Can You Use WD40 on Guitar Strings?

WD40 is a degreaser that also protects metal from rust and corrosion, seemingly a great choice for metal guitar strings. On closer inspection, you’ll find that this is not the case.

While you can use WD40 on guitar strings, you risk damaging the finish of the guitar or discoloring the wood. Using a specialized guitar string cleaner protects its integrity while accomplishing the task.

In this article, we look at how WD40 affects different parts of the guitar, why you might want to use it, and what you should do instead.

Is WD40 Bad for Guitars?

When cleaning any part of your guitar, you usually want to avoid household cleaners, including WD40. Your instrument is finely crafted, and it deserves appropriate attention to preserve key elements like finish or color.

While WD40 may work on certain elements, it’s not usually worth the risk or the effort to use it safely.

For Strings?

WD40 is not bad for the strings alone as long as they are metal.

In order for it to work, you would need to remove the strings and clean them with the WD40. Using WD40 with the strings still attached damages your fretboard, especially as it dries out unfinished wood.

Not only are other sting cleaners easier to use, but they are more effective and safe for all parts of your guitar.

For Metal Parts?

While the majority of the guitar is made of wood, there are a few metal parts to clean, including:

  • Frets
  • Bars
  • Pins

Like guitar strings, you would need to remove the parts before using WD40 to clean them.

You should also ensure that they are genuine metal. Many guitars feature wooden parts painted to appear metallic.

For the Guitar Body?

WD40 is not suitable for the body of your guitar. The low-viscosity solvent is likely to damage any part that is not metal, and it can easily damage the appearance of your guitar.

Worse yet is the chance to ruin the protective finish of your guitar, leaving the wood underneath susceptible to greater damage.

Why You Need to Clean Your Guitar Strings

Guitar strings get dirty as you play and transfer sweat, oil, dead skin, and more to the strings. This interferes with your sound, deadening the strings and decreasing responsiveness.

To maintain the sound of your guitar, you need to clean your strings regularly to get rid of the oil and debris. In certain cases, it is better to completely replace the strings, but cleaning is most cost-effective and conscious of viable materials.

How to Clean Your Guitar Strings

Find time to clean your guitar each time you use it to prevent debris build up on the strings. Not only will this improve the sound, but it lets you use the strings for longer and limits the deep cleaning you need to do.

Here’s How To Clean Your Guitar Strings [Video]

When You Play

Clean your hands before playing your guitar to prevent the transfer of dirt and debris.

You should also keep a microfiber cloth in your case or near where you store your guitar to make it easy to wipe it down before and after playing.

Wiping the guitar beforehand removes dust that can get caught up in the strings as you play while wiping it down after removing sweat, oil, and other material that you transferred over.

Microfiber cloths are usually the best at pulling the mess off the strings without leaving behind lint.

For Routine Maintenance

For a deeper clean, you need to find a specialized cleaner. Music Nomad makes a String Fuel that comes with an ergonomic, no-mess applicator for easier use.

You can also check to see if your preferred string manufacturer recommends a certain cleaner. They may even make one themselves.

Follow the instructions on the packaging to clean and restore your guitar strings. It’s usually a good idea to fit a thin towel between the strings and the fretboard, but this is only necessary for unfinished fretboards.

When Cleaning Your Guitar Strings Won’t be Enough

While cleaning can improve your sound and reduce the incidence of squeaking or skipping, it’s not the best solution for every issue. In certain cases, you will need to replace your guitar strings.

A general recommendation is to do this every 3 months or 100 playing hours, whichever comes first, but you may need to replace them sooner than that.

The most common situations include:

  • Broken strings
  • Strings that will not stay in tune
  • When you want to try a new gauge or sound

Otherwise, cleaning should suffice.

WD-40 For Guitar String Cleaning Final Thoughts

WD40 may be the most popular lubricant, but it’s far from the perfect choice to clean on guitar strings.  WD40 is a solvent, and as such, can damage the string’s finish. Additionally, WD40 is not effective at removing dried oil and residue, which can be a common problem with guitar strings.

Finding a suitable string cleaner is much safer and just as effective, and you don’t need to worry about throwing away your entire instrument over a few spritzes of cleaner.