Cleaning a guitar properly is the simplest and most basic of all the repair tasks you can perform on it, and it’s also quite easy to do. There are some things you have to learn to avoid doing though, as well as some that have to be done at all costs. The things to be avoided are as follows:
- Don’t use anything based on aerosol, unless you apply it to a cloth first, because the spray can clog the small mechanical parts.
- Don’t use anything based on oils, or simply greasy, either. Pledge and Endust is something to avoid, for example.
- Don’t use products with a drying effect. Guitars need some moisture, so anything that dries up fast shouldn’t be used on them, except on some specific types of finishes (electric guitars).
- Don’t get any of the polish/cleaning products on the strings
- Don’t use guitar polish on a fretboard made of ebony or rosewood.
Now that we’ve covered the important things to avoid, let’s also have a look at some of the things you should definitely do:
- Use polish that works specifically for your guitar
- Use a soft, dry cloth for all the polishing – never anything abrasive
- Wipe off the strings with a dry cloth after you’re done playing – this will preserve them for the long term
- Treat rosewood or ebony fretboards with lemon oil. This can be a bit tricky to get your hands on (try paint supply stores), but it’s definitely worth it – treating the fretboard lightly with lemon oil on a paper towel can prevent it from cracking, and also prevents moisture-related damage as well.
General maintenance tips
Most of the maintenance that your guitar requires can be done quite easily with just a little practice by most guitarists – on the other hand, the more complicated tasks such as repairing the electronic components of an electric guitar, or anything involving filing (like fret dressing) should only be done by an experienced repairman.
When you’re changing your strings, it’s a smart move to go around the guitar with a screwdriver, and ensure that everything is bolted down where it’s all supposed to be. Because of the strong vibrations, nuts and bolts may start coming out of the guitar. Screws should be fit in tightly – but not too tight, especially near the pickguard. Bolts around the tuning heads can be tightened better by using a soft cloth over them (which will help avoid scratching), and tightening them with a pair of pliers. This will solve most of the buzzing/rattling problems that can happen in this area.