How to clean and polish guitar frets

You may notice your guitar frets are filthy. Luckily, cleaning them is pretty simple. Just like you, I thought it was gonna be tough to clean my frets. Once I tried it I realized it was no big deal if you have the right stuff done the right way.

So, we will go through how you can polish and clean your guitar frets the right way.

We will talk about what you need and walk you through the steps you need to do to get your frets to look brand new. There is also an FAQ section at the end.

So, without further ado, let’s get some frets clean!

What you will need

Here is everything you will need to clean and polish your frets

  • Soft cloth
  • Fret polish or Fret erasers
  • Fretboard guards or tape

How to clean and polish guitar frets

Here are the exact steps you need to take to clean your frets.

Step 1: Take off your strings

I really hope this step was obvious. I know people tend to get lazy (like me) and don’t want to take their strings off thinking it will still work. Before you try it out, I’ll let you know from now, you can’t. 

Trust me I’m the first one to cut corners and try to make it work out with the strings still on. I guess keep reading and you will see why it’s impossible.

If you need to clean your frets then you might also need to clean your strings.

Step 2: Protect your fretboard

Whatever you plan on doing to clean your frets, you don’t want to be doing to the wood of the fretboard. Even water that comes in contact with the wood can cause issues, see here. That’s why it’s very important to protect the fretboard’s wood. There are two ways you can do this. One way is….

Fretboard Guard

A fretboard Guard is a tool made specifically for cleaning fretboards. As you can see, it’s a tool that blocks the wood only giving you the ability to clean the fret alone. The best thing about this is that it’s on and off. However, even though it’s slim, you still may miss a little bit of the sides when using this on your frets.


For this way of blocking the wood, all you need to do is simply tape it down. The good thing about this is you don’t need a special tool. However, it’s super annoying to apply tape all over the fretboard wood and make sure it’s exact. But once it’s on its easier to reach the sides since it’s slimmer than the metal on the fretboard guard tool.

Step 3: Start cleaning the frets

Now, the obvious question you’re probably asking is with what?! So, within this step, there are two great ways you can make the frets look brand new.

Use fret polish

Get yourself some fret polish, apply a drop on your cloth, and start wiping the frets just like you would polish your guitar. If you decide to use this method to clean the frets you can check out this kit by MusicNomad here. It has everything you need to clean your frets. It includes a cloth, polish, and fretboard guards.

Or you can do this:

Use a fret eraser

Fret erasers are also great for fret cleaning. They’re basically sandpaper for frets. It comes with different grit amounts. So what you do is start with the lowest grit and start sanding out the dirt from the fret. Then gradually work your way up the grits until you’ve got clean frets. You can check them out on amazon here.

Step 4: Wipe off the excess

Whether you clean your frets with polish or the fret eraser you will have some excess stuff that you will need to get rid of. So, simply wipe everything off with a clean cloth and you are good to go!

If it still looks bad, then your frets may not be dirty they may be worn out.


Here are the frequently asked questions when it comes to fret cleaning.

Can I use steel wool on the fretboard?

Yes, steel wool is great for getting dirt off your fretboard. Softly rubbing the steel wool against your fretboard can do a lot. 

When it comes to cleaning the actual frets, however, you may need to do a little more than that. Cleaning frets with steel wool is the same idea as sanding them down to get rid of the dirt. It’s very similar to the fret erasers. But with the fret erasers, there are different grits to use to get a better clean.

But yes, If you don’t want to buy fret erasers and you’ve got steel wool laying around, you can follow the same steps above and replace the fret erasers with some steel wool for your frets.

Can I polish the frets without removing the strings?

It’s very hard to polish the frets without moving the strings. If you decide to use fret guards to protect the wood, then it’s physically impossible. If you decide to use fret erasers to clean the frets, it’s very hard (you can’t fit the eraser in between the strings and the frets).

The only way it’s a possibility is if you cover the wood with tape, use a polish, and slide the cloth in there to clean the frets. But even then it’s still extremely hard to do. So even if you’re the laziest person, it’s probably worthwhile to take off the strings than to try to clean it with the strings on. You will be saving yourself a headache, trust me.

Should you clean your guitar frets?

Yes! It’s very important to clean the guitar frets. If you don’t, a couple of things can happen

  • Build-up of dirt
  • Reduced playability
  • Intonation issues
  • Damage to the fretboard

Can I use alcohol to clean guitar frets?

Alcohol can be used on metal, frets are metal. However, alcohol can be very bad for the guitar’s wood. Alcohol can dry the wood and cause disasters, learn more here. So I wouldn’t risk it, especially since there are better (yet cheap) ways to do it.

Final thoughts

So, there you have it. There is everything you need to know about fret cleaning. Make sure to refer back to this page whenever you need to refresh on fret cleaning. Remember there are two ways you can clean the frets and two ways you can protect the wood. Use the methods you feel comfortable with and that work for you.

I hope you enjoyed.

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