How to Care for Your Guitar

The guitar is to a guitarist what the vocal cords are to a singer; the instrument through which we give voice to our musicality. Just like a singer needs to take care of their vocal cords we need to make sure our guitar is in its best condition. Together, we will go through different ways to keep your guitar happy.


If you take care of your guitar it will age slower. 

Cleaning

It is important to keep your guitar clean as dirt and dust lowers the quality of the sound. In some cases it can even leave cracks in the wood. Thankfully, cleaning your guitar is not difficult. There are, however, a few things you need to be able to do so.

First you need a dust cloth. I recommend one of a lighter colour just in case the colour rubs off on the finish. It is generally not a problem, but I like to be too sure rather than have a red mark on my pearl white Gibson Studio. The dust cloth is essential for removing dust that gathers on your guitar while it is resting in its stand. A daily dusting is not necessary, but if you notice dust settling on your guitar I recommend giving it a full-body wipe.

Next you need guitar polish, or water. You can get the polish in your nearest music shop. I recommend Jim Dunlop Formula 65 Guitar Polish as it has cleaned away dirt, sweat, and blood from all my electric guitars these past 12 years. Depending on how you use your guitar the need for polishing might vary. Generally, if you notice grime or dirt on your guitar it is in need of a polish. It might be a good habit to polish your guitar once a month. Just don’t do it too much. If you need to clean the guitar body more often, I would suggest to use water to damp a cloth instead. The polish can wear the finish down and we do not want that to happen.

Guitar polish can also be used on hardware. Pickups, tuning pegs, and stable to name a few, can and should be cleaned. Be careful not to be too rough as you apply the polish and make sure they are not wet after cleaning; we do not want any water or other fluids on our pickups.

Lastly, the fretboard needs to be taken care of. This you can do with water, remember to only dampen the cloth, or a fingerboard cleaner kit. To clean the fretboard you need to remove the strings therefore I always do this as I change the strings. Make sure to get sweat and grime off the fretboard as these otherwise will leave cracks in the wood over time.


Dirt and grime can damage your guitar if you do not clean it with a damp cloth or guitar polish. 

Maintaining

The guitar has several parts that are in need of maintenance every once in awhile. If they are not looked after they will cause problems to the overall sound. These parts are: strings, pickups, screws, and neck. We will take a look at each of them below.

Strings

It is recommended to change your guitar strings every third month. Dust and dirt sticks to the strings and changes the sound. To maintain a healthy guitar you should keep an eye and ear on them to make sure they are changed as needed. If you need help with choosing strings check out our article on electric guitar strings.

Pickups

For electric and semi-acoustic guitars, pickups can act up if not maintained. Except for cleaning them you should pay attention to any change in sound and loose screws. The height of the pickup changes the tone and should any screws loosen that tone will change. In some cases, fluids might have seeped into your pickups causing corrosion which means you will need to change the entire pickup.  

Screws and nuts

As mentioned, the screws holding the pickups can loosen over time. This can also happen with other screws on the guitar. Go over your guitar once every month, or when you clean it, and make sure all the tuning pegs and strap buttons are in place. Should you notice any loose screws or bolts you can fasten them yourself.

Neck

The guitar neck, as most of the guitar, is made out of wood. Depending on temperature, pressure, wear and tear, the neck will bend accordingly. It is designed to be able to bend and can be bent back into a straight shape with the truss rod. If you look down your fretboard, from the head or the stable, and you notice a bend it needs to be straightened out. If you are not confident in doing so yourself most guitar shops will be able to do so for you at a reasonable price.

Storage

Believe it or not, but a guitar can be stored incorrectly. In the worst case scenario, this will cause damage to the guitar and leave lasting scars on its body. I learned this the hard way which caused cracks in the finish of my guitar.

In my experience, the best way to store your guitar is in its case. The draped interior will keep the guitar safe from temperature changes and accidental knocks. However, it might be a bit cumbersome to take the guitar out and put it back in its case if you use it several times a day. If you want to have your guitar in a stand, make sure it is in a temperate room with no fast temperament changes as this will affect the wood and cause cracks. Give it ample space to minimize the risk of knocking it out of the stand as you move around. If you have a guitar of lighter colour the guitar stand’s usually darker colour might rub off on the finish. To prevent that from happening you can put cloth, or socks, on the parts in direct contact with your guitar.


Keep your guitar in its case to make sure it does not fall or suffers from temperature changes. 

Transport

It is inevitable that you will need to travel with your guitar, especially if you are taking guitar lessons. The guitar is fragile to hard bumps and temperature changes which can be difficult to shield against during travel. A guitar case will help with both carrying the guitar and give it protection. There are mainly two types of guitar cases to choose between: hard case and soft case.

Hard Case

A hard case may be cumbersome to carry as it is heavy and usually only comes with a  small handle to hold in your hand. On the other hand, the hard case provides a protective shell for your guitar which means you can put it down without worrying about it hitting any sharp edges. It does not have much storage space, at most you might be able to fit some guitar picks and an instrument cable.

Soft Case

The soft case is easy and light to carry, especially as it often comes with shoulder straps. The downside to this type of case is that it is more susceptible to hits and falls, however if you carry it on your back the likelihood of the guitar falling is small. The case usually comes with a few pockets which gives room for storing an extra pair of strings and lesson material.

Both cases will protect your guitar from any temperature changes. However, depending on your situation, mode and length of travel, one of them might suit you better.

Playing

When playing your guitar there are several things you can do to make sure it does not scratch or gets discolored. A large threat to your guitar, believe it or not, is what you wear as you play it. Belt buckles and brightly coloured prints on shirts can leave lasting marks on your precious possession. Take the belt off or turn your shirt inside out if you cannot change clothes. You can also put soft cloth between you and the guitar.

Summary/Care plan

  • Dust off your guitar
  • Clean off dirt and grime on body, neck, head, fretboard, and hardware
  • Change strings once every third month
  • Check screws and bolts
  • Keep your guitar in a temperate place with ample space
  • Be aware of what you wear when playing
  • Use a guitar case for travel

Leave a Comment