Key Tools and Tips for Guitar Care and Maintenance

Stu Box Guitar Care KitA guitar is a big investment — so make sure you’re taking good care of your instrument! Learn some important tips for electric and acoustic guitar maintenance in this guest post by Jacksonville, FL teacher James W...


We have a saying in the artist community: “Take care of your tools and they will take care of you.” This is also true of guitars! Your guitar is your friend, just like your computer and iPhone or smartphone. Taking good care of your instrument is easy and simple if you just follow these steps for electric and acoustic guitar maintenance.

1. Purchase two cleaning cloths, such as a soft shammy cloth used for dusting furniture or a terrycloth. Even an old towel that is clean will work just fine. Use one cloth for cleaning and one for wiping.

2. You’ll also need to purchase string cleaner and polisher — I recommend Kyser or Jim Dunlop brands. I also recommend Lemoil by Stuart Box from Melbourne, Australia as it contains natural quality products but also smells good with eucalyptus oil added. It does a great job of cleaning and helping the wood last a long time. The tone of the wood is important, as it is pleasing to our ears. And these products are made for guitars only. Do not use furniture polish, as it is not good for the strings.

3. Use a humidifier. This will keep your acoustic from splitting across the top and sides from heat on those hot summer days when stored in its case. You can buy a guitar humidifier from Sam Ash or Musician’s Friend for about $10. If the ten bucks is hard to come by, use a small empty film container (poke a few small holes in it), and a clean piece of sponge inside that is lightly moistened. Squeeze out excess water. You can use tap water or purified bottled water.

4. Always clean your strings before you play and after. They will last longer. Spray a small amount of cleaner on a cloth, and wipe clean until you have removed all of the dirt and grime. A good time to clean the neck and headstock of the guitar is when changing strings and all the strings are removed. If you love your guitar, it will love you back and continue to sound good. Cleaning every time you put new strings on just makes it all the easier. And yes it is ok to spray the guitar as long as you are careful not to go overboard and use too much cleaner. A little goes a long way.
5. Do not store your guitar in a car trunk on summer days when there is extreme heat. Guitars last longer and retain their good sound when kept at a comfortable temperature and humidity level that is safe for the woods. Wood ages and dries out very slowly, so sudden and extreme changes are not good.

6. Always wash your hands before playing. Dirt and oil from your hands will make strings rust and sound dull. You can actually protect your strings and make them last longer by keeping them clean. I prefer Elixir Strings for my acoustic guitar, as they are coated with plastic to keep them around longer and saves me money. They cost more, but I can make them last for months. For electric guitars I use EVH Premium Strings as they are quality made but only cost around $5 a set.

My Typical Guitar Care Kit

7. Put together a guitar care kit that will fit in your hardshell case middle pocket. Use a Ziploc bag so you can easily see what is in there and keep stuff free of dust. Don’t have a hardshell case? Then buy one from SKB or from the company that makes your guitar. Any guitar maker will tell you a guitar kept in its hard case is protected from everything. My friend’s Ovation Hardshell Case kept his guitar unharmed when he was on the road and his house had a fire. The guitar case was scorched but the $800 guitar was untouched! It was worth the money paid for the case.

8. If anything gets spilled accidentally on the guitar, use a soft cloth and wipe until it’s dry, and then use your cleaner/polisher as instructed. Don’t panic — most guitars that are made to last a long time can handle a mishap or two.

9. Last but not least, replace the frets when they are worn out. This ensures that the notes you play are true and in tune. Guitars are not unlike cars in that you have to maintain them.


james-walsh-150x150Post Author: James W.
James W. teaches guitar, singing, and acting lessons in Jacksonville, FL. He specializes in teaching pop, rock, and modern country styles. James has been teaching for 10 years and joined the TakeLessons in 2010. Learn more about James here!


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1 reply
  1. Kieran
    Kieran says:

    Don’t forget about fretboard conditioning! A yearly routine of fretboard oil used sparingly over the fretboard will make your fretboard last a whole lot longer!


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