Caring for your fretboard

This particular post is for people who have been playing for more than a couple of years (and have never really cleaned their fretboard). A couple of years is enough time for a build up of body oils, grime, dirt and skin to get deposited on the fretboard.

Like the rest of your guitar, you need to clean the fretboard too. However, here is the cautionary note: the procedure that I am about to describe, is only meant for rosewood and ebony fretboards. NEVER try this on a maple fretboard!

Another cautionary note: if your acoustic guitar has a pick-up/equaliser installed (electro-acoustic guitar), then you need to mummify your guitar, like this:

Painter’s tape (called locally as Abro tape and available at paint shops) must be used to cover the side of the fretboard as also the soundhole. pix courtesy

What taping it up like this does, is prevents dust and dirt and other particles from getting into the soundhole and sticking to your pick-up/equaliser.

Once that is done you can get started working on the fretboard.  You will need ‘0000’ steel wool. This is cheap and an excellent fretboard-cleaning tool, though it makes a royal mess. 

pix courtesy:

Take the amount of steel wool shown in the photograph above and then go over each fret and each fret wire until you have managed to take off everything you saw earlier on your fretboard, using an up-and-down motion as shown below.

pix courtesy:

Despite the accumulated muck, you will notice that the fretwires on the fretboard bear a shine almost as if they were new. Indeed, ‘0000’ steel wool is a burnisher and works wonders on wood and metal.


If, however, you feel that there are still some stubborn bits of gunk left on the fretboard, you will need an old credit card. Sand at least two edges of the card to a knife-like edge.

pix courtesy: pinterest

Stick the sharpened edges right against the fretwire, as shown above and pull outwards. Whatever is settled in that little space between the fretwire and the fretboard is taken out, leaving your entire fretboard well and truly cleaned.

After you are fully satisfied with the results, it is time to nourish the fretboard with some oil or a fretboard conditioner. There are umpteen number of products available in the market, though the best is still BOILED linseed oil. If you can get some, a 300 ml bottle should last you a lifetime.

Take a little on a paper towel, a soft, cotton cloth and massage each fret. Leave it on for 5 or so minutes and then with a clean piece of paper towel, a soft, cotton cloth, wipe off the excess.

pix courtesy:

Look at the first four frets of the fretboard in the picture above. Look at the rest of the fretboard. That is the difference a conditioner/oil makes to it. Not only does it look great, it plays good too.
HOWEVER, the oiling of the fretboard should not be repeated more than once a year IF it is oil that you are using to condition. Though oil is good but it does have a tendency to cake up. 




Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

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