If you are serious about guitar maintenance, then it’s likely that you oil your strings in order to improve string longevity, reduce friction, and keep the strings clean from grime. But which oil products work the best, and can you use lemon oil in particular on guitar strings?
Lemon oil (mineral oil with lemon scent) is an effective and safe oil to use on guitar strings, but don’t confuse it with actual lemon products that contain corrosive acid. There are several cleaners you should avoid using, including WD-40, linseed oil, and vinegar.
Keep reading as I dive into the effectiveness of guitar string lemon oil products and the risks posed by other types of oil cleaners. Stick around to the end to get our best tips on how to properly oil your guitar strings. Let’s get into it!
Does Lemon Oil Corrode Strings?
Some people hear the word “lemon” and instantly worry that using a product marketed with lemon in its name is bad for guitar strings. Since lemon juice itself contains citric acid, it can be corrosive to certain materials. But worry not, as the many “lemon oil” products – especially those marketed for guitarists – don’t actually contain real lemons.
These products are typically light mineral oils that have a lemony scent to leave your strings fresh and clean. They aren’t corrosive to the guitar, and when used in moderation, they shouldn’t be harmful to the fretboard or body, either.
Keep in mind that lemon oils are mainly for the fretboard material itself – and other cleaners and lubricants exist for guitar strings. But, they won’t cause any real harm if they come in contact with the strings and you wipe them off right afterward.
What Kind Of Oil Is Best To Use On Guitar Strings?
If you’re going to use an oil to lubricate and remove grime from guitar strings, you should ideally use a product marketed for that purpose alone. A good option would be something like Dunlop’s Ultra-Glide String Cleaner and Conditioner. But if you only have guitar lemon oil on hand, that will suffice.
There are several kinds of other oils that guitarists sometimes mistakenly use on their guitar strings. You should try to avoid the following kinds of “oil” products if you can so that you don’t damage any part of your guitar:
- Olive oil – will rot and won’t ever solidify
- Linseed oil – can damage the guitar and has a strong smell
- Vinegar – will corrode metal strings and cause more friction
- Alcohol products – will damage the wood on the guitar
- Cooking oils – will go rancid once on the guitar
- Coconut oil – corrosive to different parts of the guitar and likely to rot over time
What Oil Is Worst On Guitar Strings?
Just as there are oils that work ideally on guitar strings, there are some that you never want to use on your instrument. In particular, you should avoid petroleum-based oils at all costs. These include products such as:
- WD-40 lubricants
- Petroleum jelly (Vaseline)
- Plumber’s grease
Petroleum-based oils are risky because they are primarily designed for cleaning metal. And even if your guitar has steel strings, the body of your guitar is not designed to withstand that kind of product.
It’s difficult not to make at least a small mess when working with oils, and as you try to oil your strings, you might accidentally drip onto the wood. This will likely cause irreversible damage.
How To Oil Guitar Strings
It’s not too difficult to start lubricating and cleaning your guitar strings on your own. It’s definitely not something that you need a professional to do if you have the correct materials on hand.
If you want to oil your guitar strings, you should apply an appropriate product up and down your strings, using your fingers directly. After doing so, you want to remove the excess oil so that it doesn’t drip onto your guitar or fretboard.
You also don’t want it to make the strings too lubricated to strum. You can remove the leftover oil from the strings gently with a clean and dry work cloth.
To ensure that you are cleaning each side of the strings, flatten your cloth and slide it between the strings and the fretboard. Then, use your hands to push the cloth up against the back of the strings as you slide it up and down the fretboard.
Can You Oil A Fretboard With Strings On?
Yes, you can oil your fretboard with lemon oil products without having to remove the guitar strings. Note, however, that this is going to take longer and require a more delicate application and removal of the cleaning product.
Final Thoughts On Using Lemon Oil On Your Guitar Strings
So, can you use lemon oil on guitar strings? Yes, you can use lemon oil products that are made specifically for guitar cleaning and lubrication purposes.
These products are non-corrosive and work well on fretboards, as well as strings if you clean them carefully.