Why taking care of your strings and fretboard is essential to playing and sounding better

Everyone hates cleaning, but keeping your neck and fretboard free of dirt and grime can make your guitar easier and more enjoyable to play…

While the whole ‘ride hard and put away wet’ thing might seem like the most rock ‘n’ roll way to treat your guitar, that’s not necessarily the best way to ensure that you and your instrument are going to keep making sweet music together.

The strings and fretboard are the parts of your guitar that get the most exposure to your hands, and that means that it’s very easy for sweat, grime and all sorts of unpleasant things to build up, and that’s definitely a bad thing.

Why? Well, dirty strings won’t last as long for one – sweat and moisture can cause corrosion that makes them more liable to break, which is the last thing you want mid-gig, or even mid-at-home-playalong. Furthermore, a build-up of dirt and grime will gradually render your strings dull and lifeless – perfect if you want that lo-fi tone, but not exactly what most of us are after…

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And that’s before we even get to the feel of the damn things – anyone who’s ever picked up a guitar that has ancient strings on it and tried to play will tell you that wading through months or years of caked-on sweat, finger-poo and general detritus feels, well… grim.

Keeping It Clean

First things first, and this might seem obvious, but if you want to minimise the amount of dirt that accumulates on your strings when you play, how about washing your hands before you pick up your instrument? That’s not going to do everything, however…

Most of us know that when you change your strings you should give your neck and fretboard a good clean with the appropriate cleaning and treatment product for your wood (remember, never use lemon oil on maple boards), but giving your guitar a wipe down every time you play can help your strings last longer and your guitar play better for longer.

There are myriad products designed to keep your neck and strings in good nick, but today we’ve chosen to pick out two of the most popular from GHS – Fast Fret and Gorgomyte – to illustrate the benefits of using proper string-cleaning products on a regular basis.

GHS Fast Fret

Fast Fret is a staple of guitar shops the world over, but if you’ve never appreciated the benefits of the ubiquitous gold tube, here’s why it’s worth considering making it part of your post-gig and practice routine.

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Once you’ve finished playing, run the black-handled applicator up and down the strings a few times, and then wipe it off with the supplied cloth – if it’s been a while, you’ll probably be shocked at the colour of the cloth after you’re done! Now when you pick that guitar back up, you should notice a smoother and more comfortable playing experience.

Going Deep

GHS Gorgomyte

When your guitar needs a bit of a deeper clean, however, GHS has the Gorgomyte cleaning cloth – a slightly Dungeons & Dragons name it may have, but this fret and fingerboard cleaning cloth is trusted by everyone from Foo Fighters to Aerosmith and scores more.

Designed to clean your fretboard and frets themselves without damaging them, you’ll want to use this when you’re changing strings, as they’ll need to be removed before you begin.

Cut out a two-inch square piece of the cloth and simply rub it up and down the frets and fretwire, then rub it down again with a cloth to remove any detritus – the cleaning product contained within the Gorgomyte cloth will clean and condition both without the harshness of wire wool or potentially damaging cleaning products.

What Condition You’re In

GHS Fingerboard Care Kit

Cleaning is only part of the battle to keeping your fretboard in tip-top shape, however, and if you really want to go all out, you should consider trying out a bespoke cleaning solution such as the GHS Fingerboard Care Kit.

Inside, you’ll find two handy cleaning products – a fret buffer and some fingerboard conditioner. First up, use the grey side of the fret buffer to lightly clean the dirt and grime off the frets themselves, then use the white side to polish them up to a lovely smooth-playing shine.

GHS Fretboard buffer

For the conditioner, apply a little bit of the solution to the supplied cloth and go to work on that fingerboard – you should notice it really getting out the deep dirt and grime from your ’board. Combine the two and you’ll be in for a smooth, smooth ride.

Feel It For Yourself

If you take care of your guitar, it’ll take care of you, and while giving it a post-gig or post-practice rub-down, or going the extra mile when you’re restringing might be the last thing you feel like doing, the results will speak for themselves. Give it a try, and you’ll not only find that your guitar plays and sounds better for longer, but it’ll save you a few quid in new strings as well.

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