How To

How To Clean A Bass Guitar – A Step By Step Tutorial

How might think you know how to clean a bass guitar, but damaging your precious instrument is all too common. Here’s a guide to make it easy and quick.

As you spend hours and hours grinding away at your bass guitar, sweat, dirt, oil, fingerprints, and other unwanted blemishes will inevitably accumulate on your instrument. This article will present you with helpful advice on how to clean a bass guitar thoroughly and correctly.

Overview: What You Need To Know

​Care and maintenance for your bass will be identical to a regular guitar. Aside from having thicker (and usually fewer) strings, the process and parts between the two are basically the same. Here are the areas that will be covered:

  • Fingerboard and Frets
  • ​Strings
  • ​Body
  • ​Pickups
  • ​Hardware (knobs, bridge, etc.)

​Additionally, you will want to purchase a bass guitar cleaning kit, which is basically guitar polish. You will also need a very soft cloth to wipe your instrument, such as a microfiber towel. Fretboard oil will also be required.

Luckily, all of these can be found pretty quickly, and sometimes even bundled together such as this complete maintenance kit ​on Amazon.

Your Guide To Bass Guitar Cleaning

​This section will give you information, in a logical order, on how to give your bass a makeover. By following this guide, it should feel like a million bucks when you play it. It will also sound better too.

The Fingerboard & Frets

​It's wise to start with the fretboard first because, typically, it requires the most attention and effort. When doing a bass guitar fretboard cleaning, it's a good idea to remove your old strings first in order to access the fingerboard and do a thorough job efficiently and adequately.

​While it might not be as apparent as other parts of your instrument, the fretboard and the wood that it is made out of contributes to your bass' sound. Neglecting it will adversely affect your tone.

​Use fretboard oil and put a few drops of it onto a soft cloth and massage it into the wood. This will help remove any trapped dirt and restore the wood's sheen. Wipe off any extra oil with your cloth to avoid any swelling of the fretboard.

​If your frets have lost their original shine, you can use super-fine 0000 steel wool or a microfiber towel to polish them.

​Alternatively, you can check out this fret cleaning kit which contains fretboard guards in three different sizes, a microfiber cloth, and a polish that is very safe for your fingerboard.

​Lastly, make sure never to use alcohol or soap on the fretboard. This is harsh for the wood and will surely dry it out. You're looking to treat your fretboard, not make it worse!

​While this is a video shows a demonstration on a guitar, the concepts are still the same and can be used for cleaning a bass guitar:

The Strings

​If you haven't noticed already, the sweat and oil that comes from your hands and fingers lead to the corrosion of any type of instrument string. There are two ways to clean your strings, and both are simple solutions that could be useful depending on the circumstance.

​If you know that your strings have run their course, you might as well replace your old bass strings with fresh new ones, since you had to remove them in order to get to the fretboard.

​However, if your strings still have some life in them, you still have another option. If this is the case, a bass guitar string cleaning is viable and can allow you to score the most value out of your strings.

​You can do this by applying a little bit of rubbing alcohol to a cloth and rubbing up and down along the string. If your cloth is light in color, you can see it remove all of the gunk that was on there.

how to clean a bass guitar strings

The Body

​The body isn't a complicated part of cleaning your bass guitar, but there still are some rules you should follow to care for this part of the instrument.

​First, make sure your hands are washed before giving this area any attention. It's counterproductive to do this if your fingers will smudge more dirt on its body.

​Next, apply some guitar polish to an unused cloth; don't go overboard! A small amount of it will go a long way. Do not use furniture polish if you want to preserve the wood's paint and finish. Additionally, not all bass guitar woods are the same, so it's best to use something that is proven to be safe for your instrument.

​Rub the cloth along all areas of the body, you can even go along the back of the neck too if you wish. As long as you're satisfied, you can move to the next part.

polish bass body

The Pickups

​It should go without saying, or be well-known, that you shouldn't use any kind of liquid when trying to cleaning bass guitar pickups. It can damage your electronics. Your pickups will need to be cared for from time to time though, so how do you do it?

​If your pickups are showing signs of oxidation, you can use a light dab of guitar polish onto a cloth. Guitar polish is effective, won't ruin your pickups, and it's affordable. It also doesn't take a lot of time to perform; check out this video:

​To remove any dust off of a pickup, a very soft paintbrush or a Q-tip will suffice, and they should be able to reach the small, tight spots that a piece of cloth may not be able to.

The pickups are an essential part of the bass' sound and taking care of them allows you to continue to produce the best tone.

The Hardware

​Think of the hardware as the final touches of a bass guitar cleaning. All of the more sensitive and time-consuming areas are now out of the way.

​Some people might mistakenly think of the pickups as your hardware. Mostly, your hardware consists of your knobs, tuning heads, and your bridge, and they are typically very easy to make shiny and immaculate again.

​Using a dust rag is usually enough to tidy up these areas, but if it is filthy, a light amount of brass polish should do the trick. Be careful to not get this anywhere on your guitar; it's not the same as guitar polish.

Summary & Conclusion

​It shouldn't take a tremendous amount of effort to make your musical equipment look as good as new. Hopefully, following this guide on how to clean a bass guitar has worked like a charm and was easy to follow along with.

​All you need is a few different products that allow you to give your instrument the treatment that it needs and deserves. Mostly you will be working with some guitar polish and a cloth though. You can get a full bass guitar cleaning kit though, which will you save you some time and effort from searching for individual materials.

​Once you have the products that you need, make sure your hands are washed and go through the main areas: the fretboard, the strings, the body, the pickups, and the hardware.

​Not only will your instrument have a new and improved look, but it should also sound better with a set of replacement strings or having performed a bass guitar string cleaning.

​Regular maintenance is an excellent and responsible habit to develop. Make an effort to get into the routine of wiping down your fretboard each time you change your strings.

​However, you don't need to do a total cleaning all that frequently. Some people may touch-up their instruments every few months or a couple of times per year. Just do a “restoration” when you feel like it appears that it's due for one, and you and your bass should be in pretty good shape.