"It sounds simple enough, but it's not so simple" – are you cleaning your guitar the right way? Master Luthier Jim DeCola can show you how

Music Nomad
(Image credit: Future)

I only own one electric guitar with a nitrocellulose finish, and I'm grateful for it, but just like the more common – nowadays anyway – polyurethane-finish guitars I have, it needs cleaning at least occasionally. But I've never actually considered if I'm polishing my guitar the absolute best way possible – until now.

Whatever finish you have, the Gibson video below can help. Nitro is a thinner finish than poly, with the idea that it helps the wood it's coated on resonate better. It always wears easier for those of you who want to relic your pride and joy the old way with a lovely patina – through actually playing it a lot. But not everyone wants that. 

The Gibson Gazette is featuring this new Jim DeCola video as the Gibson Master Luthier explains how to approach cleaning and polishing a guitar body and neck in the video below.

Regardless of the kind of guitar finish you're dealing with, keeping dust away from your instrument's polishing cloth (you've got one of those, right?) sounds obvious but how many of us are keeping ours in a zip-lock bag? Jim's caught me out there for starters – guilty as charged! Dust being rubbed onto a nitro finish certainly isn't good if you're trying to avoid additional scratches. 

"It's not rocket science but if you're not careful you can actually put more scratches in it than remove," Jim warns. 

He takes things step-by-step in the video above, part of a series on a guitar setup.  There's a lot here I never even considered, but that's where a luthier's expert eye and experience comes into play. Jim even gives us tips on cleaning those awkward areas of the headstock. Check it out above. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.