To ensure that your guitar maintains its playability for a long period of time, it’s important to take measures to maintain its condition. Fretboards are subjected to lots of wear and tear, so using a suitable fretboard oil is essential.
There is a wide range of products available for keeping tonewoods like rosewood and maple in pristine condition, but in truth, some are better than others.
In this article, I'll list some of the best fretboard oils available and explain their merits and demerits, so that you can pick one that's most suitable for your use case.
The Best Oils for Guitar Fretboards
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Dunlop’s long history of producing guitar related products positions them in the top tier of manufacturers, so it’s no surprise that they have transferred this knowledge into the field of fretboard oils.
Lemon oil is one of the most commonly used oils for maintaining the tonewoods that compose a guitar. This is due to the way it interacts with the materials. Its acidity is highly efficient at removing any dirt or build-ups which occur over time.
The 6554 Lemon Oil solution is designed to keep your fretboard in the condition it was in when you first laid your hands on it. Not only does it moisturize the surface, but it also nourishes it with the nutrients present in the oil.
Dunlop's Lemon Oil cleans the wood without causing any harm to it. Understandably, some people are apprehensive about applying acidic solutions to their fretboard, as they may worry that it will take some of the surface layers of the wood or diminish its smoothness.
Thankfully, Dunlop has tested their oil extensively to ensure that it's guitar-friendly whilst being highly effective at removing wax, grease, or dirt from between the frets.
After using this lemon oil solution, you’ll instantly be able to tell the difference. It leaves your fretboard feeling refreshed and brings back that new-guitar feeling.
Made from 100% natural oils, the MusicNomad F-One is a cleansing and conditioning oil that will leave your guitar in pristine condition. The F-One is suitable for rosewood, maple, and ebony fretboards.
Made from a unique blend of seed and tree oils, the solution provides some much-needed moisture to a dry fretboard and is absorbed easily by the tonewood of your guitar.
If you notice that your fretboard has been looking a little faded recently, simply apply a few drops of the F-One oil generously around the frets, wipe it thoroughly with a soft polishing cloth, and it will feel brand new.
Another great thing about the MusicNomad F-One is its quick-drying ability. The last thing we want as guitarists is to wait for our beloved axe to dry, especially when the prospect of a smooth and replenished fretboard awaits us.
If you know guitars, you must have heard of D’Addario. One of the finest string and instrument accessory manufacturers on the planet, their expertise is almost unrivaled.
It's no surprise then that the D'Addario PW-LMN lemon oil is highly effective at removing grime and dirt from your guitar's fingerboard. It can be used on any wooden instrument, not just a guitar.
Made from all-natural materials, the PW-LMN is particularly effective when used on unfinished woods. It's recommended that you regularly use this solution every time you change your strings, to make sure that your guitar reaps all of the benefits.
Dryness is one of the common issues that guitarists face from time to time, especially if their guitar is used often. Thankfully, lemon juice restores its natural moisture levels and makes it easier to glide up and down the fretboard.
I’d be apprehensive of putting a synthetic solution onto a guitar, especially if it’s an expensive or sentimental instrument. That’s why D’Addario has chosen to use only natural ingredients in their fretboard oil to protect and preserve the guitars.
4. PRS ACC-3130
PRS Guitars is another highly reputable manufacturer who knows a lot about producing and maintaining instruments. Their guitars are made with the highest quality of tonewood combinations, so keeping them in good condition is very important to them.
Neglecting your fretboard can not only hamper the playability of your guitar but also be detrimental to the sound it produces. When there's a lot of dirt present, the strings collect it and fail to vibrate with the sparkle that they're supposed to.
Thankfully, the PRS ACC-3130 Fretboard Conditioner cuts through any of the unwanted matter that may have accumulated on your guitar. It successfully combats conditions like fret sprout, which occurs when a guitar has been in dry conditions for too long.
This 4oz bottle provides great value for money and has a pleasant, light scent. It's made from lemon oil but isn't overly concentrated so you don't need to worry about the high acidity levels potentially damaging your guitar.
A quick disclaimer – this oil solution is suitable for use on any wood except for maple. I wouldn’t recommend using it on this material as it may not react very well and could cause damage.
The Lizard Spit Fretboard Conditioner was specifically formulated to give your guitar the ultimate cleaning experience. It works by aggressively tackling any of the dirt that has made its way onto your fretboard, then gently rehydrates the wood.
All you need is one application of this oil and your guitar will be perfectly clean. It doesn’t take much pressure to remove the dirt, thanks to the efficient ingredients in this lemon-oil based solution.
One of the great things about Lizard Spit products is that they are committed to keeping their carbon footprint to an absolute minimum, and, in turn protecting the wood of your guitar.
All of the ingredients in this fretboard oil are non-toxic, biodegradable, and eco-friendly. It's a great choice for keeping your guitar fresh and smooth to play.
Finally, we have the Lem-Oil from Kyser. This affordable solution is designed to keep your guitar’s fretboard in optimal condition, enhancing the playing experience, and making it feel fresh and new.
Made predominantly from lemon-oil solution, the slight acidity of the Kyser Lem-Oil gently lifts away any build ups or dirt that have transferred from your fingers onto the frets when playing the instrument.
It also improves the longevity of your guitar, by coating it with a layer of moisture briefly. When the solution dries, the fretboard feels renewed and replenished, so you can easily transition through the notes.
Suitable for any woods but recommended for use on unfinished materials, this fretboard oil won’t harm your guitar and you don’t need to use a great deal of it to get the desired results.
How to Get the Best Results out of Fretboard Oil
My guitars are my prized possessions, so I constantly feel the need to give them some TLC and keep them in good condition. The price of maintaining a guitar is much less than having to purchase replacement parts or another model, so it’s well worth the time.
Where Does the Dirt Come from?
Fretboard oils remove build-ups of dirt from your guitar, but what causes that to happen? Most of the dirt is caused by the sweat from your hands. When you play guitar, the friction between your fingers and the wood causes sweat to be produced, and sweat is a huge enemy of any instrument.
Once you’ve applied fretboard oil to your guitar and it’s feeling brand new again, the most effective way to keep it in this condition is to wash your hands before you play it. As simple and obvious as this may sound, it is the single most important thing you can do for your fretboard's longevity.
Applying Fretboard Oil
When applying fretboard oil, it’s important to remove all the strings first. You then need to use a soft cloth with no sharp bristles or ends as this could damage your guitar. Soak the oil onto the fretboard for a few seconds, then wipe it with a medium amount of pressure until the oil is absorbed and the dirt is removed.
Hopefully, you've identified the right choice of fretboard oil for your guitar. Be sure to check that the oil is compatible with the woods used for composing your fretboard, and enjoy playing a reinvigorated instrument!