Oiling your guitar’s fretboard is something you should do periodically. This will maximize the playing comfort of the instrument, allowing you to transition up and down the frets more efficiently. Oiling is a great way to keep the fretboard in good condition.
Before you apply oil to the fretboard, it’s important to ensure that you’re using the correct solution. This depends on the tonewood that the fretboard is made from, whether it is rosewood, maple, or another material.
In this guide, you’ll learn the most effective ways to oil your guitar’s fretboard, and some additional tips to keep your instrument feeling, looking, and sounding fresh.
Table of Contents
Why You Need to Oil Your Guitar Fretboard
Although it’s advisable to oil your fretboard, we all know guitarists who have never performed any maintenance to their instrument and despite that, their guitar is still in brilliant condition.
Oiling your fretboard ultimately makes the wood feel smoother, due to the moisture it retains. If you prefer a rough-feeling fretboard, by all means, leave it alone. However, if you’ve noticed a build-up of dirt after years of playing, it’s probably time to give your guitar some much-needed TLC.
The wood that your fretboard is made from is constantly changing throughout the guitar’s life. You might notice new marks appearing, or the wood taking on a different shade from when you first acquired the instrument.
When the guitar was originally manufactured, the fretboard will have been sufficiently oiled and moisturized. However, the more you play the instrument, the more dirt, sweat, and other unwanted substances make their way onto the wood.
Therefore, oiling the fretboard once in a while is a great way to keep the guitar feeling fresh, revitalized, and playable.
Words of Warning
Before we get into the best oils and methods to use on your guitar’s fretboard, I want to make one thing clear. The oil that you choose matters, a lot! So before you reach for the olive oil, peanut oil, or canola oil, think twice.
The oils that we use for culinary purposes are not suitable for your guitar. The reason for this is quite simple. These oils eventually turn bad, when they pass their best before date.
Due to the fretboard wood being absorbent, any oil that you apply to it will soak into the material, and stay there for a long time. If you use the wrong oil, it will detrimentally affect your fretboard.
In the short-term, applying any type of oil to the fretboard will make it look better and feel smoother. However, this initial improvement will be followed by the oil going bad when it is deeply embedded into the fretboard wood.
Now that we’ve established that you can’t use any old oil for this purpose, let’s take a look at the correct practices and measures you should take.
Types of Oils for Guitar Fretboards
Lemon oil is a popular choice for guitar fretboards. However, due to the acidity, it’s best if the lemon oil is mixed with some other ingredients to prevent it from stripping away the top later of the wood.
Thankfully, there are many great fretboard oils available that have been specially formulated for this purpose. These oils often include several ingredients, which provide the wood with the optimal amount of oil.
You can get specialized oils for the particular material that your fretboard is composed of. Rosewood and maple fretboards can generally use the same oils, but rarer woods like Pau Ferro may require a particular composition of oil.
The MusicNomad F-One is a great fretboard cleaner & conditioner oil for unfinished maple, ebony and rosewood fretboards.
How to Safely Oil Your Fretboard
The process of applying the oil to your fretboard is relatively straightforward. All that you need to do is remove the strings, and use a smooth, clean cloth. Apply your chosen oil to the fretboard sporadically. Then gently rub it onto the wood in a circular motion.
It’s important to make sure you run the oil evenly across the fretboard, otherwise, it might end up looking inconsistent. Starting at the headstock and gradually applying the oil to each fret is a good idea.
Once the oil is applied evenly, leave the guitar to dry for an hour or so. Then, re-string, and enjoy the added smoothness of your newly oiled fretboard.
Oiling guitar fretboards may not be the most exciting thing you can do with your instrument, but it’s important, nonetheless. If you want your instrument to remain playable for a long time, I’d highly recommend oiling it now and then.
Just be sure to get the right oil for your particular wood type. Pre-made oils state clearly which woods they are compatible with. So, provided you do some research, you can’t go wrong!