Gibson cleaning supplies for guitar

I've got a friend... great guy, good player. His pride and joy is his '90s Gibson Les Paul in a faded 'burst. But I went round for a “guitar summit” ( okay, it was just a random jam, really) one evening and he was there polishing his LP beauty with high-gloss furniture spray. Body and fretboard. With the strings on. Noooooooo!

I had to break it to him gently that there are certain ways to clean your favorite guitar, and certain ways definitely not. At first, I couldn't offer him all the best advice, I just knew he was doing it wrong. So? I looked into it, asked around some of my trusted guitar experts. Here are various tips, condensed, on cleaning your favorite Gibson guitar.

You may hanker for the filthiest tone ever, but a clean guitar is always good. It can even make you play better. General grime, sweat, unwanted moisture and dust can all build up. And that's not good for a Gibson guitar built from the best woods.

So: take a shower, clean your teeth, and relax. Here are some guitar hygiene tips...

Strings Off!

As said many times before at Gibson.com, if you can't remember the last time you fitted fresh strings... you probably need to change them. And when you do change strings, it's the perfect time to give your whole guitar some cleanin' TLC.

Gibson-Brite-Wire-Strings

Tip #1 Remove your strings only two or three at a time, to minimize any sudden changes to neck tension.

Tip #2 Even if not changing strings, try and wipe them down with a dry lint-free cloth after every playing session. Keeping them clean will make them last longer.

Tip #3 If cleaning your strings when still on your guitar, loosen them slightly and pinch your cloth around the whole string to banish finger and fretboard grime.

Fresh Fretboards

Your 'board doesn't need too much love, possibly only two or three times a year. It’s crucial not to mess too much with the natural moisture the fretboard picks up from oils on your fingers.

For a quick rubdown, strings off, and use a soft damp-ish cloth... but not “wet”. You don't want visible water drops on your 'board. Work your way down the 'board and keep turning that cloth (even a clean old T-shirt will do) so you don't simply transfer dirt from one fret to another.

Tip #4 If your fretboard is really grimy, finish off with a light rub over using extra fine #000 or #0000 steel wool.

Tip #5 If you follow Tip #4, cover your guitar's pickups with another cloth. Even steel wool's tiny particles will be attracted to your pickup magnets. You don't want that. It’s best to cover up your pickups when cleaning with steel wool.

Tip #6 Don't needlessly dump that ol' toothbrush in the garbage. Wrap some colored tape on the handle (so everyone knows it's not for yo' mouths) and use it to clean up against the frets. Old soft toothbrushes are good for kitchen and bathroom tight spots, too! I rarely throw old toothbrushes away. Alternatives? An old credit card (I got plenty of them, too!) or a toothpick. Be gentle.

Tip #7 You may see hairline cracks on a dried-out fingerboard. Gibson’s Luthier’s Choice Fretboard Conditioner is your friend. Or rub one or two drops of oil (mineral, almond, linseed) into the fretboard to condition it. Please don't overdo it, and make sure to wipe off excess oil with a soft, dry cloth.

The jury remains out on some Lemon Oils – as they are advertized – because many contain added ingredients. Go for special guitar oil: no silicon, no wax and as minimal chemicals as possible. Your Gibson's rosewood or ebony 'board should still get a light oiling at least once a year.

Finish Lookin' Fine

You shouldn't need (or use) anything too abrasive on your fave Gibson guitar's body and neck. A bit of hard polishing with a dry cloth or, if it's really filthy, a slightly damp but not “wet” cloth will mostly do the trick.

Many Gibsons have several coats of a high-quality nitrocellulose lacquer. “Nitro” ages nicely but is also porous. Avoid dripping-wet cloths at all costs.

Tip #8 For a thorough clean, Gibson's own Pump Polish and our Luthier’s Choice Hi Gloss Polish are specially formulated for your Gibson.

Gibson-Pump-Polish-and-cloth

Tip #9 Always squirt cleaner onto a rag first, not directly onto the guitar. You'll have read this before with all manner of household cleaning products, and for good reason.

Tip #10 Try and keep fretboard and guitar body cloths different. It sounds tough, but it's not. And it will stop you simply transferring dirt from one place to another.

Tip #11 Do not use everyday furniture polish on a guitar. Ever. The oils in most furniture polishes will likely seep into wood and change density and sound. Furniture polish is fine for a wooden table: that's why it's called furniture polish. But you don't care how your wooden table sounds, right?

Hardware Care

When it comes to bridges, pickups, tuners and nuts, you shouldn't have to do much. Again, a slightly damp cloth can clean your bridge, but a pipe cleaner or (again) a small, soft toothbrush can be used here for major grime.

Tip #12 A dab of glass cleaner on a cloth is good for giving a polish to metal tuners.

Tip #13 Use that old toothbrush again to gently scrub any grime from your bridge. A slightly damp cloth will usually do, though. Especially with Gibson's Titanium fittings on the 2016 models.

Tip #14 Pickups can get a bit mucky. But never put any moisture near them. A dry, clean cloth is the only advisable way to polish pickup covers.

Tip #15 Compressed Air Spray is good for just blowing away initial dust. On anything. It's cheap (well, for air!) and will help your laptop keys and vents clean, too.

Gibson’s Vintage Reissue Restoration Kit , which includes two polish cloths, a low abrasion Metal Cleaner, Fretboard Conditioner, and Restorative Finish Cream specially formulated to treat and protect older finishes and fretboards.

Gibson-Vintage-Reissue-Care-Kit

Tip #16 A quality, soft, small, clean paintbrush (maybe camel hair) is also good for a regular dust-away before you clean.

Tip #17 Even if your Gibson is clean, don't leave your guitar exposed to direct sunlight for long periods: it could prematurely damage and crack the finish. Give it a wipe down and, when not in use, put it back in its case.

Tip #18 If you're low on cash and can't even afford new strings, some players recommend boiling strings, sometimes with baking soda or a dash of vinegar. Do not expect a long term fix! They might be gunk-free and more zingy for a while, but boiling causes metal fatigue. They'll soon sound dead, or simply snap. It can't be helped. Just buy some new strings.

Tip #19 I've seen some people recommend boiling strings in water with added ethanol. Don't ever do this on your stove, players. Boiling alcohol can be a fire hazard.

Tip #20 Bottom line, do not use any abrasive cleaning products on your guitar, no matter what grime state it's in. Buy specifically guitar-recommended products. Long-term, they will keep your Gibson good for life. Add a pro-luthier set-up once in a while, and you're good to go. Play on!