If you play your guitar often, you will find that your strings wear out quickly. Is there a way to extend their life so that you don’t have to replace them quite so often?
Yes! Allow us to share a few tips for keeping your strings clean and at their best for as long as possible. (Hint: These tips work great for mandolin, banjo, and Dobro, too!)
- Wash your hands before you play. Even if you haven’t been doing anything particularly dirty, your fingers still have oil and extraneous debris on the tips. Washing your hands immediately before playing will cut down on the deposits that you leave on the strings. Just make sure you dry your hands thoroughly before you pick up your guitar.
- Avoid tuning your guitar strings to a sharper pitch than they were designed for. Stretching reduces the elasticity of the strings, which in turn reduces their tonal quality. While guitar strings must be stretched to be useful, stretching them too far shortens their lifespan and may even lead to breakage.
- Wipe your strings down with a soft cloth after playing. You may also want to wipe your strings between every few songs if you tend to sweat profusely. For best results, wipe off each string individually. This helps remove excess finger oil.
- Store your guitar in a low-humidity environment. You may have already known that humidity warps the wood of your guitar. Humidity will also cause your strings to rust. Protect your strings by storing your guitar (and your unused string sets) in a hard-shell case in a room with a relatively stable temperature and a humidity between 40% and 60%. A humidity between 45% to 55% is even better.
- Clean your strings with string cleaner/lubricant from time to time. The cleaner will remove oil and debris buildup from the strings and extend their life.
- Keep spare string sets sealed until use. Most string manufacturers seal their strings in special plastic packaging to keep them from oxidizing due to contact with the air. If your new set of strings comes in sealed packaging, keep them there until you are ready to change your guitar strings. If you happen to buy a string or set of strings that is not sealed, seal them yourself in a Ziploc bag, preferably with a pack of silica gel.
- Clean your fretboard every time you change your strings. Removing dust and grime from your fretboard will prevent your new strings from premature damage and decay. Special fretboard conditioners are manufactured for this purpose and have the added benefit of protecting your fretboard wood from drying out and cracking.
String care is actually quite simple! With a little attention to guitar and string storage, plus developing the good habits of cleaning your hands and guitar on a routine basis, your strings will stay shiny and rich-sounding as long as possible.