How To Clean Your Guitar Strings

How To Clean Your Guitar Strings [two ways]

Guitar strings are important tools for musicians, as they allow us to play our favorite songs. However, they also get dirty. How can you clean guitar strings without damaging them?

You can clean guitar strings using soap and water and a microfiber cloth. If you want to remove dirt, you can soak the strings in warm water for 30 minutes. Then, rinse them thoroughly under running water.

What is the best way to clean your guitar strings?

From the steps above, you can probably guess our vote is on using a mild soap, water, and a microfiber cloth. Mixing a bit of soap and water and soaking the rag is a good start. Next, you’ll want to run a dry cloth to remove any remaining moisture.

If you have hard water, you may need to add some baking soda to your cleaning solution. You can also use vinegar instead of water. It will help dissolve grease on the strings.

Some people think you should use rubbing alcohol, which is an excellent cleaning solution most of the time. However, rubbing alcohol can dry out the wood of the fretboard, potentially damaging the guitar’s finish.

Don’t use household cleaners when washing guitar strings! Bleach or ammonia can ruin your guitar strings (and your finish).

Lemon oil (the stuff specifically for guitars, not the pure stuff), is better for a fretboard. However, you don’t want to get lemon oil on the strings as it sticks around.

Also, make sure that you do not press down or pull too hard when cleaning the strings. Any unnecessary strain can damage your strings.

Must-have supplies for cleaning your guitar

Other than the standard mild soap and water, below are some supplies you should have for cleaning your guitar and strings:

  • Cleaning brushes are small brushes with soft bristles. They are best used to clean off excess oil.
  • Buffers have long, thin strips of rubber. You use them for buffing out all the roughness.
  • Polishers have pads made of felt. You use them to polish the finish of your guitar.
  • Microfiber Cloths are great for removing dust and dirt.
  • Shoe Polish is a substitute guitar neck finish for those with existing guitar finish issues

For good cleaning products, MusicNomad offers a great all-in-one cleaner that doubles as a polish and wax. You can also use the Jim Dunlap cleaning kit. For strings, just stick to soap and water.

How to clean guitars with no products

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you don’t have access to products like those listed above:

  • Use a damp rag to wipe away any dirt. Be careful not to get water onto the fretboard.
  • Wipe the strings down with a microfiber cloth
  • Use a toothbrush to remove any excess residue from the fretboard
  • Use a microfiber cloth to remove any remaining residue.
  • Store your guitar in a cool, dry place (that doesn’t collect dust)

If you follow these steps, you’ll find that your guitar will stay in top shape for years to come!

Can you boil guitar or bass strings?

Provided you don’t mix them up with another type of noodle, you can boil your instrument strings. Boiling your strings is something you do in cases where strings are too dirty and normal cleaning won’t work.

The problem being that if you boil your strings more than once or twice, they are more likely to break. So be wary if you need to play a live gig, as boiled strings don’t have the same strength as new strings.

When is the best time to clean your strings?

You should clean guitar strings after every use. Before using, be sure to wash your hands to pre-empt any unwanted residue for the strings. The oils from your hands can affect the strings because oil traps moisture.

Plus, the stuff on your hands sticks around. For example, if you apply a coat of hair spray (for bands going for a specific asthetic), you don’t want that on your strings.

Some musicians wait between cleanings, but this can lead to permanently dirty strings. The continued use will trap whatever dirt was on them before, leading to strings wearing out faster.

If your playing session is only practice, you might not worry about cleaning them as often. Regardless, you don’t want to get used to the warped sound that might develop from unclean strings.

How do dirty guitar strings sound?

Dirty guitar strings sound muddy and dull. When finger residue collects around your string windings, the sustain also suffers, causing your guitar to cut out earlier than it should.

You can prevent residue from getting in the windings by purchasing flatwound strings. However, it’s best to stick to regular cleaning habits, as even flatwound strings will sound dull and muddy after a while.

When do I need to replace my dirty strings?

If you’ve tried cleaning, more cleaning, and (eventually) boiling your strings and they still sound dull and muddy, it might be time to replace your guitar strings. But be sure to exhaust all measures, as you don’t want to throw away money.

If you like nylon strings and own a classical guitar, check out our guide for the best strings for classical guitar. If you need the best bass strings, we also have a guide for that.

Tips for boosting the life of your instrument

What Are The Best Ways To Care For Your Instrument

Here are some quick tips when taking care of your instrument for the long term:

  • Make sure that your guitar is in a dry, cool, well-ventilated area. Be sure to pull it out every once in a while for a cleaning.
  • Store your guitar away from direct sunlight. This will help prevent warping. Warping occurs when the wood gets too hot.
  • If you see scratches on the guitar’s finish, try using a polishing cloth. You may even want to invest in a guitar polish.
  • With cleaning your guitar, you should only use soft brushes. Avoid using hard brushes as they scratch the surface of your guitar.
  • Avoid using abrasive cleaners. These can cause permanent damage to your guitar.

Guitar Cleaning FAQs

How do I know if my guitar is dirty?

It’s normal for guitars to collect dust. However, if your guitar has been sitting around for a long time, there could be other problems.

You might notice rust or corrosion. This could mean that your guitar needs to be repaired. If you’ve noticed that your guitar sounds different from when you first bought it, bring it to your local repair shop.

You can tell if your guitar is dirty by looking at the fretboard. If it looks dirty, then you should take care of it immediately. Otherwise, you can wait until you have time to do so.

How often should you wash your guitar?

The best thing to do is to give your guitar a thorough cleaning once every two weeks. That way, you won’t have to worry about it getting too dusty. But if you use it often, clean it after every use.

Wood absorbs moisture quickly. Therefore, it’s important to keep the wooden parts of your guitar dry. Also, you shouldn’t store your guitar in a humid area.

Final Thoughts

When cleaning your guitar strings, stick with soap and water. Avoid isopropyl alcohol (to avoid fret damage), and be sure to be gentle with your guitar strings.

When cleaning your guitar (without the strings), consider it a unique process. Whether cleaning acoustic or electric guitars, stick with body and fretboard cleaners with lemon oil. Some of them also double as guitar polish, which can save you time.

Clean strings and guitars have a higher sound quality, so be sure to take care of your musical instrument.

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