Learning how to clean guitar strings and your fingerboard is important to any guitarist. It is important to clean the guitar so that it can be played for years to come.
It is not always necessary to clean the strings since most guitarists change them at least once a month. You can simply use household items like lemon oil and a wet wipe to clean your fingerboard.
To clean the ropes, you can simply use a towel or a cleaning kit.
The strings will also lose some of their tonal quality after playing for a month or so, but if you want to keep the feeling of the strings fresh for a longer period of time, cleaning the strings is not a bad idea.
If you’re familiar with this concept, you’ve probably seen it on a guitar forum, blog, or somewhere online.
Basically, the idea is to use regular isopropyl alcohol, place it on a cotton swab or some kind of cleaning cloth, and use it to clean your strings, rub them along the strings of your guitar and remove all the dirt, and all the grime, helping your ropes last longer.
In this guide, I will show you how to clean and care for guitar strings. This is useful when you want to keep a light tone without installing a new set of strings.
Follow each of the sections below to get started.
Why Should You Clean Guitar Strings?
When you put on a new set of guitar strings, the crisp, bright tone you hear is due to the strings being completely fresh.
Over time, the guitar strings get dirty and dirt builds up. This build-up changes the way the strings vibrate and affect pitch.
By cleaning the strings on your guitar, you can remove a lot of this grime and extend the life of your strings.
You should regularly clean your guitar strings to prevent dirt from building up and oils from degrading your strings.
Even something as simple as washing your hands before picking up the guitar can make a difference over time.
How to Clean Guitar Strings
If you don’t want to change your chains yet, it’s always a good idea to clean them. You can simply use a cloth to remove all dead skin and dirt from the strings, but if you want to clean them more thoroughly, you will have to use a cleaning solution.
Cleaning the strings on your guitar is probably one of the easiest tasks for the guitarist to perform. Strings that are clean and free of dirt will perform much better and last longer than strings that are dirty, even for players who change them frequently.
Step 1: Wash Your Hands
It’s obvious, but it’s also the most important thing!
The reason the guitar strings get dirty in the first place is because of all the dirt and oils that come out of the fingers when playing.
If you take a minute to wash your hands before playing, this will greatly reduce dirt.
Any hand soap will do. I like ivory because it does not contain dyes or heavy perfumes.
If you work with grease and need a deep cleaning product, check out Boraxo:
I work with inks, paints, oil, and grease, and all of this comes out of the crests of fingerprints. Boraxo is at least 10 times more effective than Gojo to give you an idea.
Step 2: Preparing Your Guitar
It is important to have a stable working surface that supports the neck of the instrument while working on it.
Placing a towel on a desk or table with another towel that can be rolled up and placed under the nape near the head to hold it should suffice. Lay the guitar on the towel, string up.
If you have a locknut, remove the rope clamps. Loosen the strings and remove each string from the tuning machine.
It is not necessary to completely remove the guitar strings on the tailpiece. Pour some alcohol into a small bowl.
Step 3: Cleaning the Strings
Cleaning the strings with alcohol will loosen and remove as much oil and dirt as has accumulated on the strings and does a more complete job than just cleaning the strings.
To clean the individual strings, place a corner of the fabric in the alcohol, then squeeze out any excess. It should be moist to the touch, but not soggy.
Holding the corner of the fabric between your thumb and forefinger, grasp the base of the rope near the bridge and, with firm pressure, pull the fabric up the entire length of the rope to wipe off any oil, dirt, or dirt.
Once you have cleaned the entire chain, be sure to examine it carefully to make sure nothing has been lost.
If there are stains that remain dirty, you can go back and scrub those areas a little more firmly to remove any remaining residue. Repeat the process for each individual chain.
Step 4: Use Hand Or String Treatments
This step is optional.
There are many products on the market to lubricate and clean ropes.
One of the most common is the GHS fast fret.
Another known rope lubricant is FingerEase.
There is a second option and that is to treat the hands.
A product aimed at guitarists is called Graph Tech Chops Preplay.
String lubricants help keep guitar strings clean by adding a layer of protection between the fingers and strings. It acts similarly to the way oil works in an engine by creating a barrier between two surfaces.
However, many players report that the strings become “rubbery” or “feel too greasy” when they use string lubricant.
I guess the gummy feeling could be caused by dirty and unwashed hands. Dirt and grime mix with the lubricant and thicken.
Similar problems happen with hand treatments. They can also make your hands feel greasy.
What you need to do with lubricants and hand lotions is an experiment. It may take a while to figure out which solution is best for your hands.
Step 5: Buffing the Strings
When all ropes have been thoroughly cleaned, they should be polished with fine steel wool to remove any burrs, kinks, or grooves on the surface of the ropes.
There is some controversy about the need to polish your strings. You will find some people who say that it is unnecessary or even harmful to the strings, but if you use the proper technique and a light touch it is perfectly fine.
I have used this technique for about 9 years, and it will not decrease the life of your strings.
Hold the steel wool between your thumb and forefinger, and again, starting at the base of each rope, pull the steel wool along each rope.
Be careful not to apply too much pressure to the wound strings as we are only trying to remove any foreign material on the string and we are not trying to alter the surface of the string.
Using the same pressure you would use to grip a sheet of paper will suffice.
Repeat the process with each individual string. When you have completed the process, examine each chain to make sure it is clean and free of burrs.
Step 6: Wipe Off Your Strings
There are a number of string garments and devices you can use to keep your guitar strings clean.
Using one of these products is great. If you don’t have them, wear an old shirt.
There are a couple of different product options for cleaning guitar strings.
One is ToneGear’s wrap-around cleaner like The String Cleaner:
These thread cleaners wrap around the thread and allow you to clean both sides and all six threads at once.
Another option is a yarn cloth like the GHS String Cloth:
|GHS Strings Cloth Guitar Cleaning and Care Product (A8)||97 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
Whichever option you choose, remember to wipe!
Step 7: Reassembling the Guitar
It is time to restrict the guitar. Pass each string through the hole in the tuning machine winch and tighten the string. Repeat the process for each chain.
When the instrument is played again, tune the guitar as usual. It’s a good idea to play a few tunes and practice a few scales just to ensure that everything sounds as it should and that the strings feel good when you play.
Initially, you can expect the guitar to go out of whack every now and then as the strings regain their tension. The more you play after restricting the guitar, the faster the strings will return to their ideal tension.
What Can You Use To Clean Your Guitar Strings?
The above method does a great job of cleaning your chains. Simply wiping the strings down after each time you play your guitar will significantly extend the life of the strings.
But what about all these rope cleaners?
I think some products are worth it as they make the cleaning process easier. Other products that I feel make little or no difference in keeping your strings clean.
Let’s take a look at the different products you can use to clean your guitar strings if you want to go a little further than just cleaning.
|MusicNomad The Nomad String, Body, & Hardware Cleaning Tool (MN205)||1,387 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
|The String Cleaner by ToneGear||630 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
|GHS Strings A87 FAST FRET||3,033 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
|MusicNomad String Fuel Guitar String Cleaner/Lubricant Care Kit-3 Piece (MN145)||862 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
|GHS Strings Cloth Guitar Cleaning and Care Product (A8)||97 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
|Fingerease Guitar String Lubricant||1,037 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
|Graph Tech Graphtech PrePlay Hand Care||17 Reviews||Buy on Amazon|
How do Guitar Strings get Dirty?
When your fingers and palms touch guitar strings, they transfer sweat, oil, and even dead skin. This combination will cover and even corrode the strings, making them a cushion and feel less responsive.
If not constantly cleaned, the residue will build up in the windings, which attenuates the sound quality and reduces the amount of sustain. Manual formulas are available to help prevent stain build-up.
To regain your tone, you’ll need to clean the strings or install a new set.
Flat cords do not have the same sinuous cracks as round wounds and are less likely to accumulate oils and stumps.
Since flat strings are naturally less shiny, they will generally sound “newer” for longer and require less frequent restrictions.
A clean guitar just looks and feels better than a dirty, dirty instrument. It is imperative to keep your guitar clean if you want it to last and to avoid replacing any of its parts in a few years.
Cleaning your strings on a regular basis will undoubtedly increase the responsiveness of your strings and probably also increase your enjoyment of playing.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on how to clean the strings of your guitar and I invite you to share it with your fellow musicians. Until next time, play!