Your guitar strings are one of the most important parts of your instrument. Without them, you cannot play anything and the guitar is essentially useless. They are in contact with your fingers constantly which means that they can get very dirty.
There are many different oils on your fingers that can transfer to the strings of your guitar and cause damage to them. As well as this, dead skin cells and other general dirt can be transferred onto the strings.
While you may not be able to see the dirt on the strings with the naked eye, you will be shocked by how it impacts their playing ability and lifespan. We will take you through how often you should clean your guitar strings and what to use to do it.
How often should you clean your guitar strings?
It is advised that you clean your guitar strings after every playing session. This will prevent grime from sitting on the strings and prolong their lifespan.
Before you start cleaning your guitar strings, you should lay it on a flat surface on its back. This gives you the ability to use both hands to clean the strings without damaging your guitar. You should take care to ensure that the head is not touching the work surface, as this can nudge the tuning pegs. This will then change the tuning of the guitar.
We advise using a microfiber cloth to clean your strings. These are soft and relatively lint-free. This means that you will be much less likely to leave small fibers on the strings which can be irritating.
What do you use to clean your nylon guitar strings?
To properly clean nylon guitar strings you should use a spray bottle filled with water and a microfiber cloth. Spray the water onto the cloth allowing it to become damp.
If you spray directly onto your guitar it can potentially cause damage. This is because the wooden fibers can absorb water and may swell. It can also cause water marks to appear on your guitar, which can be unsightly.
What do you use to clean your steel guitar strings?
For steel guitar strings, you will need a stronger cleaning solution. We recommend a specially formulated string cleaning solution, such as Dunlop UltraGlide and Fast-Fret String Cleaner.
Alternatively, you can use a standard rubbing alcohol. The alcohol percentage should be between 70 and 90% for the optimal results.
How do you clean your guitar strings?
Grab your dampened cloth and hold it so the damp side is facing upwards. Thread one half of the cloth underneath all of the strings at the top of the guitar neck. Fold the other half of the cloth over the top, ensuring that both sides of the strings are covered with the cloth.
Apply some gentle pressure to the cloth as you drag it down the strings of the guitar. You should ensure you move the cloth all of the way from the top of the neck to the bridge.
We recommend taking some extra care when cleaning the strings over the fretboard. This is where your fingers are in contact with the strings the most, and the area that is likely to be most heavily soiled.
It is vital that you clean both sides of the guitar strings. Do not worry too much if your tuning pegs get shifted around, as you can always re-tune your guitar later.
You are likely to notice some grey streaks on the surface of your cleaning cloth after you have cleaned your strings. You may also see your strings changing color. Do not be concerned if this happens, as it is a sign that you were overdue a string clean.
How do you lubricate your guitar strings?
You do not need to lubricate your guitar strings if they are made of nylon. These are already corrosion-resistant. If you have nylon strings they will be tied onto the bridge, whereas steel strings will have pegs holding them in place.
Steel strings need to be lubricated as they will become sticky and corroded if you do not. Good products to use include Dunlop Lemon Oil, GHS Fast Fret, and Tone Finger-Ease String Lubricant.
For a more budget alternative, baby oil, Vaseline, or olive oil will work well too. It is important to ensure the lubricating agent is free from petroleum. This can penetrate into the strings of your guitar and cause lasting damage.
Grab a microfiber cloth and apply the lubricant of choice. You can use the same rag that you cleaned your strings with, but be sure to flip it to use the clean side.
Use the same folding method to wrap up the strings in your lubricant-covered cloth. Run it up and down the length of the strings until they appear shiny and smooth.
How often should you change your guitar strings?
As a general rule, you should change your guitar strings once every 3 months, or after 100 hours of playing time. This is variable though. Many people may find that their strings last a significantly longer or shorter time than this.
Professional musicians on tour are likely to be playing daily, meaning that their strings will need changing much more frequently. They may even need to replace them every day while on tour!
Through use, your strings will eventually begin to wear down and can snap. The frequency at which you need to change and replace your strings depends on how often you play. The type of music that you play can also influence this.
Regular cleaning and maintenance of your guitar strings can help to prolong their lifespan. It can reduce the effects of corrosion, particularly if you regularly condition your strings.
It is important to change your strings periodically as this will keep the tone of your guitar sounding good. Any corrosion that develops on the strings can make them feel gritty and nasty underneath your fingers, which makes the playing experience unpleasant.