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Final word on fretboard cleaning/maintenance

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(@corbind)
Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 1735
Topic starter  

Ok, I think we should be able to fill up this post with plenty of opinions.  Everyone has to clean the guitar fretboard at some point, right?  If you don't, you give it to your local guitar shop and they do it for you.  But that gets expensive over time and you should really be able to clean and condition your fretboard yourself.

Way too many opinions on what to use to clean the fretboard and how to condition it.  I'd love for anyone who has a clue drop in and answer:

1.  What do you use to clean the muck/junk off of your fretboard (chemicals, scrapers, belt sander?)

2.  Why those tools, products, method?

3.  What would you specifically NOT use to clean the fretboard and why?

4.  Periodically, you have to condition/moisten the board.  How often do you do that?  What product do you use and lots or little?

5.  What would you specifically NOT use to condition the fretboard and why?

6.  How long have you been playing guitar?  (to give an idea of how many times you've had to clean it and how you've seen some methods don't work over time).

This is all about opinion and supporting your answers.  This post will serve to educate us.  Guys and gals, fire away.

???

"Nothing...can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts."


   
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(@argus)
Reputable Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 221
 

I've never cleaned the fretboard of this guitar, and I've played it just about every day since June 2001.


   
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(@nicktorres)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

1.  What do you use to clean the muck/junk off of your fretboard (chemicals, scrapers, belt sander?)

00000 steel wool, the kind used for furniture refinishing

2.  Why those tools, products, method?

Won't scratch the surface, abrasive enough to clean the gunk, strong enough not to fall apart, flexible enough to get right up next to the frets.

3.  What would you specifically NOT use to clean the fretboard and why?

Any treated sponge, like for doing the dishes, you don't want that anti-bacterial junk on your fretboard.

4.  Periodically, you have to condition/moisten the board.  How often do you do that?  What product do you use and lots or little?

Scott's liquid gold, just enough to lightly moisten the fretboard.  I let it soak for a minute, work it in with the steel wool, wipe it clean with a shammy/chamois.  Twice a year once in the fall, once in the spring.

5.  What would you specifically NOT use to condition the fretboard and why?

Anything with lemon or citrus, the acidity attacks the frets, your strings and your finish.

Any household furniture polish, the wax builds up and you have more of a mess than you started with.

Vegetable oils - they go rancid.

6.  How long have you been playing guitar?

Acoustic for just over a year now, Electric? Pre-disco...


   
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(@Anonymous)
New Member
Joined: 1 second ago
Posts: 0
 

1.  What do you use to clean the muck/junk off of your fretboard (chemicals, scrapers, belt sander?)

I use a credit card (if you don't have a dead card to hand, pick up one of those free plastic membership cards at the supermarket, the ones that kids pick up and PRETEND are credit cards). Scrapes all the gunk off nice and easy, doesn't damage anything. Magic.

2.  Why those tools, products, method?

I've seen it before and it works.

3.  What would you specifically NOT use to clean the fretboard and why?

Anything wet, like a sponge. Neck warps.

4.  Periodically, you have to condition/moisten the board.  How often do you do that?  What product do you use and lots or little?

I do it once every few months with some Dunlop fret-cleaner. I use it sparingly.

5.  What would you specifically NOT use to condition the fretboard and why?

Lemon oil. It's acidic, it corrodes.

6.  How long have you been playing guitar?  (to give an idea of how many times you've had to clean it and how you've seen some methods don't work over time).

I've been playing for six months, but I've been around guitars for a few years.


   
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(@storymwstring)
Eminent Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 33
 

while you're taking a break, see what you think of the information available from this site.

http://www.frets.com/FRETSPages/pagelist.html

How come you fret the guitar upside down?
I just want to play all day


   
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(@paul-donnelly)
Noble Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 1066
 

1.  What do you use to clean the muck/junk off of your fretboard (chemicals, scrapers, belt sander?)

I never have.  I'm ashamed.  I did scallop mine a while ago, and that's like vigorous cleaning isn't it?

2.  Why those tools, products, method?

When I do feel the need to clean, I'll just go at it with a damp cloth.  Not very damp, just damp enough that the dirt sticks to it.

3.  What would you specifically NOT use to clean the fretboard and why?

Nothing acidic.  I don't want to damage the wood.  Anything not water, really.  I don't need to disinfect, just clear off some gunk.

4.  Periodically, you have to condition/moisten the board.  How often do you do that?  What product do you use and lots or little?

I have to do that?  I haven't had any problems not conditioning it.

5.  What would you specifically NOT use to condition the fretboard and why?

No real thoughts here.  You could use this space for your own!

6.  How long have you been playing guitar?  (to give an idea of how many times you've had to clean it and how you've seen some methods don't work over time).

Lessee....  Three or four years, I'm not quite sure.  I've had my current guitar almost that long.


   
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(@nathan)
Active Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 11
 

i have been conditioning my fretboard with peavey lemon oil for 2 years and have never heard of this corroding stuff

it is made specifically for guitars supposedly, and i bought it at a guitar shop

anyone know anything about this?

Blues? Yes please.
Rock? Yes sir.

Music? Give me a guitar and I'll play.


   
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(@greybeard)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

Nathan,

I have looked all over the place for scientific evidence that lemon oil corrodes fret wire and cannot find any anywhere. As far as I can tell it is prejudice, nothing more.

As for Lemon oil harming wood - I have posted scientific evidence here that shows lemon oil as having no deleterious effect on wood whatsoever. Wood can take acid 4 or 5 times more concentrated than Lemon oil without harm.

The problem MAY arise with certain finishes, such as nitrocellulose or french polish, but modern polyeurathane finishes will not be harmed in any way - don't forget that many modern household cleaners, designed for use on less hardy finishes than poly, contain lemon or orange oil.

The oil is put on and rubbed off again within a very short time. The remaining film will oxidise within a short period of time, rendering it harmless.

Non-scientific evidence (the market) would indicate that there is nothing wrong with using lemon oil to clean the fretboard, many manufacturers sell maintenance kits containing a bottle of lemon oil. Do you think that they would risk lawsuits by selling a substance known to harm their instruments? I don't. As far as I know, there is only one manufacturer who actually says you shouldn't use it on their finishes (Martin).

If anyone can actually provide scientific evidence, I would gladly listen.

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
Greybeard's Pages
My Articles & Reviews on GN


   
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(@hueseph)
Noble Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 1543
 

I use liquid gold which also has lemon derivitives. After so many years it seems fine.

https://soundcloud.com/hue-nery/hue-audio-sampler


   
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(@nicktorres)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

Finally, someone else has seen the light ;D.  Scott's liquid gold is an amazing cleaner.


   
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(@petrix)
Estimable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 118
 

Wow, thanks StoryMwString, that Frets.com link is really useful. I recomend it.

"I had these dreams that I would learn to play guitar, maybe cross the country, become a rock star"


   
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(@nathan)
Active Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 11
 

do you take all of the strings off before you use the steel wool?

i've heard (and experierenced) how the neck can warp if you take off all of the strings at once.  do you have to take them all of then realign the neck or do you do it some other way?

Blues? Yes please.
Rock? Yes sir.

Music? Give me a guitar and I'll play.


   
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(@nicktorres)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 5381
 

The neck warp thing is a myth.


   
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(@Anonymous)
New Member
Joined: 1 second ago
Posts: 0
 

A static neck without strings on it can't warp - how would it? But I've heard you're meant to put all the strings on loosely and then try and tighten them all at approximately the same time.

And yes, you do take the strings off before using steel wool. Also, don't use anything coarser than OOOO grade steel wool. Always go with the grain of the rosewood when giving it scrubdown (this can't be done on maple necks) and to polish the frets, put masking tape over the frets to polish across the frets (especially if you're doing this with a maple neck).


   
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(@nathan)
Active Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 11
 

there is no way its a myth

ive done it that way, taking them all off, and every time my neck warps and i fret out in several spots, eventually having to have the neck readjusted

if it is a myth what else would cause this?

Blues? Yes please.
Rock? Yes sir.

Music? Give me a guitar and I'll play.


   
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