It’s a good idea to clean and oil your guitar fretboard on a fairly regular basis to keep it looking and sounding it’s best. Here’s some suggestions on the best ways to clean your guitars’ fretboards.
1. Finished Fretboards Only Need Occasional Cleaning
Finished fretboards feature a clear finish and usually only need occasional cleaning. Maple boards are always finished. Many rosewood boards, like Rickenbackers, are as well. So no oiling is necessary for finished fretboards. You can simply use whatever polish you use on the rest of your guitar.
2. Unfinished Fretboards Need Regular Cleaning
Unfinished fretboards are typically made from rosewood or even ebony. Unfinished fretboards do need cleaning, and now and again you’ll need to oil them so they stay in optimal condition. Make sure you do NOT use regular wood polish because it could mess up the wood, and make it tough to glue or refinish or refret your guitar down the road.
3. When Changing Strings, May As Well Do A Light Cleaning
If you’re changing strings and want to do just a regular ol’ clean-up job, you could simply use a dry clean cloth. But if you want to go the extra mile, purchase some naptha which is basically a lighter fluid that you can find in the BBQ section of a supermarket. Naptha cleans off oils, dirt, wax and other shmutz and it shouldn’t affect the finish.
4. For Serious Cleanings, Use 0000-Grade Steel Wool
If you want to do a serious cleaning, you may need to go so far as using a piece of fine steel wool (0000 grade) to scrub off crud buildup and little scratches, but be careful that you don’t scrub across the board. Make sure to go up and down with the grain. Also make sure you avoid getting particles of the steel wool in your polishing rag. If you’re cleaning the fretboard of an electric guitar with fine steel wool, you should even take the extra step of putting masking tape over the pickups to prevent steel wool fragments from coming in contact with the magnets of the pickups.