Skip to main content

Guitar maintenance: 10 ways to keep your electric guitar in top condition

Gibson ES-335 electric guitar
(Image credit: Future)

Guitar maintenance is an extremely important topic. It’s often overlooked, because we guitarists want to get straight to playing! But you need a functional, working guitar in good condition to perform in the first place.

Taking maintenance seriously means you get the best out of your instrument, have it sounding its best at all times, and save yourself time and money in the long run.

Here’s a list of the top 10 electric guitar maintenance tips to be thinking about. Take it seriously, and your guitar will reward you with improved playability and tone.

1. Storage

This relates to where in your home you keep your guitar. It sounds basic, but as we own our guitars longer and get more at ease with them and the novelty wears off, it’s very easy to stop taking quite so much care over it.

Make sure it’s somewhere safe, where nothing’s going to fall onto it, and in a place where the temperature and humidity are reasonably consistent.

2. Case 

Next up - invest in a good guitar case. The ideal solution is a hardcase, but they can be expensive, and usually mean you can’t carry the guitar on your back. These things understandably put many people off.

Make sure you at least have a padded, thick, durable soft case, such as Gator's Economy Gig Bag, while the company's Deluxe ABS molded case makes a good hardcase option.

Guitar maintenance

(Image credit: Future)

3. Transport

So often guitar damage occurs in transportation. So take care in how you transport your guitar, or organize for it to be transported. Especially when that relates to public transport - train or plane travel, for example.

People have even been known to purchase their instrument its own seat on a plane (with the ticket often saying Mr. Guitar)! For many of us, this is logistically or financially out of the question, but the point stands. There are a few hours where it’s out of your control - so do what you need to do to ensure your instrument is well protected.

The good news is that, legally, you are now allowed to bring your guitar on as carry-on luggage.

4. Setup and check periodically

Hopefully any new guitar you purchase is already professionally set up. If not, the store should make that happen for you. Regardless, this doesn’t negate the need to periodically have your guitar’s setup checked and touched up as needed.

It’s a great feeling playing a guitar that’s just been set up and will keep your guitar in better shape, longer term.

5. Regular string changes 

Exactly how often to do so is kind of up for debate. For some musicians, it’s every six-eight weeks, others restring for every show! For many it’s much less often, too, as we get out of the habit. Well, get back in the habit!

Besides being important in refreshing and revitalizing your sound, it also gives you a chance to implement some of the cleaning and polishing steps below.

Tip: Wipe your strings with a dry cloth after every practice session to make them last longer!

Need some help on what guitar strings to buy? Check out our guide to the best electric guitar strings and how to choose the best acoustic guitar strings.

Guitar maintenance

(Image credit: Future)

6. Dust and polish

Use a dry cloth to keep your guitar free of dust, and use a professionally-recognized brand of fret polish/oil to keep the fretboard smooth, clean and playable.

7. No moisture!

Keep your guitar away from moisture at all times. This doesn’t just mean not spilling drinks on it! It also means don’t attempt to clean it with water, or with any non-recognized instrument-specific cleaning products. Equally, don’t leave it by an open window in heavy rain, or leave it outside!

8. Clean the pickups, too

Don’t forget the pickups! Dust and wool etc. can accumulate and ultimately affect the sound via unwanted noise and static crackling. Use only a dry cloth here! And keep those pickups clean!

Guitar maintenance

(Image credit: Future)

9. Take care!

With all these specific cleaning tips, take care! Don’t spray products direct onto the guitar, spray them onto the cleaning cloth. If you’re uncertain, test the product first on a small area on the back or underside of the guitar before continuing. Don’t overdo it, start small, and be careful!

10. Toolbox

Not having the correct tool, cloth or implement is a quick way to put yourself right off guitar maintenance, period!

For this reason, it’s really advisable to get together a guitar-specific toolbox, fill it with all the bits you’ll need (which will also accumulate over time), so that whatever needs doing, you’re ready for it with ease.

CruzTOOLS make a highly useful tech kit that's worth investigating.

Alex Bruce is a writer for Guitartricks.com. GuitarTricks.com has over 11,000 lessons covering everything a beginner guitar needs to know to get started, as well as more complicated techniques like tapping, sweeping, scales, and more.