I am akin to a newborn babe when it comes to guitars, or at least I was until I started work here at Chesbro Music/ Teton Guitars. I did not know how much went into the quality and care of the instrument.

During my training I was introduced to our Quality Control team, who showed me everything they do from assuring that the cosmetic aspects of each guitar we sell is pristine, to the inspection of the parts in ensuring they impart the sweet, rich sounds that come from our Teton Guitars.

I have always been impressed by the beauty of the different woods, their patterns, and the other details that make them what they are. With that in mind, let’s discuss how to clean your fretboard, to keep your guitar looking, and sounding great.

  • Please keep in mind that this guide is for guitar fretboards that do not have a glossy finish. This is for natural, satin, or “unfinished” fretboards only.
  • Be sure to remove your strings prior to cleaning for full access to your fretboard.

The first thing to do when cleaning your fretboard, is to prepare. Clear off an appropriate workspace so that you can access your fretboard from whichever angle you may need, but keep it stable. Gather your supplies which you have of course already obtained. However, if that is still on your to-do list here are some suggestions:

  • Tape – You are looking for something akin to masking tape or painters’ tape, just make sure it is low tack in order to protect the finish of your music maker. I suggest the 3M Blue Tape.
  • Toothbrush or a plastic scraper (an old gift card does the trick)
  • Steel Wool – You are looking for #0000, anything else will noticeably scratch the wood.
  • Polishing Cloth – some prefer cotton, some microfiber, just be sure that it’s not abrasive.
  • Oil – Which type of oil you use to polish your fretboard will vary depending on personal preference and the wood of your fretboard. Here are a few go-to examples, but be sure to research how they affect your fretboard’s wood prior to using:
    •  Fret Doctor
    •  Roche – Thomas Bore Oil or Roche – Thomas Fingerboard Oil
    • Gerlitz Guitar Honey
    • Music Nomad’s F – ONE oil
    • Dunlop Fretboard 65 Ultimate Lemon Oil
  • Neck Support – This isn’t a requirement, but having this handy block to support the neck of your guitar is a great stress reliever.
  • Start out by using the aforementioned tape. You want to tape over any metal parts of your guitar near the fretboard. If you have electronics built into your guitar cover your pickups also so their magnetic qualities don’t collect steel wool.

Now it is time to clean that fretboard! 

  1. Use your tool of choice to gently scrub/ scrape your fretboard. Be sure that you are working in the same direction as the grain or you’ll scratch the wood. Once you’ve used lighter pressure to remove the top layer of dirt and grime from your fretboard run that vacuum over the area to pick up the debris you just removed.
  2. Break out that steel wool and, applying medium pressure, rub the wood between the frets, again going the same direction as the grain.  When finished, run over it with the vacuum again, and you’ll notice that the wood will look dry. That steel wool does a great job but it sucks the moisture out!
  3. This is where the fun part starts for you, making it beautiful again. Take your cloth, and choice of oils, and rub 1-2 drops per section onto your fretboard. It is not necessary to apply much pressure, just cover one section of your board and move onto the next, allowing the oil to rest for a minute or two. You want to make sure that it is shiny with oil, not soaked.
  4. For your finishing touches lightly wipe off the remaining oil in the direction of the grain in a buffing motion to make it shine!

That does it, a beginner’s guide to cleaning your fretboard! Keep in mind that I know far from everything there is to know, so if you have any tips or tricks that have helped you, send them our way! Have fun and keep rocking!  


Questions or comments can be sent to team@tetonguitars.com