Extending the Life of Your Guitar or Bass

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Making Your Guitar Last

No matter whether you own a $5,000 custom-made axe, or an old off-branded four-string or six-string you picked up at a pawn shop, there are numerous ways to protect your investment and extend the life of your instrument. Today we will go over numerous ways to keep your beloved guitar playing for years to come.


Over time, your guitar will accumulate dirt, dust, grease, perspiration, and smoke, among other things. It is crucial to give your guitar regular cleanings. Your guitar is a precision instrument, so using the proper cleaning materials is critical to maintaining your instrument’s appearance and playability. This is no time for skimping or short cuts! Carefully follow these instructions and you will be able to clean your guitar without damaging it.

Remove the strings, one at a time. Do not remove more than three at a time as you want to avoid warping the neck.

The fretboard should be cleaned no more than twice a year. Use a soft, damp cloth that’s been completely wrung out. (An old t-shirt will do the trick as well.) Work the cloth down the fretboard, making sure to use different portions of the cloth as you are doing it so that you’re not just transferring dirt from one fret to another.

If a particularly high amount of grime has set in, you can use very fine steel wool to help clean the fretboard. Make sure your pickups are covered if you do this.

You can typically polish your guitar with a soft dry cloth and some elbow grease, but if you want to use polish, make sure that you use polishes and other maintenance products designed specifically for guitars. These are easily found at most music shops.

Use glass cleaner to tidy up your tuning keys. A damp cloth will work on your bridge. A soft dry cloth or t-shirt will work wonders for your pickups. (If your pickups are rusty, you can use a rust-dissolving agent.)

If you are keeping your old strings, clean them with a dry cloth and oil them with WD-40 or petroleum jelly. Put the strings back on, and you are good to go.


While it is tempting to keep your guitar or bass out in the open for display, it is simply not a good idea. Exposure to dust, heat, and other elements will require more frequent cleaning and maintenance, and you may need to replace your instrument sooner. This can be easily and inexpensively avoided by simply storing your guitar in its case. If you don’t have one, you can get a perfectly serviceable soft case for less than $30. This is ideal for when you are simply storing your axe at home. If you travel around with your guitar, you may want to consider investing in a hard case.

You want to keep your instrument in an environment with moderate temperature and low humidity. A hygrometer measures humidity and is a great thing to have for your guitar. A humidifier is a good accessory to have if you live and play in dry climates.

Keep it playing

With regular maintenance, your guitar or bass will last for many years and provide you with many hours of enjoyment.

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