Like any instrument, guitars need regular care and attention to last through the years. Whether you have an acoustic guitar or an electric guitar, here are a few tips on how to store, ship, and care for your guitar.
Best way to clean fretboard
It’s always best to remove your strings when you clean your fretboard. That said, you don’t want the neck tension to get screwed up by a significant decrease in pressure, so you shouldn’t remove all the strings at once. Most guitar manufacturers recommend removing 2 – 3 strings at a time to preserve the neck tension.
Use a soft, damp cloth like an old sock or t-shirt to wipe your fretboard clean. The cloth should be wrung out as much as possible. If you see any drops of water on the guitar, your cloth is too wet. Most of the time, that should be all you need. If your fretboard has some buildup that won’t come off with a cloth, you can use extra-fine steel wool (just be sure to cover your pickups if you clean with steel wool). To get the fine areas between the frets, you can also use a small toothbrush, a pipe cleaner, or a damp cotton swab.
If your fretboard is dried-out or has hairline cracks, you can apply a fretboard conditioner or a natural oil (linseed oil, almond oil, and mineral oil are best). Never use furniture polish to clean any part of your guitar and be sure to rub off the excess oil with a soft, dry cloth.
Best way to clean acoustic guitar
Most guitar manufacturers recommend cleaning your guitar every time you change the strings. It’s a good habit that keeps your instrument clean and ensures that the guitar lasts longer. If it’s your first time cleaning an acoustic guitar, here are a few tips to help you out:
- Remove the strings – you don’t want oil and grease from the guitar to get onto your strings, so it’s a good idea to remove the strings when you clean. However, you don’t want to take all of the strings off at once, as this can screw up the neck tension. Try removing 2 – 3 strings at a time instead.
- Clean the fretboard – while you should clean the body of the guitar with each string change, you’ll only want to clean the fretboard once or twice a year. Cleaning the fretboard more than that will remove some of the natural oils. Clean the fretboard with a soft, damp cloth. You can use extra-fine steel wool to clean stubborn spots, and you can use a gentle brush to get into the cracks if necessary (e.g. a pipe cleaner or toothbrush). If you notice the fretboard is dry or cracking, apply a fretboard conditioner or a natural oil.
- Clean the body – most of the time, you should be good with just a soft, dry cloth. If you come across tough spots, you can use a damp cloth as long as it’s completely wrung out.
- Polish the body and neck – it’s a good idea to polish your guitar a few times a year. Look for a polish that’s specifically engineered for guitars, and never use furniture polish. Squirt the polish onto the rag rather than directly onto the guitar.
- Clean the tuning keys – use a soft cloth and glass cleaner to tidy up your tuning keys
- Clean the bridge – use a damp cloth to clean your bridge and finish the job with a pipe cleaner or small toothbrush to get the grime out of the cracks around the edges.
- Polish your pickups – a soft, dry cloth should be enough to keep your pickups dust-free. If you notice any rust, you’ll need to unscrew the faceplates with an Allen wrench and clear the rust with a rust-dissolving solution (just be careful not to disturb the wiring).
If you have a vintage guitar, you may want to avoid using oil, polish, and conditioners altogether. Older guitars usually have a thinner finish, so they can be damaged by silicates, oils, and waxes in polishing solutions.
Best way to store guitars
Here are six tips on how to properly store and protect your guitar:
- To protect your guitar from dust and damage, it’s always best to store your guitar inside its case rather than on a stand or hung on the wall.
- Never store the guitar case on its back. Standing up is best, but on its side will suffice if standing up isn’t an option.
- Loosen the strings one or two half-steps. You don’t need full string tension in storage, but you want enough pressure to keep the string tension to avoid neck-bowing.
- Store your guitar towards the center of the home/building to ensure a steady temperature
- Use a case humidifier to protect the inside of the guitar from cracking during dry winter months
- If you have a vibrato-equipped guitar, store it with the arms detached
Best way to hang guitars on a wall
There’s a reason why people pay top-dollar for overpriced drinks and burgers at the Hard Rock Café—hanging guitars on the wall creates an awesome ambiance. Whether you’re hanging up a collection of guitars or just one or two that you want to display in between playing, here are a few tips on how to properly hang them on your wall:
- First of all, don’t let anyone tell you that hanging a guitar on the wall is bad for its neck. The force of a guitar’s neck tension is significantly higher than the gravitational pull, so hanging the guitar from the wall doesn’t add any additional tension or risk of neck-bowing. That’s how most music stores display their guitars, so it’s obviously not doing any damage.
- Choose a wall that’s not directly in the sunlight. The sun will cause the guitar to fade and yellow over time.
- Use a hanger with a soft coating (cloth, felt, leather, etc.).
- Be careful about putting acoustic guitars on the wall during dry winter months. All-wood acoustic guitars can quickly be ruined by the cold, dry climate. If you do hang an acoustic guitar during the winter, use a humidifier to protect the inside, and hang it on a wall towards the inside of the building (outer walls are more susceptible to temperature swings).
Best way to ship a guitar
Handing over your guitar to the mercy of the Postal Service or FedEx can induce some serious anxiety, but there are a few ways you can protect your guitar against bumps and bruises:
- Always use a hard case. Soft cases are fine for travel in the car, but you’re asking for damage if you try to ship a guitar in a soft case.
- Loosen the strings one or two half-steps.
- Secure any movable parts with packing material or newspaper.
- Wrap the headstock in bubble wrap.
- Use newspaper to separate the fretboard and the strings.
- Pack any empty areas in the case with packing material. Your guitar shouldn’t be able to move an inch when you shake the case.
- If possible, pack the guitar case in a large box and fill the box with packing material. As with the guitar inside the case, there shouldn’t be any wiggle room.