Imagine this, the pandemic’s over, and your first gig is tonight. You want to go and pack up your stuff but you notice your beautiful expensive guitar doesn’t look as breathtaking as it should. And since this is your first gig in a long time, you’ll want to stun as many people as possible with your beautiful guitar. Stage visuals are part of the show too, right?
You see the body of your axe is dirty. Borderline gross. Years of playing the thing has left it with a layer of dust, sweat, grease, and whatever else may be on there.
Cleaning the body of the guitar is a very simple process. It only takes a few supplies, and can be done in literal minutes.
Using a cloth
Just running a dry or slightly wet cloth over the surface of the body should in many cases be sufficient to take away most of the visible dust. This gives it back some of that nice prestime sheen, and it’s a good idea to do this daily, as it will prevent buildup of dust and grease that’s harder to get off.
We recommend using a soft microfiber cloth, as rougher fabrics might damage the finish of the guitar, and that’s the last thing you want.
Don’t use too much water, as it can damage the exterior and interior of the guitar. Excessive use of water can soak into the wood, which can warp it. This is especially true on a guitar with a thin finish, or on the neck or fretboard. Getting water into the interior is a whole ‘nother problem. Getting water in the control cavity can mess with the electronics. This is especially true if you have active pickups, as there would be an active signal running through your guitar. This can cause shocks when you plug the guitar into an amp.
Using polish cleaner
We have an entire article on choosing the best guitar cleaning kit where the main item is a good specialty polish. Why? Because using a specially formulated guitar polish cleaner is the best way to polish the guitar. This stuff is made to go on most guitar finishes, and is 100% safe for the guitar’s surface, the wood, and the electronics.
Basically how it works is it dissolves grease and dirt, and washes away dust similar to how water picks up dust. Guitar polish cleaner also conditions the finish of the guitar, and protects it from future buildup of dirt.
This is the most effective way to make your guitar shine the way it did when you first got it. And most every professional player uses guitar polish cleaner. It’s a great way to make people gasp at your guitar, even more so if you can play it well.
Preventing buildup of dirt
The best step to make sure your guitar is clean, is by keeping it clean. This can be done a couple of ways.
Arguably, the best way to keep a guitar body clean is by keeping it in its case. This could be a hard case, but there’s great softcases available for electric or acoustic guitars. The problem with this is that most guitar players want to have their guitars on display. It looks great and is a nice decoration. It’s also part of self-expression, as this way if someone enters the house they can see right away that you’re a virtuoso. Guitarists tend to also play their instrument more if it’s out on display. Seeing your guitar reminds you of the hobby, and you’ll want to pick it up.
Another way to keep the guitar body clean is by regularly cleaning it. Guitar polish cleaners shouldn’t be used too often, as excessive use can cause several problems. If used correctly, nothing can go wrong, but too much will always be too much. You can also wipe your guitar down after playing it. Once again, a lint-free microfiber cloth works great here. Make sure you regularly replace the cloth, as using the same dirty cloth over and over won’t be very effective, obviously.
Regularly maintaining this aspect of the guitar doesn’t just have to be about the body. Wiping down the strings after playing will greatly extend the longevity of the strings, saving tons of money and headaches in the future (for more, check out our guide to cleaning guitar strings). Same holds true with the neck, and fretboard. Disclaimer: DON’T use guitar body polish on the fretboard, use fretboard cleaner instead.
We have a whole post dedicated to the best cleaning and polishing products/kits for your guitars, but to save you a click, here’s our top choices:
Our top recommendation is the the Music Nomad MN140 Premium Guitar Care 3-Piece Kit. You get an all in one cleaning compound, a fingerboard oil, and cloth to wipe everything all down, all at a killer price.
Our best budget pick is the Ernie Ball Instrument Polish – if all you want to do is polish your guitar body without spending a ton, this is your guy.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a complete cleaning kit, the D’Addario Accessories Instrument Care Kit gets our Editor’s Choice award. What makes this kit stand out is the attention to detail, the high quality of the polish and fingerboard cleaner, and the fact that it includes some super handy extras, like a headstand to sit your guitar against.
A well worn guitar is a thing of beauty, but your guitar doesn’t need to be straight up dirty. It only takes a few minutes and a handful of basic and affordable products to make your guitar shine as it sings.