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What should I clean an ebony fretboard with?

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  • What should I clean an ebony fretboard with?

    Ok, on my old username I asked this question, but since the transition it seems to be gone...

    Anyway, I got a Martin HD-28, and the fretboard is pretty dirty.  Now, I've heard I shouldn't use any oils because it can react with the finish, but what should I use to clean it?

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  • #2

    Best to clean it with 0000 steel wool followed with a moistened cotton cloth. And, oil is OK as long as you don't use very much or very often. I use Dunlop "65" lemon oil once a year at the most, but baby oil works as well. I wouldn't use ANY unless it REALLY needs it.

    Three Dreads......2 Martins and 1 YamahaA fiddle, a mando, a uke, eight harmonicas, a Zoom H2, a Panasonic recorder, coupla penny whistles, an Italian made Titano accordion, three handguns, at least a dozen chess sets, more power tools than Bob Vila, and one old Westclox "Big Ben" wind-up alarm clock that still works! Oh, BTW, I forgot to mention my ocarina and maracas.

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    • rainrainwash3
      rainrainwash3 commented
      Editing a comment

      Opa John wrote:

      Best to clean it with 0000 steel wool followed with a moistened cotton cloth. And, oil is OK as long as you don't use very much or very often. I use Dunlop "65" lemon oil once a year at the most, but baby oil works as well. I wouldn't use ANY unless it REALLY needs it.


      Should I use masking tape or something to cover the fretboard when using the steel wool?


  • #3

    Before you get too aggressive with the abrasive cleaning stuff that actually removes material, why don't you just try a damp rag and some mild soap. Maybe an old toothbrush. Follow it up with a good dry wipe.

    Proud reject from the HCAG Civil Posters Society, Martin snob, vitriolic sociopath, and tantrumist

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    • Freeman Keller
      Freeman Keller commented
      Editing a comment

      All good suggestions - damp cloth, 0000 steel wool - but Martin specifically warns against lemon oil on their FAQ - says it can damage nitrocellulose lacquer (not a problem with poly as on a Taylor).    I always put a piece of low tack masking tape on the top each side of the fretboard and at the nut end.   You can mask off the sides of the board but it usually isn't necessary.    Blow the little bits of steel wool off the guitar when done with some compressed air - if you have a magnet you can pick them up with it.    Get 'em all off, they can scratch the finish.

      btw - when I'm polishing frets (steel wool and sand paper starting at 600 and going to 2000) I use a draftsman's eraser shield - it has little slots that just fit over the frets and protect the fretboard


  • #4
    I vote for a slightly damp micro fibre cloth, followed immediately by a dry micro fibre cloth. With those you don't need any solvents or grey slime and scratches from steel wool.
    This space left blank by accident

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    • bluzboy
      bluzboy commented
      Editing a comment

      I always thought you could safely use Naptha to clean most fretboards.

      Is that not true?


  • #5
    There are lots of options, but the micro fibre cloth is the latest technology and it only needs a bit of H2O and it cleans better than older methods, without harmful substances. It's based on how geckos stick to walls. :-)
    This space left blank by accident

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