How to Clean Your Fretboard
Author: Michael Back Date Posted:10 September 2021
Cleaning and conditioning your fretboard is an important part of guitar maintenance that is rather easy to do. Cleaning your fretboard is an easy way to extend the life of your guitar and to breathe new life into a beat-up old guitar. On a new guitar, if you notice any coloured marks on your fingers after playing, it could be that the fretboard just needs a good clean. We will walk through the steps required to clean the fretboard on your guitar.
1. Remove the strings
The first step required to clean the fretboard of your guitar is to remove the strings. It’s very hard to clean your fretboard with your strings in the way. Usually, when giving your guitars a clean, it’s also best practice to restring the guitar with a fresh set of strings afterwards. With a clean and a new set of strings, your guitar will feel brand new again!
2. Wipe the fretboard
After the strings have been removed, it’s a good idea to get a soft cloth such as a microfibre cloth and give the fretboard a good wipe down. At this stage, you don’t need to use any cleaning products or anything, just a clean cloth to remove any obvious grit and grime. Try and wipe the wood in-between the fret wire to ensure the wood is clear from any dust or dirt.
3. Remove build-up
Depending on how long it’s been since the fretboard was cleaned, there may be some gunk or dirt build up around the frets. The next step would be to remove this. Be careful to not use anything that could damage the wood. It’ll usually come off with a bit of elbow grease, and there are cleaning products available to help cut through sticky grime build-up.
4. Re-Hydrate the fretboard
After the fretboard is free from dust and dirt, you might want to condition the fretboard. If you’re using one of our guitars with an Eco-Rosewood, Ebony or Laurel fretboard, you can use lemon oil or something similar to re-hydrate the wood. This should only need to be done once or twice a year, and you should only use products designed for this purpose, never use household cleaners or oils.
NOTE: "Lemon oil" is often in fact pure mineral oil with a lemon scent, using actual lemon oils can cause damage as it is very acidic. If you're not sure, go with a brand-name guitar cleaner such as this.
If you’re using a guitar with a maple fretboard, they don’t need to be rehydrated. If you give them another wipe down with a lightly damp cloth, you’ll be able to get it looking great again.
Optional Extras – Fret Polish
If you really want your fretboard to look brand new, you can give the frets a polish. This is easy to do and makes the world of difference to how the guitar feels. Frets build up a lot of gunk over time and clean frets feel amazing to play. The way we recommend polishing them is by using a product such as Music Nomad’s FRINE fret polish. If you put a small amount onto a cloth, wipe your frets with the cloth and you’ll notice the improvement almost straight away.
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