We all love our guitars, don’t we? We spend countless hours not just playing them, but also reading about them, as well as looking at what effects and amps will work the best with our precious instruments. And when it comes to cleaning, we like to be very detailed and keep our guitars sparkling. But if you ever took good care of your guitar (or guitars) you might have asked yourself “Can I use Clorox wipes on my guitar?”
In fact, this is a part of many guitarist discussions online. Many are asking whether Clorox wipes are appropriate and safe for wooden instruments. After all, having one method to clean everything in your home makes things super simple, right?
Well, the truth is a bit more complicated.
While you can technically clean your guitar with Clorox wipes, I’d highly discourage it. No, you won’t ruin your instrument. At least not after one wiping. But you can potentially do long-term damage, both to the finish and the wood.
Now, if you do some reading online, you’ll find a lot of different opinions. It goes from people approving Clorox, up to those who believe that you’ll do irreversible damage to your instrument if you wipe your guitar with them. But as cliché as it may sound, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Nonetheless, we’ll be taking a deeper dive into this topic and explaining what can go wrong with Clorox wipes. As I said, I would highly discourage the use of Clorox wipes. But let’s explore this further and examine the issue.
Table of Contents
What Actually Comes With Clorox Wipes?
For the purpose of this guide, I took some time to take a closer look at what actually comes with Clorox wipes. But first, there’s one important thing to know. Contrary to popular belief, Clorox wipes don’t have bleach. That’s right. You won’t poison yourself and the guitar with bleach.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some important ingredients that are in there. It goes something like this, according to EWG’s official data:
- Alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride
- Alkyl dimethyl ethyl benzyl ammonium chloride (C12-C14)
- Alkyl dimethyl ethyl benzyl ammonium chlorides (C12-C18)
- Isopropyl alcohol
Now, that’s some list of ingredients that only those who know a thing or two about chemistry will completely understand. The first three ingredients carry some moderate health risks in larger quantities, as explained in the source. The last one, isopropyl alcohol, may have some minor health concerns.
But as far as guitars go, I’d say that alcohol of any kind is a serious concern. Well, it’s not like it’s going to ruin your guitar the moment you clean it with a Clorox wipe. But it’s something that carries potential long-term risks.
What Would Happen If I Cleaned My Guitar With Clorox Wipes?
So what would actually happen if you clean your guitar with a Clorox wipe? If you want a short answer – probably nothing. It would just smell differently and you’d clean it. But it’s prolonged use that we should be worried about.
As mentioned, we’re mostly worried about alcohol. We all know that it’s not exactly the best thing for wood or some other materials.
But in order to look into the issue thoroughly, let’s divide this into the most important parts that could, or could not, be affected. We have wood with a thicker finish, wood with minor finishes, plastic parts, strings, and metal parts like hardware and fret wires.
Fretboard and Wood With Minor Finish
Fretboard, or any kind of wood with only minor finishing touches on it, is the most vulnerable component here. The problem is that using alcohol/isopropyl to clean the guitar can dry out the wood.
This is why I’d highly discourage cleaning the fretboard with Clorox. The same also goes for necks with minor finishes, or even some guitar bodies (as is the case with Gibson’s Les Paul BFG).
If you do clean these parts with a Clorox wipe, don’t worry – it’s not the end of the world. Just wipe it off with non-alcohol wipes, possibly even just a dampened cloth. After that, wipe it with a dry cloth and put some lemon oil on it. Feel free to also use regular daily cleaners and protective creams.
Of course, the use of lemon oil is essential to keep your guitar’s wood in good condition. But we’ll get to that.
If you don’t protect the wood after the use of Clorox wipes, then there’s a chance the wood will dry out. In the longer run, this means that it can deform and warp, making your instrument completely unusable.
Wood With Thicker Finish
Wood with multiple finish layers will take much less damage compared to fretboard or any other parts with thinner coatings. In fact, wiping a strong nitro finish can be done with a Clorox wipe.
But still, I discourage this practice as well. Even though it’s much safer, it can still cause long-term damage to the finish, even the wood.
If you’ve cleaned your guitar’s body with a Clorox, again – don’t worry. Do the same thing as discussed above. Clean it up first with a dampened and then with a dry one. You can also use regular cleaning products and protective waxes afterward.
Plastic parts, on the other hand, can receive more damage. Luckily, plastic parts are much easier to replace compared to fretboards. But you still don’t want to damage the nut or anything else, right?
Again, nothing should happen if you wiped it once. So don’t worry. Just wipe off the residue of Clorox if possible and don’t do it again.
Using alcohol of any kind on the strings might not do any direct damage to them. But on the other hand, it can make the strings feel really dry. This can cause a somewhat unpleasant performance for the fretting hand, as well as more squeaking noises as you move your fingers over the strings.
Another issue here is that the residue from Clorox wipes will find its way onto the fretboard, the neck, and the body of your guitar. This brings us back to the issues described above.
Metal Hardware and Metal Frets
And finally, we have the metal hardware, tuning machines, and the bridge. Of course, we can also include fret wire here, as it’s also made of metal.
Honestly, metal parts won’t really suffer from Clorox wipes, unless they have some special kind of finish on them. In that case, you may damage the finish in the long run, but the damages here are only aesthetic.
The issue, however, is that if you clean these metal parts, you’ll leave residue on the wooden parts as well. And just like with the strings, you’ll eventually leave residue on the wooden parts. So, again, it’s best that you don’t do it.
What Are Some Alternatives to Clorox Wipes?
If you really need to wipe a guitar, at least try not to use Clorox or similar wipes if that’s possible. Two main alternatives include baby wipes and wipes designed for wooden furniture. Essentially, any non-alcohol-based wipes. But even then, you’ll have to wipe off the residue.
Better alternatives include slightly dampened cloths and dry cloths. You can also do this with paper towels and toilet paper, first cleaning with the dampened and then with dry ones.
Microfiber cloths are also more than useful. You can use both dampened and dried ones. Just make sure that you’re not using anything alcohol-based on them, or any ingredients that can potentially damage the wood or its finish.
There Are Plenty of Guitar-Based and Other Appropriate Cleaning and Care Products
The good news, however, is that there are so many different guitar-oriented cleaning products. Additionally, there are also specially designed polishing and care products that keep your precious instruments safe.
Now, it’s important to differentiate between cleaning and polishing. Some are using cleaning products daily, thinking that they’re keeping their instruments safe.
The most important thing starts with you. The very first thing that you should do is wash your hands. And, additionally, dry them off as much as you can after washing.
Cleaning the fretboard should be done with fine steel wool. Yes, steel wool. But it’s the super-fine kind that can help you remove all the dirt and skin residue from the fretboard. You should take special care of where the fretwire meets the fretboard. This is where most of it will be stuck.
The body and the neck should be cleaned with specialized day-to-day cleaning products. Aside from cleaning, you can also apply polishing waxes that also help keep your instrument safe. By sealing all the pores and micro-cracks, you prevent any unwanted humidity to compromise the wood.
Lastly, you need to bear in mind that full-strength lemon oil is not good for your guitar. We’re talking about specialized lemon oil products that contain only a very amount of actual lemon oil.
Overall, if you want advice on the best care and cleaning products, I’d always go with Dunlop and their stuff. And remember: you should always take good care of your instrument, no matter your genre preferences or playing and shredding skills.