So, it’s time to clean your guitar pickups? Wondering if you’re able to use your trusty household sidekick known as WD40 for the occasion? If that’s so, you’ll be quite happy to know that today we’ll talk about whether you’re able to put WD40 on guitar pickups.

Since your favorite instrument (we kinda guessed that it’s your favorite…) should be handled with care, it’s only natural one should ask whether it’s good to use WD40 on it. That’s exactly where we enter the picture. Besides telling you why it is or it isn’t possible to use WD40 on your guitar pickups, we’ll also show you some extra information surrounding the main subject! As always, stay tuned! 

Yup, you’re able to use WD40 on your guitar pickups, but you’ll have to remove them from your instrument. That’s because you don’t want any of the solvent to end up on the wooden elements of your instrument. Also, don’t spray WD40 directly onto the poles, use some Q-tips instead. 

Okay, so reading only the preview puts your instrument’s safety in jeopardy. Among other things, that’s why you should thoroughly study the text below!

Table of Contents

What is WD40?

Before we continue our talk about cleaning your instrument’s pickups, let’s consider the very produce you might or mightn’t use for this ordeal. So, yeah, exactly what’s behind the combo of letters & numbers known as WD40? Let’s see the definition of this common household item.

So, WD40 represents a so-called water displacement spray that contains a combo of lubricants and anti-corrosion traits. The primary task of WD40 is to displace water (didn’t recognize you there, Sherlock…). Its secondary role is to act as a solvent and a degreaser in one. Okay, that’s something you’d call a standard definition.

Where can you find a use for WD40?

Now this one’s for Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Did you know that there are about 2K uses for this famous household product (according to some sources)? Now that you do, let’s consider listing some of them:

  • WD40 cleans and softens paintbrushes.
  • WD40 is quite known for untangling jewelry chains.
  • WD40 helps you do away with squeaky doors and drawers.
  • WD40 will prevent rust from appearing on metal surfaces.
  • WD40 will also loosen rusted bolts.
  • WD40 is fantastic when it comes to lubricating and protecting power tools.
  • WD40 makes your lawnmower wheels run as smoothly as possible.
  • WD40 removes stuck chewing gum from just about any surface.

Since there’s no “WD40 does a great job cleaning guitar pickups” here, we’ll dedicate the main section of this article to find out whether such a statement is true or false. Without further ado, let’s consider the question that led you here: can you put WD40 on guitar pickups? Let’s find out if the rumor’s true!

A little piece of cloth with a WD40 emblem on it you could use to clean guitar pickups.

Can you put WD40 on guitar pickups?

Let’s say you’ve noticed there’s some rust on your trusty instrument’s pickups (if you’re wondering whether that affects your tone, click here). Also, let’s say you’ve heard someone saying that WD40 does a marvelous job “handling” rust. Lastly, let’s say that you’ve got some WD40 stored somewhere around your place. So, what’s there to be done? Should you put the household product in question on guitar pickups?

Here’s the thing: most folks suggest you don’t use WD40 on your guitar since it will most probably damage certain parts of it. For instance, if some WD40 ends up on any wooden areas, you’re gonna have a bad time. The wood your guitar’s made from contains many blind cavities in which water ends up. Once the solvent in question seeps into it, it’ll fill the cracks and tunnels between the aforementioned wood cavities. When WD40 comes into direct contact with the water that’s stuck in the cavity, the water will, of course, try to escape, putting some good old pressure on the cavity sides (this pressure is strong enough to expand these cavities and, eventually, make them burst).

Oh, and we haven’t finished yet. You’ll add the pressure of WD40 trying to evaporate to the whole situation we’ve described above. Once WD40 gets trapped inside the cavities, it’ll have a hard time evaporating. As the temperature rises (even by just a couple of degrees), it’ll expand onto the walls of the cavities and make them burst, assisted by trapped water.

What about metal parts of your guitar such as the pickup poles?

Good question! Yes, it’s possible to clean metal parts of your guitar with WD40. However, you’ll need to remove them from your instrument. In other words, only once they’re detached from your guitar are you able to clean them. Here’s a little step-by-step guide to cleaning your guitar pickups with WD40:

  • Phase #1: Detach the pickups. That’s because you’ll have a bad time if any WD40 ends up on the wooden parts of your trusty instrument. Don’t make us repeat all that stuff about cavities.
  • Phase #2: Obtain Q-tips.
  • Phase #3: Shoot some WD40 into a cup.
  • Phase #4: Dip the tips into the cup.
  • Phase #5: Most guitars have six metal poles since most of them got six strings (here’s whether you’ll need to change them all if one breaks). Clean each pole with the WD40-soaked Q-tip.
  • Phase #6: Carefully wipe off any excess WD40 using a piece of cloth.
  • Phase #7: Once dry, re-attach your clean-as-a-whistle guitar pickups

Can you use WD40 for guitar switches?

Our suggestion is that you completely steer clear of using WD40 on your guitar switches. There’s a better method for cleaning switches: obtain some electronic or TV tuner cleaner. Your local electronics store is bound to sell either of them. Once you’ve obtained the right stuff, spray the cleaner in the pot between the lugs and simply twist the knob a couple of times back & forth.

A safer way to clean guitar pickups

As you could’ve read, WD40 ain’t the safest solution you can come up with. Therefore, we’ve got another suggestion when it comes to cleaning your instrument’s pickups! Of course, as always, we’ve put together a little step-by-step guide to make things transparent & easy. Also, if you’re wondering how to clean your fretboard, click right here.

Step #0: Gather the “ingredients”

First things first, you’ll need to obtain all the things you’ll need for the task that’s ahead of you. You’re going to need:

  • Two sparkly clean & dry pieces of cloth. 
  • A non-abrasive cleaner. You could also use a combo of dish soap & warm water (mix one drop of soap with one cup of water). 
  • An old toothbrush. Also, you could use a little soft-bristled brush. 

Got everything set? Let’s begin!

Step #1: String removal

Okay, so before you continue, you’ll need to remove your trusty guitar strings first. This time, there’s no need to remove the pickups too.

Step #2: Spray some cleaner onto the cloth

Next up, you’ll need to spray some of that non-abrasive cleaner (or the soap & water combo) onto the dry cloth. Keep in mind that you’ll need to avoid spraying the cleaner directly onto the pickups.

Step #3: It’s wiping time

In this step, you’ll need to use the damp side of the cloth and wipe your pickups. You’ll want to pay some special attention to wherever you see build-up.

Step #4: Having a hard time removing the build-up?

Are you having a hard time removing the grimy build-up? You’ll want to utilize a toothbrush or the soft-bristled brush we’ve mentioned above to scrub between & around your pickup posts.

Step #5: Moisture removal

Use that second piece of cloth that’s dry to handle any excess moisture from your pickup.

Step #6: Restring your instrument and you’re ready to go

We’ll take a guess and say that there’s nothing to add to the title of this paragraph.

How to polish your guitar pickups?

Now that we’ve shown you how to clean your guitar pickups without using WD40, let’s consider the guide on how to polish them. Now, of course, this can’t be applied on plastic pickups so don’t even try to attempt doing such a thing.

Step #0: What you’ll need

Here we’ll introduce you to the so-called ingredients. You’ll only need two things:

  • A piece of clean, soft & dry cloth. 
  • Some metal polish. Preferably, you’ll want to opt for Brasso. 

Step #1: Remove the strings


Step #2: Pour some polish onto the cloth

The next thing you’ll want to do is to pour some of that good ol’ metal polish on the piece of cloth you’ve prepared for the task. Don’t overdo it, you’ll want to apply just a little bit of polish on your pickups.

Step #3: Begin rubbing

At this point, you’ll want to start rubbing the polish on the pickups of your instrument in small, circular motions. That way, you’ll cover the entire surface of the pickups a couple of times.

Step #4: Wait for the polish to dry

Next up, you’ll need to give the old polish a couple of minutes to dry out. Wait until it turns into something you’d call a chalky residue. The more polish you’ve used, the more it will take for it to dry out.

Step #5: Wipe off the residue

Wipe off the chalky residue with a piece of clean cloth. Pay close attention to the areas that surround the screwheads and pickup rings.

Lastly, don’t say we never wrote anything about cleaning other instruments. Here’s an article on cleaning mesh heads to back up that statement.

Final thoughts

That’s about it for today, dear music-loving folks! That was all we’ve got to say about the subject of putting WD40 on your guitar pickups. Hopefully, now you’ve realized what is the proper manner of cleaning your guitar pickup(s). For more tips on playing & maintaining your guitar, follow this link.