How to Clean Guitar Strings

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If you love practicing and playing your guitar, then you probably put many hours in on a daily basis. Did you know that it can take up to 10,000 hours for you to become a true guitar playing expert? Sure, that’s a lot of time spent playing guitar.

However, what you then also need to consider is that your guitar takes quite the beating during your practice, especially if your technique is not up to par. Even if you have good technique, playing constantly still takes its toll on your guitar. One of the parts of your guitar that is going to take the biggest beating are the strings.

No, here we aren’t actually talking about strings thinning, becoming looser, or fraying, but about them getting dirty. All of that dirt, oil, and grime on your hands gets on those strings. When guitar strings become oily, they get slippery, which can make holding down those strings difficult.

On the other hand, if the strings get covered in dirty, they may get sticky, which can make it just as hard to play properly. Excess dirt and debris on your guitar strings may even change the tones that they produce.

Therefore, you need to clean your guitar strings on a regular basis. Now, cleaning guitar strings is not difficult, but it does need to be done regularly and it needs to be done right. How to clean guitar strings is what we are going to teach you right now.

Why and How Often to Clean Guitar Strings

Cleaning your guitar strings is something you should do on a regular basis. Guitar strings start to get really dirty, with oils and grime building up over time. This will therefore change the vibration of the string, and therefore the tone of it too.

Moreover, strings can be hard to hold down and to manipulate if they are excessively dirty, sticky, or greasy. On that note, the oils from your fingers can actually degrade the strings and make them weaker over time. Also, corrosion can start to build up on guitar strings, something you definitely don’t want happening.

In terms of how often to clean guitar strings, if you just play for 30 minutes per day, doing so once per week should be enough. However, if you play daily, and you play for hours on end, the official recommendation is that you clean your guitar strings after each playing session.

A pro tip here is also to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water before you play your guitar. The cleaner your hands are, the less dirt will end up one those strings, and the less often you will have to clean them.

How to Clean Guitar Strings

Right now, we want to talk about the different ways of cleaning guitar strings. You can clean them without any special tools or products, but if the dirt is really built up, there are also a number of substances that can be used for this purpose. Let’s take a look.

Cleaning Guitar Strings Without Any Cleaning Products

Sure, there are plenty of cleaning products out there designed to clean guitar strings and fretboards. However, maybe you just don’t want to spend any money on them. Yes, you can in fact clean guitar strings without needing any special products. That said, this is really only the case if the buildup on the strings is not too severe.

If the dirt on the strings is light or moderate, all you really need is some kind of rag, towel, old t-shirt, or better yet, a microfiber cloth. Microfiber is the recommended choice here, as they are very smooth, they are absorbent, and they won’t leave behind any lint in the grooves of the guitar strings either.

Here, you are going to take your cloth and put half of it above a single string. You are then going to fold that cloth and put the other half under the string. Then, using your index finger and thumb, pinch the rag or cloth around the guitar string so that it is fully enveloped.

You will now take that rag or cloth and slide it all the way from one end of the string to the other, all while applying a good amount of pressure to the string. Slide the cloth back and forth a few times to remove dirt and grime. A pro tip here, make sure that you don’t slide the cloth too quickly, or else it won’t be able to lift all of the dirt and grime. Simply do this for all of the strings, and keep in mind that the more regularly you do this, the less effort will be required each time.

How to Clean Guitar Strings

Cleaning Guitar Strings with Cleaning Products

If your guitar strings are very dirty and just a rag is not enough to get them clean, you may always use a variety of guitar string cleaning tools and substances. Moreover, there are also special tools out there that allow you to clean more than a single guitar string at once. These tools can help you save a lot of time.

Guitar String Cleaning Tools

If you are looking for a quicker and easier way to clean those guitar strings, you can always buy a special tool such as the Nomad tools.

This is a tool that allows you to attach a microfiber cloth to a flat stick. This effectively lets you clean the tops and bottoms of the strings all at once. However, keep in mind that it doesn’t really pinch the strings or clean the sides of them.

Another good option to consider is the ToneGear String Cleaner. This is a cool tool as it is like a clamp that has microfiber on the inside.

You simply slide the lower part under all six of the strings, then clamp the lid down onto the lower part. You can then swipe this back and forth until the strings are clean. Moreover, because it has a clamping feature, it helps to envelop the strings from 360 degrees, therefore not only cleaning the tops and bottoms, but the sides as well.

You then also have other guitar string cleaning products such as GHS Fast Fret. This looks almost like a little glue stick that you slide back and forth along the strings. These products are outfitted with special substances designed to lift dirt off of the strings. That said, getting underneath the strings can be a challenge.

Other Guitar String Cleaning Tips

  • Although rubbing alcohol does a good job at cleaning guitar strings, it is also a solvent. It can therefore dissolve the lacquer on your fretboard.
  • Another thing you should avoid using is something like WD40. Just like with rubbing alcohol, WD40 can cause some serious problems if it touches your fretboard.
  • Some bassists choose to go as far as boiling their guitar strings. However, this is really only something that bassists should do. It’s not recommended for normal guitars.
  • If you want to keep your guitar strings in the best condition possible, you should also use a professional string lubricating product.

How to Clean Guitar Strings – Conclusion

There you have it folks, you should now know exactly how to clean your guitar strings.

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