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Thread: Cleaning a fretboard

  1. #1
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Cleaning a fretboard

    On my next string change I would like to clean the fretboard on my 1925 L&H mandolin. What is best and safest to use for cleaning a fretboard please? Thank you.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
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    Registered User d18daddy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    I've been very impressed with this stuff. Conditions and cleans the fretboard and polishes the frets.
    http://www.gorgomyte.com/

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    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    cOoL I got some...saw Adam Steffey saying he had a rag with WD40 on it

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    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    I would start with a slightly damp rag. If things are truly grimy, naptha (lighter fluid) can be used on the worst spots. Conditioning a fretboard is different from cleaning it. I am of the opinion that it is very rarely needed and if done should be done carefully and sparingly.

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by Nevin View Post
    I would start with a slightly damp rag. If things are truly grimy, naptha (lighter fluid) can be used on the worst spots. Conditioning a fretboard is different from cleaning it. I am of the opinion that it is very rarely needed and if done should be done carefully and sparingly.
    Thank you Nevin. Can you clarify what you mean by conditioning and when (if ever) it might be appropriate please? Thank you. I believe a damp rag is the best for old L&H varnish finishes - the fretboard I was not quite sure about.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Collings A (MT2-V)
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin

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    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    I like a 3M scotch bright pad, the white one. It is quite fine and will polish the frets and clean the fingerboard. If it hasn't been done in a year or two I use fingerboard oil sparingly.
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    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    Thank you Nevin. Can you clarify what you mean by conditioning and when (if ever) it might be appropriate please? Thank you. I believe a damp rag is the best for old L&H varnish finishes - the fretboard I was not quite sure about.
    Many people rub their fretboards with an oil or an oil based product. There is a lot of myth around this. People think that it re-hydrates the board. It doesn't. If a board is dehydrated, just like the rest of the wood, it needs humidity. In general wood doesn't loose oil. Done sparingly and infrequently it can improve the look of the wood. If over done (which is easy) it can form the gunk that you are trying to remove. In more extreme cases it can cause loose frets and even wood rot. I would not do it more frequently than once every several years.

    My thoughts behind cleaning with a damp cloth are that I try the gentlest method first. Even if it doesn't do the whole job and you need to move on to a more agressive approach, you are only doing so where needed.

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    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    Thank you Nevin - that's very helpful. I did some digging and frequently see naphtha (lighter fluid) recommended in lieu of or in addition to a very slightly damp cloth. Thanks again.

    “There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer

    1925 Lyon & Healy Model A, #1674
    2015 Collings A (MT2-V)
    2020 Burgin Shanghai Octave Mandolin

  12. #9

    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    I like a 3M scotch bright pad, the white one. It is quite fine and will polish the frets and clean the fingerboard. If it hasn't been done in a year or two I use fingerboard oil sparingly.
    I start out with a damp cloth, but white ScotchBrite should work well. The white is equivalent to 000 steel wool, which I used to use. But one day a friend saw me doing that near pickups and clued me in about that (steel wool fragments are not kind to magnetic pickups!)

    Lately I've been using pure lemon oil (sold for aroma therapy) for reconditioning. It's very clean and smells nice. It's pricey at $4/oz or more, but it only takes a tiny amount per job. I got it for a different purpose but since I have it I use it. Over the last 40 years or so, I've also used various brands of fretboard conditioning oil over the years and they've all worked just fine, but the lemon oil feels & smells the best (by a small margin.) But as Nevin says, no need to do it very often!

  13. #10

    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by Tim Logan View Post
    Thank you Nevin - that's very helpful. I did some digging and frequently see naphtha (lighter fluid) recommended in lieu of or in addition to a very slightly damp cloth. Thanks again.
    If it's really gunked up and hardened that would help; I hope it's kind enough to the fretboard. I'd definitely try soap and water first!

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    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    Be sure to use the gentle cycle.

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    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    I don't like to take all my strings off the mandolin at once. I like to keep the instrument under tension, and keep the bridge where it was when I last got it set up.

    Most of the time I think this tool is enough to keep the strings and fretboard clean.
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    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    I was just reading about this very topic on Frank Ford’s frets.com. http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Musi...leaning02.html Lots of good advice, not just for the fretboard.

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    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    I started using those Novus products in the late 70's early 80's on motorcycle face shields. Good stuff. Never thought to use it on a guitar finish. I wonder how old that article is.
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    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    I've been very impressed with this stuff. Conditions and cleans the fretboard and polishes the frets.
    http://www.gorgomyte.com/
    I hate the smell of that stuff.

    Most of the pros I know use Howard Feed'N'Wax...
    The difference between death and taxes is that death does not grow worse every time Congress convenes. - Will Rogers

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    Default Re: Cleaning a fretboard

    Quote Originally Posted by NotMelloCello View Post
    Most of the pros I know use Howard Feed'N'Wax...
    That stuff is awesome. It's super cheap, and makes everything smell and look great. I have a guitar with a pau ferro fretboard that always had that dry look. A little Howard's, and it looks incredible.
    Soliver arm rested and Tone-Garded Northfield Model M with SIT PB mediums

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