Instrument Insight

How To Clean A Bass Guitar (Simple 5 Step Process with 5 Pro Tips)

How To Clean A Bass Guitar

Cleaning a bass guitar doesn’t have to be difficult! In this article, you’ll learn the simple 5-step process of cleaning your bass guitar, as well as 5 pro tips from the experts.

A bass guitar is a big investment, and you want to make sure to take care of it so that it lasts. In order to keep your bass guitar sounding its best, it’s not only important to clean it regularly but also clean it following the right steps and method.

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In this blog post, we’ll give you a simple 5-step process for cleaning your bass guitar, as well as 5 pro tips to help you get the most out of your cleaning session. Keep reading to learn more!

What You’ll Need (At A Glance)

To clean your bass, you’ll either need an old t-shirt/diaper or you’ll need to use a microfiber cloth and a bottle of water. You also want to make sure you have dry paper towels as well. Then, you should put on MusicNomad’s All-in-1 cleaner polish and wax. This product will give you a nice shine.

Basically, the MusicNomad All in 1 Cleaner gives your bass a shiny gloss and a good feel. You’ll need GHS Fast Fret for cleaning the dirt from strings and fretboard. You can get both at a reasonable cost and it lasts a really long time and we think it’s a great investment.

Lemon oil, fine steel wool, and a mechanical pencil are all used by guitarists to make their instruments sound and feel better. Steel wool helps remove unwanted scratches while lemon oil makes strings play better. Mechanical pencils are used to draw out chords and notes.

Without further ado, let’s jump onto the 5 steps process of cleaning your bass guitar:

Step 1. Wash Your Hands

We would recommend washing your hands with warm water and dish soap and then just letting them air-dry afterward; this will prevent bacteria from getting into delicate areas where fungus can grow more quickly than desirable.

After doing these steps, please use hand sanitizer in the final step. It’ll remove if there is anything leftover on your fingers at once.

These steps will stop any dirt or other residue from getting on the instrument in the cleaning sessions while also removing most sweat stains caused by nervous hands!

Though washing your hands before starting cleaning doesn’t sound like a big deal, it really does make cleaning your bass easier. Trust us.

Step 2. Cleaning The Bass Body And Neck

Bass guitars aren’t as hard to clean as other instruments. The body of your bass guitar is a simple part to clean, but there are still some rules you should follow in order for it does not get dirty.

You should wash your hands first as mentioned above, then apply a small amount of guitar polish to a clean cloth. Don’t overdo it or you’ll ruin the finish.

Wood is a natural material with diverse characteristics. Not all bass guitar woods are created equal, so it’s important not to use furniture polish on your piece if you want the paint or finish preserved for its lifetime!

Use something that’s proven to be safe for the guitar wood.

​Rub the cloth along all areas of the body, you can even go back in the neck if desired. Once satisfied with thorough cleaning proceed to the next step.

Here are a few important things before proceeding:

T-Shirts/Diapers (What To Choose?)

Guitar finishes can be a tough spot to keep clean, but luckily there are many solvents and cleaners available. Bass guitar players have varying opinions on what works best for this purpose; some say baby diapers work well while others recommend using cotton towels or even old tee-shirts (the latter being our personal preference).

  • First, use an old but clean t-shirt to wipe out the grime, smudges, and skin oil from your guitar
  • Then, use old baby diapers that have been washed a bunch of times to absorb buff and excess moisture

The key thing in maintaining your guitar’s aging wood finish (which gets damaged by oil from hands that produce sweat during performances) is making sure you use the careful technique when cleaning it so as not to overdo either side of the spectrum too much!

Use A Microfiber Cloth Instead

Feel worried about cleaning with used diapers? Here’s another solution and that is a microfiber cloth. But you have to remember with caution that when you’re cleaning your bass guitar, don’t use the rough microfiber cloths that are normally found around homes or offices.

These types of fabric can scratch finishes and leave marks on surfaces if used incorrectly! Instead, opt for a soft flannel-like material designed specifically to perform this task without damaging sensitive, expensive and worthy items like bass guitars in our example here.

You can use a soft cloth or chamois-like pad to clean your bass guitar. Be sure that you do not apply too much pressure and use irregular/jaggy types of clothes, because this could scratch the paint job on your bass guitar easily. There will be more harm than good.

The best choice for cleaning also can be using the lens cleaners with lightly moistened towels in between each wipe while moving up from lower areas of the instrument until all sides look pristine once again.

Our Top 3 Microfiber Cloth Picks

Editor’s Choice
Fender Premium Plush Microfiber Polishing Cloth
Fender Premium Plush Microfiber Polishing Cloth
9.9
  • Won’t Harm Chrome or Polished surfaces
  • Safe for nitrocellulose lacquer finishes
  • Lint Free
Premium Pick
AAwipes Guitar Microfiber Cloths
AAwipes Guitar Microfiber Cloths
9.7
  • Contains millions of microfibers to pick up and trap dirt, dust, and fingerprints whereas traditional cotton cloths can’t do, providing deluxe care on the instrument surface
  • Continuous fibers offer truly lint-free and ultrasoft cleaning for modern instruments e.g. Guitar strings after each play, or any chrome or polished surfaces of the instrument, ensuring your valuable instrument remains scratch-free and lint-free
  • Truly all-purpose universal ultrasoft microfiber cloths, especially for cleaning of modern music instruments including Guitar Violin Piano Clarinet Trumpet Sax
  • 6-Pack 12″x12″ Cloths
  • CUSTOMIZED DESIGN AVAILABLE
Budget Pick
Ernie Ball Polish Cloth
Ernie Ball Polish Cloth
9.5
  • Safely polish your guitar or bass with Ernie Ball’s microfiber polish cloth.
  • The fiber density of microfiber cloth makes it much more effective than traditional cloth for instrument care.
  • Dimenstions: 12″ x 12″
  • Stitched edging.

How To Choose Cleaners And Polishes

You know that feeling when you can’t get the grime off your guitar? Well, there are many guitar-cleaners/polishes/solutions available out there. You could try using a damp cloth or sponge with some polish added in for extra shine!

With these products, you can get rid of dirt, gunk, smudges, fingerprints, skin oil, and grime while also restoring the natural luster that was lost due to age or wear-and-tear! Hiding the superficial scratches on your bass guitar is possible as well with certain polishes.

You can find a polish online easily that will give your bass an incredible shine. But you should have all the necessary information about what’s inside before you purchase one. If there is silicone incorporated into this product then it’ll only ruin any chance of getting a good result. Instead, look for something without Silicone!

Why? Because besides Silicone is a fantastic tool for taking off the grime from your guitar, it can also grime off the guitar finishes out-of-the-way in places like neck-heel joints, bridge edge areas, or where strings meet their positions.

As a result, if you ever need to refinish the entire instrument or change one single part, there is a high chance of adhering the new finish poorly onto the silicone build-up.

As mentioned earlier here’s our top pick of silicon-free polish:

Best For All-Around
MusicNomad MN103 Guitar ONE All-in-1 Cleaner, Polish, and Wax, 4 oz.
9.9/10 Expert Score
  • Complete guitar maintenance in one bottle to clean, polish, and protect
  • Streak-free, advance formula that smells great
  • Infused with white Brazilian carnauba wax for an acoustically transparent shield with a high gloss shine
  • Safe on all lacquer finishes, not recommended for matte finishes
  • Proudly Made in the USA

Use A Complete Cleaner Kit Instead

Guitar care kits are convenient ways to keep your guitar in pristine condition. The best part about them? They come with all the tools you need for cleaning, polishing, and maintaining that beautiful shiny surface!

A great option if this interests you would be purchasing one of these kits online.

Here are Our Top 3 picks

Editor’s Choice
MusicNomad MN140 Premium Guitar Care 3-Piece Kit
MusicNomad MN140 Premium Guitar Care 3-Piece Kit
9.9
  • Guitar ONE is an all-in-1 cleaner, polish, and wax for everyday cleaning and polishing
  • Safe on all guitar gloss finishes, including Nitrocellulose
  • F-ONE Fretboard Oil uses 100% natural oils and cleans, conditions, and protects on all unfinished fretboards
  • Also includes 12-inch x 12-inch lint-free, high quality, and washable premium suede microfiber cloth
  • Proudly Formulated in the USA
Premium Pick
Dunlop System 65 Guitar Maintenance Kit
Dunlop System 65 Guitar Maintenance Kit
9.8
  • Everything you need to keep your guitar maintained
  • Contains five cleaners for your guitar’s body, neck and strings
  • Also includes a Micro Fine Fret Polishing Cloth, two 100% cotton cloths, and care instructions
  • Great care products
  • Shield against corrosion
  • Extend playing life
  • Includes instructions
  • 100% Cotton polishing cloths
Budget Pick
Ernie Ball Polish With Cloth
Ernie Ball Polish With Cloth
9.6
  • 4 oz. bottle of proprietary guitar polish.
  • 12 x 12 inch gray microfiber guitar polish cloth.
  • Wipe on, wipe off for fast, easy, effective instrument care.

Step 3. Cleaning The Bass Fretboard

When you’re looking to clean your guitar’s fretboard, it is important that the whole surface of the fretboard has been wiped dry first. This way grime or dirt won’t get trapped on any spots where there are harder-to-remove substances like sweat.

In these scenarios, a toothbrush works well for getting off all specks of dirt through those little crevices around frets. Note that, you should take off the old strings first in order to access the fingerboard and do a thorough job efficiently.

Keeping the moisture level consistent is essential for healthy fretboards. If you want your wood to last as long and still maintain its size, then don’t let it get too dry, or else shrinkage will occur which will lead you back into having an uneven surface.

Guitar players have been using oils to maintain their guitar wood for a long time now, but you need careful consideration. There are many different options out there including lemon and mineral-based products specifically tailored towards musicians like you!

Test and experiment might be a good option. When experimenting with different oils, it’s helpful to test out the oil in an inconspicuous location and see how your wood reacts. If you notice that a particular type makes the surface darker, try another variety instead.

It is important to be conservative when using the oil, so don’t overdo it! Give your fretboard a minute or two after application before wiping off excess liquid with a clean towel for an extra touch of care and rub your fretboard with the cloth until all of its residues have been removed.

You can use a jewelry polishing cloth to clean the frets on your guitar. You should be careful not to get them near any wood, as these may contain harmful chemicals that will damage them over time! ​If your frets are looking a little rough, you can give them the shine they originally had with super-fine 0000 steel wool or a microfiber towel.

Lastly, never use alcohol or soap on your guitar’s fretboard. This can cause damage and dry out the wood which is something you don’t want! To keep it healthy treatment, it’s best to wipe off any excess liquid with a cloth instead.

Pro Tip: Wiping off sweat and oil after each use will help keep your bass’ fretboard looking grand. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before and after your playing, or else the dirt can get stuck in between those cracks!

Recommended Products For Cleaning Your Bass Fretboard

1. Gerlitz GEGHO Guitar Honey Fingerboard Oil

Gerlitz’s Guitar Honey is a higher-end way to treat your bass’ neck than lemon oil or wipe. The natural product does have some benefits for people who use guitars with dark wood fretboards including ebony and rosewood, but it also comes at an increased cost!

Pros
  • Amazing for dark woods
  • Excellent reputation for long-lasting effects and quality
  • Easy-to-use with the spritz bottle
Cons
  • Can be difficult to find (We believe Guitar Center is the only carrier online)

Lemon oil on the other hand cleans and polishes the surface of your guitar, but doesn’t do much for deep cleaning in between frets or under strings that the honey oil does though. Lemon oil is more of a surface remover.

2. Jim Dunlop 6554 (Dunlop Ultimate Lemon Oil)

If you want to give your bass fretboard a quick wash before playing in the next few days, there are several products that can help. Lemon wipes and lemon oil come highly recommended by experts because they’re easy to use while still being effective at removing dirt without leaving behind any residue or marks on its surface.

Best For Bass Fretboard
Jim Dunlop 6554 Dunlop Ultimate Lemon Oil, 4 oz.
9.8/10 Expert Score
  • Removes grime and returns your fretboard to its original luster
  • Keeps grime away by providing an invisible sealant against stains and moisture
  • Country of origin: United States
  • Product type: INSTRUMENT PARTS AND ACCESSORIES
Pros
  • Usually very cheap
  • Easy application
  • Can be found easily
  • Equally good for maple, rosewood, light wood, and dark wood fretboards
Cons
  • Not many

For us, Jim Dunlop 6554 has done the job just fine. The lemon oil removes grime and leaves your guitar smelling fresh, all without leaving behind an oily residue or harmful chemicals that could damage its finish! You can store one pack neatly in the gig bag so it’s ready when you need them most.

3. Ernie Ball Wonder Wipes

This product is made of all-natural ingredients to keep your guitar in tip-top shape. It has the ability to clean and condition through a unique combination of jojoba oil (commonly found in skin moisturizers), linseed water (a common furniture color) plus orange extract!

Best For Conditioning
Ernie Ball Wonder Wipes Fretboard Conditioner 20 Pack
9.7/10 Expert Score
  • Product Type: Instrument Parts And Accessories
  • Item Package Weight:0.091 Kilograms
  • Item Package Dimension: 3.81 cm (L) X12.7 cm (W) X 20.675 cm (H)
  • Country Of Origin: United States
Pros
  • Very affordable (Around 6 dollars for a box)
  • Very effective for deep cleaning like Guitar Honey even without any spray
  • Easy to get and use
Cons
  • Not many

What About Maple Fretboard?

Maple fretboards come in two different finishes, Raw or Glossy. If your guitar has a glossy finish then you should use clean cloths to wipe away any dirt and grime from the frets as well as prolong its life span. Otherwise, you can use polish or cleaners for raw maple fretboards.

Fretboard cleaners are essential for keeping your guitar clean and shiny. But not all fretboards need a specific type of cleaner; some unfinished or raw wood can’t handle certain brands, so do the test yourself or see what your guitar manufacturer recommends before applying anything straightaway.

You can follow these detailed instructions which correspond to your maple fretboard’s finish type.

Step 4. Cleaning The Bass Strings

White Vinegar is a powerful cleaner that can be used to clean bass strings and has strong anti-bacterial properties. Mix water and white vinegar together, swish them around for a few seconds before soaking them in the solution. You can leave your strings to dry overnight or untangle each one as you go.

Denatured alcohol can be used to clean bass strings, however, it should be treated with extreme care and precautions or otherwise, it can damage the paint job or a serious accident can happen.

We’ve talked more in-depth about this including our recommended and non-recommended methods in our dedicated article on bass strings cleaning called:

How To Clean Bass Strings? (Any 1 Of These 5 Methos Will Do The Trick)

You can check the article through the above link for more clearer and deeper understanding of cleaning your bass strings. But, for now, let’s talk about 3 more ways, and that are using PVC pipes, wiping, and spanking.

One way to clean your bass guitar strings is with PVC pipes. To make sure they are ready for use, fill them with denatured alcohol and let the alcohol soak into the strings for 24 hours. Denatured alcohol pipes should be filled using safety items such as goggles or glasses.

Wiping your bass strings can be a great method as well. It’s easier to wipe your bass strings than you might think.

And finally, the spanking method. Spank your bass strings to clean them. It’s that simple!

Bonus: Should You Boil Your Strings?

Bass strings can be cleaned in many ways, including boiling. Cleaning bass strings with boiling water will not necessarily remove all dirt or grime and even you may get a good initial result, they may sound bad after a few days of playing.

So, we don’t think that boiling is a good idea because it takes too long, you’ve to do it more frequently, and isn’t worth much the time.

Step 5. Cleaning The Hardware

Hardware should be cleaned with a soft cloth with light guitar polish. The fibers in the fabric will bring back shine while removing any dirt from hard-to-reach areas, like between string saddles on tune o’Matic bridges for example; this is an easy way to make sure you don’t miss anything!

You could also use cotton buds if needed – just remember not to leave residue behind when cleaning because it may corrosion metal slightly over time.

Guitar hardware is often badly affected by corrosion or rust, which can cause it to seize up. Thankfully there are ways of getting rid of this problem without having too much trouble with cleaning procedures.

WD 40 works well for stubborn grime and gunk on metal components like screws; just make sure you remove any loose parts first!

5 Pro-Tips From Experts

1. Care And Maintain Your Bass Guitar

You should never go more than three months without cleaning your bass guitar. This is not much maintenance at all; just like quarterly oil changes for other vehicles and computers that need regular servicing, it’s important to take care of our instruments as well!

A lot can happen in such a short time span: new songs could be written/rehearsed onto the repertoire list ( rehearsals might reveal errors or technique flaws), students could come along who want lessons – this means there will always be some use cases.

So, it’ll be best if you clean your baby on a regular interval of 2/3 weeks or once in 3 months at least. This will leave your bass guitar in pristine condition.

2. A Basic Upkeep You Can Do in Minutes

First things first, take off your bass guitar’s strings and give it a good wipe with lemon oil if you have any fretboard besides maple or phenolic. Let that sit for ten minutes before wiping away the excess juice!

Next, use cotton swabs coated in WD40, take his slowly throughout every inch of both sides and inside any cracks or crevices that may exist near the bridge area; this will ensure there’s no mold or fungus growth within these vulnerable spots.

Once you have done it, then it’s time for cleaning the body of your bass. To keep your guitar looking new, use the appropriate polish and cloths for either polishing or cleaning guitars.

Make sure you clean all around its surface including between each string, neck as well as inside of headstock where tarnish can hide!

When you clean your bass, not only will it be easier for years to come but also plays better. A well-maintained instrument isn’t nearly as prone when ignored so if you love playing that beautiful tone of yours do them a favor and take care of their precious wood.

And, you can do all the above steps in a matter of minutes.

3. Stop To Substitute For Anything Else

There’s no water in methylated spirits or denatured alcohol while rubbing alcohol does. This water mixture of alcohol will ruin your bass strings. So, you shouldn’t be using rubbing alcohol as a substitute.

Instead, just use denatured alcohol from your local hardware store- found next-door neighbor paint thinner products! You’ll need an adult’s signature though because in many places 18 years old+ is required for purchase.

4. Hold The Polish If This A Lacquer Checking

Vintage instruments are often treated with a white cream cleaner and polish, but if your guitar has pronounced lacquer checking then do not apply the product.

Lacquer checking is a condition that presents as cracks or fissures in the finish and can be seen easily when light strikes it at certain angles.

So, you definitely need to hold the polish if this is a lacquer checking.

5. Applying Cleaner and Polish

Wiping your guitar with a cloth using cleaners or polishes will not only keep it clean but also preserve the natural finish. Take care to apply just enough cleaner so that you can easily work through small areas of dirt without leaving behind too much residue on either side.

Then wipe off any excess liquid using an old toothbrush (or even better: invest in one made specifically for cleaning guitars). Be sure not to spray directly onto the surface but rather put it onto some sort of microfibre cloths and start wiping.

This way there’s less risk involved when working near delicate wood parts!

To keep your guitar looking its best, don’t smudge or rub any polish onto the raw wood of bridges, pickguard edges, and where the neck meets the body.

If you see polish within these components, then wrap a thin soft cloth around a toothpick before using it to clean out polishes/cleaners from these areas. Otherwise, just use a clean bristled brush!

When you’re cleaning your bass guitar, make sure to always follow these simple guidelines. If the damp cloth method isn’t enough for getting rid of all that grime then use cleaners and polishes instead.

FAQ

Can I use water to clean my bass guitar?

Using water directly to your bass guitar surface will damage your instrument eventually. So, it is not recommended. Follow the above simple steps and you will be good to go.

What does fretboard oil do?

Fretboard oils are designed to moisturize, condition, and beautify the wood of your fingerboard. Almost all versions include mineral oil – including lemon-scented ones!

How often should I change bass strings?

You should change your bass strings depending on what you hear. Some people love the sound of Marcus Miller Fat Beams, but after only a couple of months (2-3) before their initial “outta pack fresh” brightness is gone and they need to be replaced too soon for our liking. Even though this may seem like an expense at first glance – we recommend replacing them every 6/12 months.

How to clean a fender bass?

The cleaning process for your Fender bass shall not differ much. You can follow the above steps and you’ll be good to go as well.

Final Words

Bass guitars are a critical part of any band, and they need to be kept clean in order to sound their best. By following the steps and tips we’ve outlined in this post, you can keep your bass guitar looking and sounding great for years to come.

Though we have covered everything needed to solve your query regarding how to clean a bass guitar, then again, if you have any questions or concerns about cleaning your bass guitar, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for further help here. Thanks for reading!

Author | Bass Guitar and Gear Expert at Instrument Insight | Website

Fred L. Robinson is a young man from Mansfield, TX. He has always had a great passion for music and bass guitars in particular. At the age of 28, he is an expert on bass guitars and their related equipment, materials, history, and origins. Fred works as an author and bass guitar expert at Instrument Insight, where he uses his vast knowledge to help people make informed decisions about their bass guitar purchases.


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