getting your guitar in full working order, contact your local Dawsons Music store – they can advise you on the best course of action and some even offer in-house guitar repair services.

Farida GNA TV

The Strings

The natural skin oils on your fingertips –as well at the day-to-day grub you pick up on them – will obviously get all over your strings when you play. Let it slide long enough, and the dirt can also get into the pores of your fingerboard. Gross, eh?

Prevention is better than cure, so try and thoroughly wipe down your strings after each use with a chamois to stop dirt building up in the first place. The best way to do this is to surround the entire circumference of the string with the chamois, pinch the cloth between your index finger and thumb and move your hand along the string.

If you’ve let the dirt on your strings build up for too long, they could be beyond rescue; dirty strings wear out much faster, so consider if it’s worth purchasing a new set.

The frets, fingerboard and body

Gibson Les Paul Custom neck

A dust and polish should keep your fingerboard and the main body of your guitar looking spruced; you can also try a cleaning solution designed for use on guitars if you like.

The unsightly wear spots created by pressing down your strings onto the fingerboard, which can also cause sound problems, can be removed by sanding down the surface. However, this should only be done by a qualified repairman – we strongly advise against going at it yourself with that odd bit of coarse grain sandpaper you’ve got hanging round the garage…

The hardware

Tune-o-Matic Electric Guitar Bridge And Stopbar tailpiece

Keeping the guitar hardware like the tuners and bridges clean is more of a vanity thing than a technical necessity as a bit of dirt here won’t effect the sound of the instrument, but they’ll definitely look better all shined up.

A gentle rub with a duster should be enough to keep your hardware looking buff, and we recommend using a small, good-quality paintbrush to clean the harder to reach areas (don’t risk using a cheap one as you could well end up leaving behind stray brush hairs all over the place – not good).

If you want to take it a step further, try a mild chrome or jewellery polish but use with caution, as over polishing can eventually remove metal coatings all together and expose the much less appealing looking surface underneath.

Pickups

Single Coil Pickups

Don’t ever get any sort of liquid cleaner on your pickups – they’ll shrivel up and die if they get wet (metaphorically, of course); use a duster or aforementioned paintbrush instead.