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Let’s talk about how to clean a guitar. There are several options that you have when cleaning your guitar. We will go through each option in order of how dirty your guitar might be.
The first option that I like to use is a plain, dry polish cloth. It is great to keep a polish cloth in your case and use it after you finish playing. If you clean your guitar regularly, you probably won’t need to use polish as much. There are several different quality levels of polish cloths that range anywhere from about $4-$15. I recommend using the more expensive polish cloths. They work a lot better and last a lot longer.
The next thing that I like to try if my guitar has a bit of grit on it is spit. That may seem a bit gross, but believe it or not spit works great for removing minor dirt and gunk that can build up on your guitar.
Guitar polish can be good for cleaning your guitar and it is pretty inexpensive. You can probably expect to pay anywhere from $6-$15 for a bottle of guitar polish. If you have any cracks in the finish of your guitar, the polish may seep down into the wood.
With that in mind, is a good idea to spray the polish on to the polish cloth and not directly on to the body of the guitar. This is more of a recommendation than a rule.
One of the last resorts for heavy built up dirt and gunk is lighter fluid. This is generally only used in extreme situations. If you do use lighter fluid to clean your guitar, use it in moderation and be very careful. You should be in a well-ventilated area, and apply the lighter fluid to the cloth, not directly to the finish of the guitar. I can think of a few times when I acquired an older, very dirty guitar. The only thing that would get the gunk off was lighter fluid. If you do have heavy build up on a guitar it is probably a good idea to let a pro clean it for you so you don’t damage the finish.
If you have a guitar with a nitrocellulose finish, or an older or vintage guitar with a soft finish, you probably should not use anything on the finish. If it is pretty dirty, you might want to take it to a pro for some cleaning.
If you keep your guitar clean and use your polish cloth on a regular basis, you can almost eliminate the need for any heavy polishing.