Can I clean my guitar with alcohol?

Not looking to buy specific guitar cleaners? If so, you may be asking yourself: can I clean my guitar with alcohol?

In short, no. 

Even though alcohol is generally great for disinfecting, I definitely wouldn’t recommend using alcohol to clean your guitar. Alcohol is a strong solvent that can wreak havoc on your guitar for a number of reasons which we will get to later in this article.

There are certain parts of the guitar that can handle alcohol (which we will also get to in this article). But doing so still isn’t so simple. We will explain more later in the article.

So, we will go over the issue with alcohol, what a better option would be, and what part of the guitar could handle alcohol.

Keep reading!

The problems with using alcohol on your guitar

Here are the reasons we don’t recommend using alcohol on your guitar:

Burn through your finish

The finish of your guitar is what protects the wood and gives it a smooth surface. What you’re meant to do is clean the finish. Alcohol is so strong that it can dissolve it. 

As we mentioned before alcohol is a strong solvent, that’s why it disinfects so well. However, in our case, it is too strong that it can burn right through the guitar’s finish.

Cloud or discolor your finish

If the finish does manage to make it through the alcohol, doesn’t mean you dodged the bullet. 

If the finish is still there, the alcohol can still make the finish look extremely ugly by discoloring it or clouding it.

Dry out the wood

If the alcohol does come in contact with the wood, it can dry it out making the wood more susceptible to cracking. Alcohol is used in facial creams to dry it out, there is no exception here.

So at the end of the day, yes, alcohol is an excellent solvent for cleaning and disinfecting. The issue for us guitarists is that it’s a little too good. It’s not worth trying to clean your guitar if you can potentially ruin it for the reasons mentioned above. The normal way to clean a guitar isn’t super expensive or hard. I would definitely recommend doing that. This brings us right to the next section in the article

The Better Option

Here is the way we would recommend you clean your guitar:

Polish your guitar

Sometimes your guitar looks dirty simply because it needs polishing. Even if you are on a budget, you can get guitar polish for very cheap. You can check out a cheap guitar polish here.

The process is also very simple. You can follow a step-by-step process in our article how to safely polish your guitar at home. (For satin guitars see here).

You can also see our article on polish alternatives to safely clean your guitar with things you have in your home.

Use guitar cleaner

If you are not polishing your guitar you can use a specific cleaner made for guitars. It’s strong enough to remove dirt and grime by soft enough to not ruin the finish.

Guitar cleaners are also not expensive, you can find one here.

What on the guitar can handle alcohol?

Here are the things that can handle alcohol.

Guitar strings

Since guitar strings aren’t wood and they don’t have any finish, alcohol may be applied to clean them. What you would do is take a soft cloth with a little bit of alcohol and start rubbing the strings.

The recommended way to clean guitar strings is to wipe the strings down with a specific string cleaner.

See our ultimate guide to string cleaning.


Since the pegs aren’t made out of wood, you can use alcohol to wipe them down.

Metal bridges

Since the bridges aren’t made out of wood, you can use alcohol to wipe them down.

You kind of get the idea, anything that’s not made of wood can be used on the guitar. However, even if it will help the strings or the pegs etc. all of those things are extremely close to the wood and it’s very hard to not get a drop of alcohol on the wood.

That’s why I would recommend specific cleaners for these things. They aren’t so expensive, they won’t absolutely destroy your guitar, and they work better.


Here are the frequently asked questions about cleaning with alcohol:

Can I clean my guitar with baby wipes?

No, most baby wipes contain alcohol which can burn through your guitar’s finish and dry up the wood.

Can I clean my guitar with wet wipes?

No, just like baby wipes, wet wipes contain alcohol which can burn through your guitar’s finish and dry up the wood.

What happens if alcohol comes in contact with the guitar?

If your guitar does come in contact with alcohol you should wipe it off with was as soon as possible. You can learn more about using water with your guitar here.


So, there you have it. Bottom line, alcohol isn’t recommended anywhere on the guitar. On the body, it’s not recommended since it can destroy it. In other places on the guitar even though it’s safe to use you still might be playing with fire since accidents happen and it could end up coming in contact with the wood. And even if you make sure it doesn’t, there are still better options. 

If you want to learn what generally can or cant be used on guitars see Guitar Cleaning: what you can and cant use.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed!

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