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Cleaning the fretboard

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by NZBassman, Mar 29, 2013.

  1. I was looking at my bass the other day (Ibanez TR Expressionist) and the fretboard looks very dirty, particularly in between the strings
    I will clean it next time I change the strings, but what is the best way to clean it without ruining it?
    I've got a very old spray bottle of Martin guitar polish, but not sure if that is suitable for just the body / neck, or if it can be used on the fretboard as well??

    any advice would be appreciated :bassist:
  2. I use lemon oil. It's pleasant and makes your bass smell nice.
  3. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Banned

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
  4. ShoeManiac

    ShoeManiac Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2006
    New Jersey

    Lemon oil is natural and will add moisture to the fingerboard. When you do your string change take all of the strings off and slowly rub the lemon oil into the fingerboard. Use a rag, and not paper towels. Paper towels will come apart. In the process you should see some of the fingerboard gunk come off.

    If your fingerboard looks like it's been somewhat neglected? Let that first application of lemon oil dry, and then make another application. Again, let it dry. Then you can go about re-stringing the instrument.
  5. livingstone


    Jun 15, 2007
    Oneonta NY
    Boiled linseed oil and a soft toothbrush. Then wipe down thoroughly with clean terry cloths.
  6. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    For cleaning I use windex and a soft toothbrush, dunlop fretboard conditioner after that. Wash my hands before playing will avoid me to repeat the cleaning process for a very long period of time.
  7. Yep, that's what I use.
  8. Just to clarify since OP didn't list his fretboard material...:

    Lemon oil is for rosewood or ebony fingerboards only (open pore wood w/o a finish). If it's a finished board like a maple or Ric board, don't use lemon oil, there are other cleaners for those materials.
  9. To be honest I'm not sure what my fretboard is made out of - maybe someone can tell me by looking at the pic?

    when you say lemon oil, is the oil you mean just an olive oil flavoured with lemon, or is it a special type of oil?

    Sorry, I've been playing bass for ages and this is the first time I've ever attempted to clean the fretboard!

    thanks in advance :)

    Attached Files:

  10. Thor2


    Sep 30, 2006
    You look to have a rosewood board on your bass.

    The lemon oil is oil from lemon peels (not flavored olive oil).
    I like to use bore oil for my rosewood and ebony fretboards.

    Rags (old t-shirts work well) are far superior to paper towels.
  11. Ian_Flash


    Jan 17, 2013
    Lemon Oil such as Old English brand is at least 10% petroleum distillates so you can't sprinkle it on your salad, but it does a great job of cleaning Rosewood fretboards such as yours. It also re-moisturizes the wood so it's resistant to moisture absorption, drying and shrinking. If your fret ends stick out when it's dry, Lemon Oil will reduce this as well.
  12. ShoeManiac

    ShoeManiac Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2006
    New Jersey
    A lemon oil like this one from Planet Waves will work very well for cleaning and conditioning a rosewood fingerboard. You should be able to find supplies like these at your local musical instrument shop.
  13. oldrookie


    May 15, 2007
    Avon, IN
    Olive oil is a bad idea--it can turn rancid.
  14. Bassamatic

    Bassamatic keepin' the beat since the 60's Supporting Member

    Use naptha to clean it, and then oil it with lemon oil, or if you can get it, tung oil (not tung oil finish).
  15. Grissle


    May 17, 2009
  16. Just FYI, I've read in several places that lemon oil isn't good for a maple fretboard... But since you have rosewood, it should work. ;)

    I was wondering what to use on my Stingray (first maple fretboard), so I emailed Ernie Ball and a tech "prescribed" Murphy's Oil Soap (diluted 2:1) as safe with all fretboards. In a separate discussion, a local luthier mentioned he always finishes setups/cleanings with waxing due to the dry Denver climate (prevents fretboard from drying out and shrinking), and suggested Minwax Paste Finishing Wax. I've incorporated both ideas and make it a point to do this every time I change strings. It makes future cleanings easier... fretboard gunk disappears quickly and easily.

    - clean fretboard with Murphy's Oil Soap, diluted 2 parts water to 1 part soap.
    - condition fretboard with Ernie Ball Fretboard Wonder Wipes (optional, but I usually do it because I'm OCD about my gear)
    - finish with the Minwax Paste Finishing Wax (buff on, let dry, buff off)

    Cleaning materials are cheap and last forever... I got a large jug of Murphy's at Walmart for $3.28, a big can of the Minwax at Home Depot for $8 and the Wonder Wipes at Guitar Center (or I tag a 6-pack onto my orders with Musicians Friend) for $2.00. I also use Planet Waves cleaning cream polish on my gloss basses.

    Naptha sounds like a good option as well. Chris Stambaugh suggested that in relation to the birdseye maple board on the 6-string he built me.

  17. bass nitro

    bass nitro

    Feb 21, 2011

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