Last Updated on March 20, 2023 by Teemu Suomala
Tyler Connaghan is a guitarist, singer, producer, composer & engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Tyler has been playing the guitar since 2007. In between writing for guitar publications, he produces music for film and television. His favorite axe is his custom Pelham Blue Fender Stratocaster.
Expertise: music industry, producing, acoustic & electric guitars, songwriting
Bachelor of Science in Music Industry Studies, Music Industry
Editing & Research: Teemu Suomala
Playing guitar since 2009. Mainly focused on electric guitars, although jamming with acoustics too. Has played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years. That’s why he started this blog in January 2020 and started sharing his experience. Has produced content for several large guitar websites, such as Songsterr, Musicnotes, GuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.
Your acoustic guitar is SO much more than an instrument…It’s an extension of you and your art.
And though you might think your guitar can withstand the trials and tribulations of daily practice, nightly gigging, and worldwide touring, it’s important to remember that acoustic guitars are relatively delicate instruments.
The good thing is that you don’t need to be a master luthier to ensure your acoustic guitar stays in tip-top shape. In fact, maintaining those sweet, woody, and crisp organic tones is as simple as having a routine care and maintenance routine.
So, how do you maintain an acoustic guitar?
Unfortunately, many guitarists think that taking care of an acoustic guitar is a daunting task, which is why in this guide, we’ll explore the basics of how to take care of your acoustic guitar, including a number of cleaning, storing, and handling tips.
Let’s dive in!
How to Take Care of Your Acoustic Guitar
Keep Your Hands Clean
If you’re not already washing your hands before you pick up your acoustic guitar each time to play, start now. It’s an essential part in maintaining the quality and longevity of your strings.
Whether you like to hear it or not, your hands naturally produce oil and sweat. Over time, this oil and sweat can accumulate on the fretboard and strings, giving your acoustic guitar a dull and lifeless sound.
So, how do we deter this?
A simple hand wash will suffice! Not only will it get rid of oils and dirt that can build up on your fretboard, but it’ll also improve your guitar’s lifespan overall. You can think of it as a pre-cursor to guitar maintenance.
Wiping Your Strings Down After Playing
Unfortunately, no matter how much of a champion hand washer you are, they can still produce oil and dirt that’ll build up on your strings. If these things go uncared for, your strings can suffer from rust and corrosion, sinking you further into that dull tone territory we were talking about earlier.
The best way to increase the lifespan of your guitar strings is by wiping them down after each session. All you need is a dry microfiber cloth, which you can gently glide along each string after a playing session.
If you’re really serious about keeping your guitar string clean, you can use a string cleaner.
Not only do good string cleaners prevent corrosion and rust, but they also enhance playability by reducing friction between the strings and the fretboard. This can give you a smooth and more comfortable playing experience overall.
Check our definitive guide on how to choose acoustic guitar strings here.
Change Your Guitar Strings Regularly
The more and more you play your acoustic, the duller and more lifeless the strings will become. Of course, this tone can be desirable for some players, though, for the most part, we want a bright, crisp sound from our acoustic guitars coupled with solid intonation.
Plus, by changing your strings regularly, you can remove unwanted buildup that can damage your acoustic guitar down the line.
While the frequency in which you change your guitar strings will depend on a number of factors, such as how often you play, the style in which you play, and the type of strings that you use, it’s generally recommended to change your strings every three to six months.
With that being said, there are some professional players I know who change their strings out every week or before each recording session or gig. If you want to be proactive, that’s great, but I would just say be cognizant of your tone and change your strings when you begin noticing a drop in feel or quality.
One of the most overlooked acoustic guitar care tips that players overlook is proper storage.
For starters, storing your acoustic guitar out of direct sunlight is essential for maintaining its structural integrity and preventing damage.
While most guitars can stand UV rays on their own, sunlight coupled with extreme heat can cause the finish of your guitar to fade or crack. In the worst cases, it can cause warping or splitting.
The same thing goes for fluctuations in temperature and humidity level, which can have a significant impact on the overall sound and tuning stability.
To avoid both direct sunlight and extreme humidity changes, your best bet is to store your guitar in a cool, dry place (45-55% relative humidity is the sweet spot). We also recommend getting your hands on a protective hard case, if possible, as it’ll provide you with the best protection against damage as possible.
Loosen Your String During Extended Non-Play Periods
Loosening the strings on your acoustic guitar when you aren’t playing for a while is a simple and effective way to protect it from damage.
When your strings are under tension for extended periods, it creates stress on the neck and bridge of the guitar. This can lead to warping, bowing, and, in worst-case scenarios, cracking of the wood.
By loosening your strings just slightly when you aren’t playing your guitar for a long period of time, you can minimize tension and the risk of damage.
Cleaning Your Acoustic Guitar
While we have a separate article that dives into how to clean acoustic guitar on a far more in-depth level, we’ll give you a basic step-by-step rundown for every time you change your strings:
- Remove Your Strings: Loosen your strings and remove them from your acoustic guitar. Doing so will make it much easier to clean the body and fretboard
- Wipe Your Acoustic Guitar Down: Using a soft, dry cloth or guitar-specific cleaning brush, gently wipe away dust and debris from the surface of your acoustic guitar. Pay close attention to hard-to-reach areas, such as the bridge and the frets.
- Get Rid of Buildup: When cleaning your fretboard, you can use a small dab of lemon oil on a cloth. Rub it into the fretboard in the direction of the wood grain to clean and condition the wood. However, if you have a maple fretboard, refrain from using lemon oil. Instead, use a slightly damp cloth with a mild soap solution. Just avoid getting the fretboard too wet or scrubbing too hard, as this can cause serious damage to the finish.
- Dry the Fretboard: Using a separate clean, dry cloth, wipe the fretboard down again to get rid of any excess moisture.
- Polish Your Frets: You can polish your frets every other strings change (6-12 months), depending on how much you play your guitar. Check for polishing kits online, as each provides their own methods and instructions.
- Clean the Body: Using a different dry cloth and a guitar polish or cleaner, wipe down the body of your guitar. Note that you don’t need to go overboard with polish, and you may not even need to use it every time, depending on how dirty your guitar is.
- Re-String Your Guitar: Once your fretboard is completely dry, re-string your guitar and get it back up to tune.
If I had to recommend one guitar cleaning kit, it’d be the Dunlop 6500 System 65 Guitar Care Kit. I’ve been using this kit for several years. You get all the string cleaning, deep conditioning, and body polishing formulas you’d need to keep your acoustic guitar in tip-top shape.
Get It Set Up
Most acoustic guitarists will get their instruments set up by a professional every six months or so. If you live in a place with extreme humidity or sweeping temperature changes, this could be more often.
Regardless, the point of getting a proper setup is ensuring your guitar sounds the best it can.
Here are a few things you can expect from a professional acoustic guitar setup:
- Improved Playability: A proper setup typically entails adjusting the action (the distance between the strings and the fretboard), which makes it easier to fret notes, and adjusting the neck to ensure it’s at the right height.
- Better Intonation: Your guitar’s intonation is the accuracy of its tuning across the fretboard. With the right setup, you can ensure every note or chord you play will be in tune.
- Reduced String Buzz: String buzz can be the consequence of numerous factors, including a bowed neck, uneven frets, or a nut that’s too low. Your guitar tech will identify any of these issues to reduce or eliminate string buzz altogether.
- Longer Lifespan: When you properly set up your guitar, you are less likely to experience damage over time. For example, a guitar with a properly adjusted truss rod (the metal rod that runs down the neck of your guitar) is less likely to warp or crack. A good setup means better durability.
You can also get yourself a guitar tool kit for at-home setups, though if you’re inexperienced, I’d recommend going with a professional. Overall, making professional setups a part of your acoustic guitar care routine can lead to significant differences in intonation and playability, ensuring it performs at its best over time.
If you want to do the set up yourself, check our picks for the best guitar tool kits here.
Avoid Scratches and Nicks
Being gentle with your guitar is the best way to avoid damaging it.
The more careless you are, the more scratches and nicks you’ll likely end up with down the line. When transporting your guitar, use a hard case to protect it. When playing, avoid wearing hard belt buckles and jackets with metal buttons or zippers, as they can leave scratches on the back of your guitar when they come in contact with the finish.
It’s also a good idea to use a guitar strap with strap locks, as it’ll prevent accidental drops or bumps while playing live.
How Often Should I Clean My Acoustic Guitar?
The frequency in which you clean your guitar will depend on how often you play it and the conditions (temperature, humidity, venues/recording studios, etc.) it’s in. While you should give your guitar a dry wipe-down after each playing session, we recommend performing an in-depth clean each time you change your strings (every three to six months).
Should I Keep Acoustic Guitar in Case?
Keeping your acoustic guitar in a case is a great way to protect it from potential damage, maintain humidity levels, and make it easier to transport. However, it’s important to periodically take it out of the case to allow humidity to escape. Using D’Addario’s Two Way Humidpak is a wise move since it both removes and adds humidity when needed.
How Long Should An Acoustic Guitar Last?
Quality acoustic guitars can last for decades or even a lifetime if well-made and well-maintained. If you’re looking for longevity in your acoustic guitar, make sure to buy one with quality materials, have a good care and maintenance routine, and keep it from being exposed to the elements.
Does Hanging An Acoustic Guitar Damage It?
Hanging an acoustic guitar alone will not damage it. However, if you use a poorly-designed hanger that puts stress on the neck, hang your guitar in an area that is exposed to direct sunlight, or hang your guitar on a wall that isn’t sturdy enough to support it, you could risk damage down the line.
Learn more about proper guitar wall hanging here.
How Often Should You Restring An Acoustic Guitar?
Most acoustic guitarists will change their strings every one to three months, though the actual frequency in which you change your strings will depend on how often you play, how hard you play, and how much your strings are exposed to harsh elements (dirt, oils, inclement weather, humidity, etc.) As a golden rule, it’s best to change out your strings each time they lose their brightness, sustain, or tone.
Conclusion on How to Take Care of Your Acoustic Guitar
Taking care of your acoustic guitar is an essential part of being a responsible guitar owner. With the right maintenance and care, you can make sure your acoustic guitar stays in good condition for many years to come.
Your acoustic guitar is an investment in your music, and with regular cleaning, proper storage, and routine setups from your local guitar tech, you can protect that investment and keep it in tip-top shape for many years to come!
This Post Has One Comment
These were good tips …most guys need reminders and care tips !! I found myself checking your list…yup..do that …yup do that …Humidifiers may be something to mention…a wall hydrometer….basically any equipment that a guitar owner may consider purchasing would be very helpful for you to mention . Thanks , and keep up the good work.!!!