How to Clean Guitar Fretboard? Natural or Synthetic Lemon Oil

This article is all about petroleum products that you put on your guitar! I’ve been always taking care of my instruments very carefully for many many years. Up to now, I have used some commercial products by Planet Waves and Jim Dunlop.

After many hours of research on how this cleaning and conditioning could be improved, I found out that there are always pickier people than you could expect!

Planet Waves Hydrate!
Natural my a**!

According to some wise people who own very expensive guitars and gears and are extremely picky about what to apply on their instruments, those commercial products are almost identical.

In addition, those “trusted” companies kinda play some tricks with words and make you think that they sell natural products. But it’s mostly not true!

If you do some research, you will find out that these commercial cleaning and conditioning products are mostly by-products of petroleum with some essence (don’t know if they are natural or synthetic) added to them.

To be honest, I thought I was always sure that when I bought a bottle of lemon oil, it was the actual lemon oil extracted from the lemon fruits. But it’s not a fact! It’s a big marketing lie!

As you can see from the image above, it says “HARMFUL or FATAL IF SWALLOWED!“. If these products were just true fruit extracts, they would give you no harm and you could actually toss them in your salad and still be safe!


Do you think they would sell 100% natural essential oil blends extracted from actual fruits or leaves for very cheap prices? Of course NO!

There are discussions going on about the harm they might do to your instruments on the internet. You can find many if you spend some time.

I don’t want to spend so much time to discuss and also reveal some commercial information on these products. I would rather tell you what I’ve been working on! Is it possible to “make your own natural lemon oil” for your fretboards? Are there any products on the market which are all-natural?

As I have access to an essential oil company, an idea has recently come up to my mind. I have discussed this topic with engineers and finally created some blends and done some tests!

Here are some test results! First, we prepared some blends with 100% essential oils. Our first test was on a 30 years old cutting board.

Cutting Board Test
This is as old as a 70’s Strat!

We had four different blends with dominant scents. The blends are mostly a mixture of lemon, orange, oregano, mint and grape seed essential oils which are cold-pressed!

As you can see four darker strips, it just worked perfectly! This cutting board was quite clean and dry. However, these blends not only managed to get some deep-seated dirt off but also retained the original colour of the wood and darkened it!

Tanned cutting board?

We also applied some on a wooden spoon which was thrown in the dishwasher hundreds of times 🙂 Here are the results!

Wooden Spoon Darkened!
No photoshop!

As you can see the lighter strips indicate the degraded colour of wood whereas the darker areas represent conditioned and retained the state of it. Note that we just used a couple of drops for each strip!

I know you’re asking for an actual test on an actual instrument! There you are!

We tested our blends on a Korean made Cort guitar which was abused and never taken care of! Believe me, this guitar had no cleaning and conditioning or even restrung for the last 4 years! The strings were actually rusted and breaking like glass!!! You’ll see what I mean in a second.


Please note that this is the most hardcore test ever! You should never allow your fretboard to suck this much dirt and rust. If you’re such a player, I suggest you give away your instrument! Shame on you 🙂

Abused Cort Korean Made Guitar
A colony of bacteria!
Abused Cort Korean Made Guitar
I would never let my fretboard go this dirty!!!
Abused Cort Korean Made Guitar
Do you think it will work on a fretboard like this?

As mentioned before, you would never allow your instrument to develop this much dirt and rust as it might do serious harm both to your fretboard and your health!

In addition, even if you used commercial products by “trusted” brands, you would have to spend so much time to remove this kind of dirt. So we did the same, applied a bit more than usual and did that twice!

We also used an old toothbrush to scratch the sticky dirt built up in wood for four years!

Here are the results of our first attempt!

 Some Progress in Cleaning Korean Made Guitar
First round of cleaning!
 Some Progress in Cleaning Korean Made Guitar
Start to shine already?
 Some Progress in Cleaning Korean Made Guitar
Believe me, it’s the first round of cleaning!

As you can see, it was not completely clean but it was a huge improvement comparing the initial images! After our first attempt, we applied another coat and got some more toilet paper!

Almost Done!
This time I let this blend sit a bit longer
Almost Done!
Hungry for moisture!

We also waited for some time to let those active ingredients do the cleaning. I think this is impressive! It just worked perfectly for the worst situation of a fingerboard I have ever seen! Believe me, I had cleaned my fretboards many many times, but this was the worst one!

Notice how it darkened the fretboard a bit and removed the dirt and rust, our blend has also some conditioning essential oil which helps fretboard woods prevent from getting dry a lot!

After I restrung the guitar, I took some photos in daylight in order to show how perfectly our blend worked!

Impressive Results!
Can you believe it?
Impressive Results!
So mad this guitar being left-handed!!!

You should also see the aftermath 🙂

Look at the dirt!
It was a tough job!

I was really satisfied with the results but I wanted to another go on my Ibanez AR300RE which have been excessively abused a couple of months and finally decided to restring it. Let’s see!

Ibanez AR300 Dirty
This is the maximum dirt that can happen to my instruments!
Ibanez AR300 Dirty
But still looks dry and dirty

As you can see, it could be OK for a couple of weeks more, but it started feeling kinda hardened because of my abusive playing and it’s also summer here now.

Natural Essential Oil Mix
Secret sauce!

I used an old toothbrush to soften the dirt and also an old pair of socks to clean that off. After 5-10 mins of hard work, here are the results!

Ibanez AR300 Clean!
Immediate results!
Ibanez AR300 Clean!
And smells so nice!
Ibanez AR300 Clean!
Loving it!

Notice the darkened texture of beautiful rosewood 🙂 I restrung my guitar with a set of Elixir Anti-Rust 11 – 49 and there you are! It’s ready to rock again!

Ibanez AR300 Clean and Restrung!
Just like a piece of chocolate!


Note that when I say “darkened“, I don’t mean that this natural blend will change the original colour permanently, it actually retains the original colour.

As far as I know, guitar fretboard cleaning products are not applied to unfinished maple boards as it might change the colour. But with unfinished ebony (some apply a thin layer sometimes) and rosewood, you can use them safely.

Comparing lots of fretboard cleaning products, the only one I have found is natural and does not have a warning as harmful and “fatal if swallowed” label is Music Nomad MN105 F-ONE Fretboard Oil Cleaner and Conditioner.

Please visit Amazon to read over 400 reviews on this product!

It actually goes off in time and you will see how dense and how natural it feels and smells. So I would definitely go for this one and never use any other products if you can not reach essential oils in local stores!

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