How to Safely Polish Your Guitar at Home (in steps)

Polishing a guitar at home may seem like a simple task, however, there are these little things you probably still need to think about that can potentially hurt your guitar when trying to polish it. 

That’s why I urge you to stick around and make sure you aren’t damaging the guitar you spent so much money on.

You can trust me since I’ve been going through this myself just recently. Here’s a picture:

Me polishing my guitar

I’ll happily share my experience and help you make the best possible decisions when it comes to polishing your guitar.

So, without further ado, here is how you can safely polish your guitar at home.

Keep reading.

What you are gonna need

Here is everything you are gonna need to polish your guitar.

1. Polishing Cloth

Some people just use a rag that is lying around in their house which you can do but it’s definitely recommended to get a different cloth that you set aside specifically for your guitar polishing. 

This is because you don’t know how dirty the rags in your house are. So when rubbing the polish into your guitar you also can be rubbing in dirt and grim into your guitar unknowingly which can hurt you in the future.

Here are some polishing clothes you can check out:

  1. MusicNomad Super Soft Microfiber Suede Polishing Cloth (3-pack)
  2. ErnieBall Microfiber Polish Cloth
  3. Fender Premium Plush Microfiber Polishing Cloth

2. Guitar Polish

Some say you can use household items to polish your guitar, that’s not for today’s topic though. Guitar polishes aren’t that expensive anyway so I would recommend just getting that and it would last you for a nice amount of time. Trust me its worth the investment to spend a little to have it for a long time and it will work better than any of your household items

You can check out some guitar polishes here:

  1. MusicNomad Polish
  2. Dunlop 654 Formula

Here are links that have polishes and a cloth:

  1. Jim Dunlop Body & Fingerboard Cleaning Kit (Comes with fretboard polish too)
  2. Ernie Ball Instrument Polish with Microfiber Polish Cloth
  3. Guitar Cleaning, Polish and Oil Care Kit

Steps to Polishing Your Guitar

Here are the steps to get your guitar polished.

Step 1- Wipe off any dust

Before you do anything you need to make sure you take off all of the dust on your guitar. You don’t wanna start polishing with dust still on your guitar. If you leave dust on there you can potentially be grinding the dust into the finish. It can also potentially cause scratches.

This step is important but very simple. Just take a cloth of some sort to dust off everything you can.

Step 2 – Spray your polish onto your cloth

Once your guitar is dust free, you can start polishing. To do that you are gonna need to get a cloth and lightly spray your polish onto the cloth. Make sure you don’t soak the cloth it can ruin your guitar’s finish.

Step 3 – Rub the polish onto your guitar in a circular motion

Here I am polishing in a circular motion.

Once you’ve sprayed your cloth with your polish, you can now lightly rub the polish onto your guitar in a circular motion. You can start by running the body and then the neck. If you want you can use the cloth for the fretboard however, I don’t recommend it. I’ll explain why later.

After all of these steps are done you should have a beautifully polished guitar!

But before you go I think we need to reiterate what you need to be careful with when doing this.

Things to Look Out for When Polishing

1. Don’t rub too hard

What we are trying to do by polishing our guitar is to let our original finish shine. However, if you polish too hard you could be burning out the original finish. We can’t stress enough how gentle you have to be. 

2. Don’t use the same cloth for the strings/fretboard

Strings are made of metal and although using the same cloth will do the trick for the strings, it can potentially ruin the body for next time’s use. The tiny metal particles and their dirt will get onto the cloth turning it into a silver color. You do not want to be rubbing that into your guitar’s body.

3. Don’t polish satin/Matte finish guitars

The whole reason a person would get a satin guitar is for that sleek not glossy look. If you want to clean a satin finish guitar, don’t polish it. Like we mentioned before, polish is meant to bring out that gloss to your guitar. Satin finishes are not meant to be glossy!

If you polish a satin/matte finish guitar you might end up seeing a big spot of gloss. As a matter of fact, it will look like a huge grease mark. Or like you spilled some greasy KFC on your guitar.

4. Keep your cloth clean

Leaving out your cloth is never a good idea. It can attract dust or anything that you do not want your guitar to be rubbed with. That’s why I don’t really recommend the rags you find in your house. Who knows how much dirt is trapped in there?!

Keeping my cloth clean

Something simple like the picture above is perfect. Anything that keeps dust and dirt away from the cloth will do the trick

5. Don’t use a dry cloth

It’s very important that you use soft cloth. Anything hard/dry will cause scratches. Even if it’s not necessarily hard, it will cause scratches if it’s not soft like a baby’s bottom.

6. Circular motion

Rubbing in a circular motion heavily reduces the chance of applying too much pressure and potentially making scratches in your guitar.

7. Take off the dust!

Like I mentioned before you don’t want to be rubbing all of that dust into your guitar. It will cause scratches and it’s just musty. It’s pretty self-explanatory why you wouldn’t want to rub dirt and dust back into your finish if the whole point of the polish is to bring out the finish. 

8. Be careful! Make sure you don’t poke your fingers when polishing the headstock

It is recommended to polish the headstock, it will give a great look to the guitar as a whole. However, make sure you don’t poke your fingers on the strings. IT’S THE WORST.

Guitar Polishing FAQs

Here are the frequently asked question about polishing guitars.

How often should I polish my guitar?

This really depends on a lot of things. It depends on the finish, how well you maintain your guitar, and how often you play. As a general rule, you should polish it every few months. If you want more info on this check out our page how often should I polish my guitar.

Can I use any type of polish on my guitar?

Some other polishes do indeed work on guitars, however, I wouldn’t recommend using them. A lot of other polishes use harsh ingredients that can ruin a guitar’s finish. Guitar polish isn’t super expensive, I would go with that. I would rather be safe than sorry.

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

Can I use a paper towel to polish my guitar?

No, even paper towels are too hard when it comes to guitar polishing. Its fibers can scratch your guitar. 

Will guitar polish remove scratches off my guitar?

Usually, guitar polishes get the job done. They can remove scratches. If they don’t you might want to look into getting a special scratch-removal product. If that doesn’t work you might want to see an expert.


So, there you have it! That’s how you can polish your guitar! You don’t need to go to an expert to do it for you and you know how to do it safely and effectively. 

Make sure you go back and refer to our “things to look out for” section so you didn’t miss anything that can potentially cause scratches or even ruin our guitar’s finish.

This article was targeted to the guitar body mostly, if you want to hear about fret wear see our article here.

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