How To Clean Guitar Hardware

Consistently cleaning your guitar is a great habit that will keep your guitar looking better for longer. While wiping down your instrument after playing is usually enough, you may have to do a deep cleaning now and again, especially if you have slacked on cleaning your guitar for a while. One area that you should focus on in particular is the metal hardware. The metal hardware can rust and begin to corrode if you neglect cleaning it. 

Rust is not only unsightly, but it can harm your guitar hardware in the long run. So, when you notice it, you’ll want to deal with it and clean it as soon as possible. But how do you clean rusty guitar hardware?

This article is a step-by-step guide to cleaning the rusty hardware on your guitar.

What causes guitar hardware to rust?

Guitars have many different metal components that are susceptible to rusting and corrosion. The frets, bridge, tuning pegs, knobs, switches, and even the pickups are all made of metal and can easily corrode or rust over time. The main reason guitar hardware rusts is due to sweat from your fingers. Sweat is high in salt and acidity, which is corrosive to metal. Sweat is unavoidable, so you will need to clean your hardware occasionally to prevent it from corroding.

Another culprit could be the humidity. If you store your guitar in a humid room or simply live in a humid climate, your guitar hardware is more likely to rust.

What you’ll need

  • White vinegar
  • Bowl or container
  • Toothbrush
  • Clean rag or microfiber cloth
  • Screwdriver

How to clean rusty guitar hardware

Here is my step-by-step guide on how to clean rusty guitar hardware.

Step one: wipe down all of your hardware

First, wipe all of your hardware using a clean rag or microfiber cloth. Slightly wet the cloth with vinegar to get the best results. 

Step two: remove all rusty hardware

Remove all extra rusty hardware from your guitar. Whether it’s your screws, pickups, or bridges, remove it from your guitar and place it to the side. You may need a screwdriver to remove certain parts. If you need to remove the pickups or tuning pegs, you’ll need to remove the strings first.

Step three: soak hardware in vinegar

Pour some white vinegar into a bowl or container, and put all the removed hardware in the bowl. Leave the hardware in there to soak for 2 to 4 hours. Soaking the hardware in vinegar allows the rust to loosen from the surface.

Step three: scrub the rest of the rust

After the hardware has soaked in the bowl for a few hours, remove it and scrub off the remainder of the rust using a toothbrush.

Step four: clean off the vinegar

When the rust is removed from your hardware, use a clean rag to clean off the remaining vinegar and dry your equipment. Now your hardware should look shiny and as good as new!

Step five: reinstall the hardware

Reinstall the removed hardware into your guitar. And make sure you maintain good maintenance practices to prevent further rust.

Tips to prevent rust

The best way to deal with rust is prevention. Preventing rust from becoming an issue and corroding your hardware will make the job of cleaning your guitar much easier. Here are some of my top tips for preventing your gear from getting rusty in the first place.

Store your guitar in a dry place

Humidity is one of the main culprits for rust on your guitar’s hardware, you’ll want to keep your guitar stored in a dry place. Especially if you live in a humid climate, take extra care in ensuring your guitar is dry at all times. A good way to keep your guitar dry is to use a hard case instead of a soft one, as hard shell cases are much better at keeping out moisture. And always keep your guitar indoors.

Wash your hands before you use your guitar

This tip may Your hands touch everything, so they can get quite dirty throughout the day. Even if you wash your hands regularly, your fingers will build up grime and dirt that can be transferred to your guitar. Although playing your guitar without washing your hands beforehand won’t affect your guitar hardware directly, keeping the other parts of your guitar clean will also mean your hardware will remain clean for longer.

Clean your guitar regularly

Similarly, you should also clean your guitar regularly, two to four times a year. Check out my full article on how to properly clean your guitar for more details.

Wipe down your guitar after each use

While deep cleaning is only necessary a few times a year, you should wipe down your guitar after each use. Wiping it down with a clean cloth will remove all the dirt and grime from your fretboard, as well as the guitar’s body and hardware.