How To Clean Your Stratocaster’s Body

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Written By Sarah Barlow

Chief Music Officer

The best way to extend your Stratocaster’s lifespan and keep it well-maintained is to simply clean it. The hardware and finish of your Stratocaster can be prematurely aged by dirt, grime, or dust. With years of playing, there’s no doubt that your Stratocaster can harbor layers of dirt. 

No matter how careful you are, the body of your guitar may eventually accumulate some stains and oil. Fortunately for you, cleaning the body is less scary and easier than cleaning the fretboard. The body finish of your guitar must also be taken into account. So before you start cleaning it, be careful to know what kind of finish it has. 

So, in this article, I will share different ways to help keep your Stratocaster in mint condition. The method of cleaning a guitar’s body is relatively straightforward. It only needs a few materials and can be completed in a matter of minutes. 

Cleaning Your Stratocaster’s Body: Cloth

Most of the apparent dust in your Stratocaster should be removed by simply wiping a dry or damp cloth over the surface of the guitar’s body to restore some of the beautiful pre-shimmer. 

It’s a good idea to do this every day to avoid a buildup of grease and dust that will be more difficult to remove. 

Using a soft microfiber cloth or those made with 100% cotton is recommended. If you use materials that are harsh to your Stratocaster’s body, you run the risk of damaging the guitar’s polish, which is the last thing you would want.

Another thing to remember is to avoid using too much water as it can damage not only the outside of your guitar and its interior. Water may ultimately soak into the wood and cause it to deform. This is especially true for the fretboard or neck of a guitar with a thin finish. The electronics can malfunction if water gets inside the control cavity. This is particularly the case if your guitar has active pickups because your Stratocaster would be receiving an active signal. When you connect the guitar to an amplifier, this may result in shocks.

Cleaning Your Stratocaster’s Body: Polish Cleaner

A good polish cleaner is undoubtedly one of the best ways to clean your Stratocaster and keep it looking brand new. It basically breaks apart grease and filth while also sweeping away dust in a manner akin to how water picks up dust. A quality polish cleaner also conditions the Stratocaster’s shine and gloss, thereby shielding it from additional dirt accumulation. 

If a damp cloth isn’t enough to clean your Stratocaster, then a polish cleaner might just do the trick. The guitar’s surface, wood, and electronics are all completely safe when using a polish cleaner because it is designed to go on most guitar finishes. You can use this to deep clean and remove every speck of dust or dirt in your guitar.

It’s important to remember that when polishing your Stratocaster, avoid spraying the polish directly on the body of your guitar. Instead, place a small amount on a microfiber or 100% cotton cloth and gently wipe the surface of your instrument in a circular motion. 

What Makes My Stratocaster Accumulate Dirt?

The environment and length of time you play your Stratocaster will significantly impact how much dirt it will accumulate. For instance, sweating while playing is like kryptonite for your instrument. The sweat and grease on your guitar’s surface can also permanently damage the fretboard, in particular, by wearing away the lacquer. It can also cause your hardware and electronic parts to rust in the long run. Eating oily foods while playing your guitar can also lead to grime and oil accumulation, which can be pretty challenging to remove once it settles.

Your guitar won’t likely need cleaning all that frequently if you practice for 1-2 hours every day at home in a cool, well-ventilated area. Everything depends on the circumstances and the context.

Additional Tips To Keep Your Stratocaster Clean

  • Use a gentle, dry polishing cloth to clean any metal components. It’s unnecessary to spray them — wiping will be more than enough.
  • Use a lint-free cloth to wipe your Stratocaster’s body. 
  • Avoid prolonged exposure of lacquer finishes to synthetics, plastics, or rubber tubings because this negatively reacts with the lacquer.
  • Avoid using glass cleaners, ammonia-containing products, or those with abrasive or silicone components in them because this may damage your instrument’s finish or leave a residue. 
  • Only use cleaning products made particularly for guitars when it comes to cleaning wood surfaces. These cleaning products can usually be found in most music stores. Don’t use polish cleaners too often as this may lead to several problems in the future. 
  • Avoid touching or playing your guitar when you’re eating. Make sure to wash your hands first before doing so. This is to prevent grime and dust from accumulating in your Stratocaster.
  • Avoid the hardware as much as possible when cleaning the guitar because rust may form if the hardware is moistened.
  • Return the Stratocaster back to its case after every use to prevent dirt accumulation.

Main Takeaway

It’s normal for a Stratocaster, or any other guitar, to wear out after some time, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be dirty. Your guitar can look brand new in just a few minutes with the help of a few simple, inexpensive items as well as proper maintenance.