No Sweat – Why Cleaning Your Travel Guitar Matters

18 Feb 2019
 

Travelling with your guitar brings no end of pleasure. If you’re on the road for work, it gives you that much-needed headspace at the end of the day. If you’re travelling for leisure, then what better way to spend your down-time than playing guitar? And the beauty of owning a folding travel guitar is that it’s no sweat to take it with you wherever you go. It’s perfectly playable, but can fold away to become completely compact, what more could you want? There is one slight problem though, and it’s an issue with all guitars, not just travel instruments: sweat. If you’re travelling in hotter climates you will sweat more. And that is not good news for your guitar.

Sweat Vs. Guitar

Everyone sweats, right? We do our best to mask it, but it’s all part of being this stinking biological mess that we call ‘human’. There’s nothing wrong with it. We can’t help it. But that doesn’t mean that our guitars have to like it.

Sweat works on guitars in two ways. Firstly, and most commonly, it will build up on the underside of the strings, compromising performance. The tone may differ as the strings become heavier. You’ll eventually reach the stage where your guitar just doesn’t sound right.

The other issue is that sweat is acidic. Some people’s sweat is more acidic than others. This can be caused by eating too much protein, cereals and sugars, or certain health conditions. And the more acidic the worse for the guitar. This doesn’t just mean that the guitar doesn’t perform as well as you’d like, but that the strings break more regularly. For some people this will mean replacing their strings on a weekly basis. But, worse than that, if the guitar isn’t cleaned, bridges and frets can tarnish and rust too, jeopardising the whole instrument.

For both these issues, the more you sweat, the sooner the problems will happen. So, be aware in hotter climates.

Now, you’re probably thinking; ‘hang on, professional musicians sweat allllll the time!’ And yes, they do. We’ve all been to gigs where the whole group finish their set looking like they’ve just stepped from the shower. The potential difference between them and you is that they look after their instruments properly… Or pay someone else to do it for them. So, what’s the answer for you?

How to Protect your Guitar from Sweat Damage

It’s kind of mundane, but the only real way to protect your guitar from sweat damage is to clean it. So:

  1. Wash your hands – you don’t want to get any other crud on your instrument while cleaning it.
  2. Remove the strings and clean them. A string cleaning kit will cost a couple of pounds. Wiping down your strings with a designated cleaner and a soft cloth will help remove any sweat, skin oil and general grime.
  3. Clean the frets. This is a bit more involved, but you can follow this simple guide here.
  4. Polish the body. The way you do this will depend on the make up of your guitar. For a polyurethane finish, you could just use a soft cloth or some wax. A matte finish guitar only needs a soft cloth.
  5. Buff all the metal parts with a soft cloth.
  6. Reassemble.

Cleaning is never the most glamorous of jobs. And when you have time to sit and play, it’s rarely a priority. But it’s what you need to do if you want to be able to play your instrument into the future. And it’s important to remember that your travel guitar is no exception. If you’re playing somewhere hot and sticky, your instrument will be getting sticky too. And that’s why cleaning your travel guitar matters.