Gibson Master Luthier Jim DeCola demonstrates how to clean and polish a Gibson guitar
| February 23, 2024 |

Video: How to Clean and Polish Your Guitar

Pro tips for taking care of your investment and keeping it looking sharp

In this episode of “Gibson’s Guide to Guitar Setup and Maintenance,” you’ll learn how to polish your guitars like a professional. Gibson Master Luthier Jim DeCola demonstrates the correct way to do the job, whether your guitar has a gloss or satin finish.

Polishing a guitar sounds simple, but there’s more to it than you might think. Jim DeCola talks about the right way to clean and polish, including what types of polish and cloth to use, how to store the cloth, why you should polish in a circular motion, what to use to clean the strings and fretboard, and what to use to polish your guitar’s hardware.

Jim also discusses how different finish colors can show scratches and fingerprints more than others, the importance of dusting off the guitar before applying polish to reduce the possibility of scratching the finish, and how keeping the neck polished and clean will make playing effortless.

Nitrocellulose, often referred to simply as “nitro,” is a type of lacquer finish used on guitars that dates back to the early 20th century. It is derived from cellulose, found in plants and cotton fibers, mixed with nitric and sulfuric acids. This finish is prized for its ability to enhance the natural resonance and tone of the wood, as it’s thinner and less restrictive than modern polyurethane or polyester finishes.

Nitrocellulose is known for its smooth, glossy appearance that can develop a unique patina over time, including weather checking (fine cracks), yellowing, and subtle wear that many guitarists and collectors find aesthetically pleasing. This aging process can give the guitar a vintage look and feel that’s highly sought after, and it is one of the many benefits of a guitar that passes through the Murphy Lab.

Additionally, nitro finishes are believed by many musicians to “breathe” more effectively than thicker finishes, potentially allowing the wood to resonate more freely and contribute to the instrument’s tonal qualities.

Check out the many Gibson cleaning products.

Did you know that the Gibson Gazette has an entire channel devoted to maintaining your axe for every musical adventure? Check out our extensive range of tutorials and guides.