At some point in your guitar journey, you may hear people telling you to oil your guitar. When it comes to oiling guitars, the amount of advice out there can be confusing, as people seem to suggest all sorts of oils and to apply them in all sorts of ways. What oil can you use on the guitar?
The oil you use to oil your guitar may depend on the types of wood your guitar is made of and also if your guitar is finished or unfinished. Use non-edible oils on your guitar to prevent it from turning rancid. You also only need to oil your guitar sparingly.
This article discusses what oil you can use on your guitar. It starts by exploring why you should oil your guitar, before discussing oils to use on your guitar.
The article explores how to oil your guitar before answering common questions about oils. These common questions include using lemon oil or WD-40 on your guitar.
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Why Do You Oil Your Guitar?
Generally, you oil your guitar to protect its finish and clean it. The areas you want to pay more attention to when oiling your guitar are the fretboard and the guitar neck, as they get dirty and gunky from sweat and dead skin.
There are reasons why you hear people talking about oiling their guitars. Generally, people oil their guitar to clean them, protect their finishing, or prepare it for sale.
Oiling Cleans Your Guitar
The guitar may be one of those instruments you repeatedly use without cleaning it. In fact, it may be used for years, and you may need to think about doing a proper cleaning. Perhaps all you did was occasionally wipe it with a cloth.
Actually, some parts of your guitar should be cleaned properly, especially the fretboard, neck, and around the bridge. This is because these are the areas where your skin gets into contact with the guitar.
As you play guitar, your skin may leave behind sweat and grime on your guitar, which may, over time, leave these areas with dirty marks or, worse, gunk.
However, if you think clearing these nasties is as simple as scrubbing them with dishwashing liquid, or alcohol, please stop. This is because these harsh cleaners may damage your guitar’s finish and your fretboard. The best way to clean these marks is to use oil.
Oiling Protects Its Finish
In general, guitars may come either finished or unfinished. If your guitar is finished, it means the wood surface has some treatments done to it. At the most basic, you may see some finishing oil applied to it, such as tung or linseed oil. Naturally, finished guitars may have a more matted look with a soft shine.
Most guitars may carry a thicker layer of lacquer or resin for a more finished surface, making the guitar appear more glossy. These finishes sometimes also enhance the color and grain of the wood.
However, finishings may wear down over time due to frequent contact with skin or abrasion. When the finishes are worn down, the bare wood is exposed, which may cause it to discolor or lose its strength over time.
Oiling your guitar may help protect the surface, especially in areas where abrasions happen most, such as the fretboard, neck, and bridge.
Oiling May Help It To Get Higher Resale Price
Suppose that you are going to put your beloved guitar on sale. Consider applying oil to it, as it may help increase its resale price.
First of all, we have established above that oiling your guitar actually helps to protect it. Oiling also helps to protect your guitar’s finish. This means it may look better and nicer after you oil your guitar.
This means you may likely be able to sell your guitar at a higher price. Considering that you do not need a lot of oil to clean and protect your guitar, it may be a wise investment to first oil your guitar before selling it.
What Oil Can I Use On Guitar?
In general, you only use non-edible oil to oil your guitar. This is because edible oils usually turn rancid and may affect your guitar badly. The exact type of oil you use on your guitar may depend on the types of wood and finishing of your guitar.
When it comes to oiling your guitar, you may hear all sorts of conflicting advice out there. Many talks about using all kinds of oils and oil the guitar in different intervals.
One such piece of advice is to use edible oil. With edible oil, we are talking about oils such as olive oil, corn oil, or other types of vegetable oil. These people often reason for their oil choice by saying that it will not harm their guitars if the oil can be eaten.
However, these people may have missed out on a very simple fact: guitars aren’t salads and are not meant to be eaten. This means applying edible oil may not make sense.
The biggest issue with using edible oil on guitars is that these oils usually do not last long and may break down fairly quickly. When these oils break down, they may turn rancid and may cause your guitar to smell odd.
To compound the problems further, once these oils turn rancid, removing them may be almost impossible because they may have been absorbed deep into the wood. This is particularly so if your guitar is unfinished or on your fretboard. When this happens, it may be too late, and your guitar may be permanently damaged.
As such, use only mineral, wood-based, non-edible oil that lasts long and does not turn rancid.
The exact type of oil to use on your guitar may depend on several factors, such as the finishing and the wood used to make your guitar. This is because some oils seem to work better on different types of wood.
What Oil Do You Use To Clean Guitar Fretboards?
To clean guitar fretboards, you can use mineral oil, gunstock oil, or F-One oil. These oils are fast drying and do not leave an oily feel to your fretboard. You can also use guitar fret and fingerboard cleaning solutions such as Gorgomyte or Ernie Ball Wonder Wipes.
Fretboards are a rather unique part of a guitar body. They are often left unfinished, even if the rest of the guitar body is finished in lacquer, nitrocellulose, or polyurethane.
If you are unsure whether your fretboards are finished or not, run your fingers through the board. If you feel the wood texture on your fretboard, chances are they are either unfinished or lightly finished.
Generally, the oil you use to clean the fretboard can also become the ‘finishing’ that will protect it over time. Here are some of the oils you can use to clean your fretboard:
Mineral oil is the most common oil used to clean and refinish guitar fretboards. It is affordable and does not turn rancid. It also dries up quickly without leaving a sticky, oily feel on your fretboard.
You should be able to purchase it from many places, such as hardware stores or supermarkets. You can even buy mineral oil from the pharmacy. This mineral oil is also drunk as a laxative.
Since you would not be clearing and refinishing your guitar often, you only need a small bottle. Mineral oil should work very well on unfinished rosewood, ebony, and maple fretboards.
Gunstock oil is known for its fast-drying properties. It is also colorless, meaning it will not alter the color of your fretboard. Some may also use gunstock oil to refinish their guitar as it is long-lasting, and helps to enhance the grain of the wood.
Gunstock oil is usually made by mixing boiled linseed oil, mineral spirits, and oil varnish together. Applying multiple layers of it on your guitar fretboard may leave it with an appealing soft shine. If applying multiple layers, allow up to 24 hours between each coating for better results.
F-One oil is a custom formula of oil that you can use to clean and also refinish your guitar. It is a mixture of ultra-refined tree, and seed oils blended together to give you a pleasant cleaning experience.
Like mineral and gunstock oil, it dries fast and does not leave behind a sticky and oily feel on your fretboard while you play later.
Aside from these oils, you can also use a more customized solution to clean your unfinished fretboard or guitar, such as Gorgomyte cleaning, polishing cloth, or the Ernie Ball Wonder Wipes.
What Oil Do You Use To Refinish Guitars?
If your guitar is unfinished or naturally finished, you may consider using tung oil, linseed oil, or Tru oil. These oils absorb quickly into the wood, protecting it without causing the guitar to feel sticky and oily.
Most guitars these days are given a finish on the body, neck, and other parts. Only the fretboard is generally unfinished. The reason is that these finishings help to protect the guitar and make it longer lasting.
However, there are unfinished guitars out there, especially if you purchase hand-made guitars. These guitars generally come as raw wood but with some wood oil applied to them as temporary finishing.
If you have an unfinished guitar, you may need to oil it regularly to protect the wood. Unprotected wood on the guitar may deteriorate faster due to exposure to humidity. It may affect the sound your guitar makes.
After cleaning your guitar with a damp, moist cloth, and wait for it to dry. Then apply one of these oils to your guitar to refinish it, and protect it.
Tung oil is also commonly known as China wood oil. It has been used extensively in China to finish wood pieces for thousands of years, and its effectiveness makes it popular today.
Tung oil is often mixed and diluted with thinner, allowing it to become very watery and penetrate into the grains of the wood better. This type of tung oil would work well with your guitar.
Tung oil absorbs into the wood when used regularly to refinish guitars, making it water resistant. It also leaves your guitar with a soft shine without altering the color of your wood. Some guitarists also prefer to use tung oil to finish their guitar necks, as it allows them to feel the grains of the wood as their palms slide up and down the guitar neck.
Boiled Linseed Oil
Boiled linseed oil is also a popular option to refinish your guitar. It is extracted from the flax plant and may be edible. However, the version used for wood finishing has been mixed with additives, making it inedible.
When applied to your guitar, it absorbs rapidly into the wood, building good protection against water and a layer on the top of the wood. Like tung oil, it also dries rather quickly and does not form a layer so thick that you cannot feel the grain of the wood.
Tru Oil is a branded, more specific version of gunstock oil, usually used to finish gun stocks. It, however, can also be used to be applied on your guitar.
The good thing about Tru oil is that it can be used on both fretboards and also the body of the guitar, making it a much more flexible solution. It also does not leave behind a sticky, oily feel to your guitar, as it absorbs rapidly into the wood.
How To Oil Your Guitar
Oiling your guitar involves cleaning before applying oil to refinish it. You will need to remove all the strings, to ensure good cleaning work. You can either use a piece of paper towel to apply the oils. If your guitar has gunk or stains, consider using Scotchbrite or an old toothbrush to agitate the contaminants.
Oiling your guitar is a rather simple process, although executing it can be a little tedious. This is because you will need to remove all the strings to clean the guitar body and the frets well.
To clean and oil your guitar, follow the steps below:
- Start by removing all the strings of your guitar. Loosen the tuning pegs on your guitar headstock, and remove the strings from it.
- Then use a plier, and pull out the pins on the other end of the string. Once done, you should be able to remove the guitar string completely now.
- Repeat steps 1 and 2 on all six strings.
- Start by giving your guitar a wipe-down. Use a microfiber cloth, wet it slightly, and wipe the surface of your guitar. Focus on the areas where your skin may touch the guitar, such as the neck and fretboard.
- Allow the guitar to dry.
Now that the guitar is generally clean, you can focus on deep cleaning the fretboard.
- Observe the fretboard. If you notice any stains, gunk, or buildup on the fretboard, you may need to remove it.
- Take a piece of paper towel, and apply the cleaning oil of your choice.
- Allow the oil to sit for 5 minutes.
- Rub the paper towel on the stain, and observe the results. If the stain remains, it may need stronger agitation.
- Use an old toothbrush or a Scotchbrite pad. Apply some oil on it, and try to agitate on the stain. It should be able to remove the stain.
- Repeat the process on the whole fretboard for good measure. However, since there are no major stains on the other parts of the fretboard, a bit of brushing and scrubbing should do.
- Wipe the fretboard again with a paper towel to remove any leftover residue.
- Use another piece of paper towel, but this time apply some oil. Rub the oil into the fretboard, and top up if needed.
- Allow five minutes for the oil to rest on the fretboard.
- Use a dry paper towel and try to rub away any excess oil. Focus on the edges and where the fretboard meets the fret bars.
- Allow up to 15-20 minutes of drying time before restringing your guitar.
If your guitar body is finished with lacquer or nitrocellulose, your cleaning and oiling job stops here. However, if your guitar body uses smooth finishing, you may need to reapply the finishing oil.
You may use a paper towel, paint brush, or a clean piece of microfiber cloth. Apply some of the finishing oil on the surface, and spread the oil across your guitar body. Allow up to 24 hours of drying time before restringing your guitar.
Can I Use Lemon Oil On My Fretboard?
Lemon oil may or may not be safe for your fretboard, depending on its purity. Lemon oils with higher purity may be bad for your fretboard, as they may corrode the finishing on your fretboard. However, lemon oil mixed with minerals or other oils may be safe for your guitar fretboard.
You may hear some general advice to use lemon oil to clean and protect your fretboard. You may even see bottles of lemon oil that claim to be good for cleaning guitars.
However, not all lemon oils are the same. This is because lemon oils come in multiple levels of purity and intensity. You have lemon oils mixed with other mineral oils and additives on one end. On the other hand, you have lemon oils that come straight from the fruit, usually essential oils.
Generally, you want to avoid using lemon oils with higher purity. This is because concentrated lemon oil may be corrosive and damage the finishing or surface of your fretboard. If applied to other parts of your guitar, it may also damage the finishing.
However, if the lemon oil is mixed with other oils to lower its intensity, it should be ok to use with your fretboard. In fact, some high-quality fretboard oils do contain lemon oil, for example, the Jim Dunlop 65 Fretboard Lemon Oil. It may have the name Lemon oil, but it is mostly mineral oil with a bit of lemon oil inside. However, with the Jim Dunlop oil, you may not want to apply it to your fretboard if it is made of maple. This is mentioned specifically on Jim Dunlop’s website.
Is WD-40 Safe For Guitar?
WD-40 may not be safe for your guitar. This is because it is a petroleum-based product meant for metal and is highly penetrative. The chemicals in WD-40 can harm the finishing of wood and the wood itself if it is unfinished.
Many people understand the wonders of WD-40 and how it seems to be able to oil and lubricate almost everything, even the rustiest screws, and bolts. Because of this, many people also may try to use WD-40 as oil to clean their guitars or fretboards.
However, WD-40 may not be safe for your guitar in general. This is because it is a petroleum-based product and is highly penetrative. It is also given many chemicals that make the oil super penetrative. WD-40 is also meant for use on metal.
As such, it may not be safe on wood. WD-40 may damage the finishings on your guitar, or the wood itself of your guitar wood is not finished, for example, the fretboard.
When possible, avoid WD-40 or any petroleum or silicone-based oils, and stick to wood, mineral, or other proper oils used to clean and refinish guitars and fretboards.