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How to clean an acoustic guitar

What's the best way to clean your acoustic guitar?

An acoustic guitar is a staple for many musicians, but it’s more than just a beautiful musical instrument, it’s also an investment, which means keeping it clean and in good shape is essential. However, it takes more than just regular wipe-downs with a cloth. Strings get worn and start to rust, dust gathers in hard-to-reach places and the body becomes covered in fingerprints and smudges. 

Fortunately, it’s easy to clean an acoustic guitar as long as you have the right products and tools, keeping your instrument looking good as new for years. Here’s a guide on how to clean your acoustic guitar.

Tips for keeping your acoustic guitar clean

Before you deep clean your acoustic, there are a few tricks to keep it clean and well-maintained. 

First, it’s important to change the strings at a regular interval, depending on how often you play your guitar. The instrument’s metal strings are prone to oxidation and rust as they collect finger oils, dead skin cells and dirt. 

Second, you should wipe down your guitar’s strings, fretboard, neck and body with a soft cloth after every use. This prevents your instrument from collecting fingerprints, which are full of those natural oils your hands produce. It’s a quick action that can add longevity to both the strings and the guitar itself. 

Finally, you should always keep your acoustic guitar in a case when it’s not in use, preventing dust from building up and excessive exposure to heat, cold or direct sunlight.

What you need to clean your acoustic guitar

  • Soft, lint-free cloth
  • Guitar polish
  • Fretboard conditioner
  • Guitar-safe lemon oil
  • Screwdriver
  • Instrument work pad and neck cradle (optional)
  • A new set of guitar strings

A guide to clean an acoustic guitar

  • Always start things off by washing your hands to avoid adding dirt and oils onto your instrument and cleaning equipment. 
  • Set up a space where you can safely place your guitar and keep it from getting bumped, dinged or scuffed. If you want to spend a couple extra dollars, get an instrument pad and guitar neck cradle if you don’t already have a dedicated space.  
  • Once your guitar is placed into cleaning position (neck down, strings up), use the tuning pegs to unwind and remove the strings from across the fretboard and body. If you choose to replace your strings, you can remove them completely.
  • Using a soft cloth, remove any dust from the guitar. Make sure to get as much of the head, neck, fretboard and body as possible, including any creases and crevices. Don’t forget to wipe hardware like the tuner pegs.
  • If you have a standard-finish fretboard, use either guitar-safe lemon oil or fretboard conditioner to deeply clean the finish and frets. If you have a maple fretboard, do not use lemon oil of any kind, stick to a maple-friendly guitar cleaner. Apply a small amount to a clean cloth and gently buff the fretboard from top to bottom, making sure not to leave any residue. Use the same cloth and cleaner to buff the bridge as well.
  • Using a separate cloth, use guitar polish and cleaner to buff the headstock and body. Use a PH 1 (small phillips) screwdriver to remove the pickguard and clean the area underneath. 
  • Use the dry side of your cloth (or a new clean one) to give the entire guitar one last buff and shine. Replace the pickguard and strings, tune your strings and you’re ready to play.

What you need to buy for cleaning your acoustic guitar

Dr. Duck 2080 Ax Wax and String Lube

This 3-in-1 organic solution cleans, polishes and moisturizes most guitar surfaces, including rosewood and ebony fretboards. It can also be used to clean and lube your old strings.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Lizard Spit MP02 Fretboard Conditioner

If you have a maple fretboard, this treats the porous wood without damaging it. Using it regularly will also preventing warping.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Dunlop 6554 Fretboard 65 Ultimate Lemon Oil

This lemon oil is specially formulated to clean and moisturize the fretboard while sealing it from dust, stains and moisture. It can also be used on most bodies and hardware.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Wera Kraftform Plus PH1 Screwdriver

If one driver isn’t enough, consider a set of Phillips and slotted screwdrivers in case you need to adjust screws in your tuners. The handle is made of hard materials, which is helpful for hand repositioning.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

AAwipes Microfiber Guitar Cloths (6-Pack)

Make sure to pick up a pack of multiple microfiber cloths rather than using leftover fabrics like old T-shirts. These are great for other instruments as well.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

MusicNomad MN207 Premium Instrument Work Mat & Cradle Cube Neck Support

This set gives you a safe surface to protect your guitar from bumps and dings while making it easier to clean. It has an anti-slip surface.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

D'Addario XT Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light

A clean acoustic guitar is incomplete without a new set of strings. Phosphor bronze strings last longer and stay in tune better.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Matt Fleming writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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