It can be difficult to find a clear cut answer on how often you should oil your guitar fretboard, or how much fretboard oil you should really be using.
I previously answered whether rosewood guitars need fretboard oil, and whether or not maple fretboards should be oiled. But once you know the answer to these questions, another one may pop into your head:
“How often should I oil my guitar fretboard?”
You should apply fretboard oil to your guitar 1-3 times a year, or about every 6 months. You don’t need to apply very much oil either – just a bit applied to a cloth will do the trick.
That said, there is some debate about how much oil you need, and whether fretboard oil is even necessary. Let’s jump in by examining some of the popular schools of thought on how often to apply fretboard oil.
Fretboard Oil Extremists
Unfortunately when it comes to fretboard oil, many guitarists seem to sit in two extreme camps. There are people who feel fretboard oil is not worth it all, and refuse to use it. On the other end of the spectrum are people who use it every time they clean their guitar or change their strings.
In my opinion, both sides are missing the mark here.
To never use fretboard oil at all (especially on a rosewood fingerboard) would be a mistake. Because rosewood is unsealed/unfinished, it is soaking up the sweat from your hands each time you play. Your sweat is naturally salty, and this means that eventually it will start to dry out your fretboard. So some fretboard conditioning with a high quality oil is necessary to retain healthy moisture, and prevent long term damage over the years.
At the same time, I do not advocate using oil every time you clean your guitar or change your guitar strings out. If you apply too much oil, or apply it too often, it can cause just as much damage as never oiling your fretboard at all. This is because the wood of your fretboard can become oversaturated with too much oil. This can ultimately lead to warping issues.
The Happy Medium – Oiling in Moderation
As is often the case, the answer to how often you should oil your fretboard lies in moderation. You shouldn’t swear off fretboard oil completely, but you also shouldn’t apply it excessively.
With that in mind, a good rule of thumb is to apply fretboard oil to your guitar 1-3 times a year, or about every 6 months. You don’t need to apply very much oil either – just a bit applied to a cloth will do the trick. By oiling every 6 months, and every time you do a deep clean, you’ll ensure the health of your fretboard going forward.
For lighter cleaning sessions, simply use a quick, dry wipe with a cloth, or dampened with just a little bit of water. This type of light cleaning can be performed every time you change your strings.
If you’re looking for a natural, specialty wood oil for your guitar fretboard, my favorite fretboard oil is Dunlop’s Fretboard 65. It has an amazing lemon scent to it. You can get it on Amazon. It’s time tested and loved by many guitarists, and excellent for rosewood fingerboards.
Thanks for reading! And as always, happy picking!
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