The Best Fretboard Oils And How To Use Them

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There are a lot of conflicting opinions about the different types of guitar fretboard oil so I put together this guide to the best fretboard oil available. Now I don’t believe there is ever a one size fits all when it comes to anything to do with guitars. With fretboard oil, you need to think about a lot of things, Is the neck rosewood or ebony? Do you need a cleaning product or do you need fretboard conditioner? I put together the best 4 fretboard oils on the market right now. You can see them in the table below and what they’re various uses are. Read on to find out what one will fit your needs!

 Music Nomad MN105 F-ONE Fretboard OilGerlitz GGH Guitar Honey Fingerboard OilPlanet Waves Hydrate Fingerboard ConditionerDunlop 6554 Fretboard 65 Ultimate Lemon Oil
PriceClick Here!Click Here!Click Here!Click Here!
F-ONE(1)Guitar Honey(1)Planet Waves(1)Dunlop lemon Oil(1)
Base OilTree and seedMineralMineralLemon
Size2 fl oz2 fl oz2 fl oz4 fl oz
CleaningYesNoYesYes
ConditioningYesYesYesNo

Why You Need To Use Fretboard Oil

You want to be using fretboard oil to keep your fretboard nice and clean and to condition the wood to stop it getting dried out and cracking. Conditioning an unfinished fretboard creates a protective barrier on the surface which prevents moisture soaking into the wood which can cause it to crack, chip and in severe cases it could cause the frets to come loose from the guitar.

It is also thought that unprotected fretboard can end up losing sustain. I’m not sure how noticeable that could be, but why risk it? It’s much easier to prevent than to fix!

People talk about using things like Lemon Pledge on their guitars but this is one of the worst things you can do. Household cleaners are almost entirely water. And water is one of the main things you’re trying to protect the fretboard from!

You might be thinking that you don’t need to condition your fretboard, it’s not like you’re playing it in the rain. Well, one of the main things that factors affecting the health of the fretboard are the seasons. The changes from summer to winter cause a big shift in humidity which is yet another way moisture is trying to seep into your fretboard. And of course, you can’t forget about sweat. Proper conditioning will stop all the moisture from your sweat seeping into the wood.

Now, having a clean guitar just adds a touch of professionalism to things. It is claimed that a properly cleaned and conditioned guitar will help keep the tone but I’m not completely sold on that. However, having a nice clean neck does make it easier to play and you’ll find your strings don’t wear out as fast.

When you need to use fretboard oil

The best practise for fretboard conditioning is to condition the fretboard using oil once maybe twice a year. You shouldn’t need to be conditioning any more frequently than that. By all means clean the fretboard every time you change the strings but conditioning is unnecessary. It won’t hurt of course if you do condition your fretboard every string change it just won’t really do anything, however if you have a conditioner and cleaner then by all means use that during every string change.

Say you bought a second-hand guitar that’s been sitting around for a while and it’s fretboard is all dried out. You can start a regular routine of fretboard conditioning. I would recommend getting the Music Nomad F-One Fretboard Oil, that way you can regularly clean and condition the fretboard getting it back to normal.

How to use fretboard oil

It’s important that you remove the strings before you use the oil on the fretboard because it will just ruin the strings. Removing all the strings at once won’t do any harm to the neck provided you make sure you loosen the strings before cutting them. For the guitar neck to experience any type of warping from being stringless it would have to be left unstrung for a number of weeks in a really humid environment. So no changing your strings in the bath!

As for how to use oil on your fretboard there is a great video demonstration from Music Nomad on their Amazon page for the F-One Fretboard Oil Cleaner and Conditioner. Worth a watch, you can find it here.

When I first started using fretboard oil I used a regular household duster but it ended up leaving little bits of yellow fibres over the fretboard so it is definitely worth getting the proper microfiber. I recommend getting the Planet Waves Microfiber Polish Cloth. It doesn’t cost much and you can get it on Amazon!

Best Fretboard Oil for Maple Fretboards

None!

Maple fingerboards almost always have a hard finish on them, some sort of lacquer usually, which makes them appear shiny. Because of this, fretboard oil will have no effect and could even damage the finish so the best way to clean a maple fretboard is with a cloth and some elbow grease. If you have particularly stubborn dirt you can use an old pick to scrape it off and you shouldn’t do any damage to the finish.

Best Fretboard Oil for Ebony or Rosewood Fretboards

Now both Rosewood and Ebony fingerboards don’t have a finish on them which is why you use oil to help create a protective barrier along the top of the wood. My best advice would be to get yourself Music Nomads F-ONE Fretboard Oil.

The F-ONE Oil is great for cleaning and will condition your fretboard all in one. If you are looking for just a conditioner for your Ebony or Rosewood  fretboard then the Planet Waves Hydrate Fingerboard conditioner is the one for you. It will condition the wood to perfection and leave it with a really nice dark finish. Find it here on Amazon.

Best Fretboard Oil for Exotic Fretboards

So you’ve got yourself a guitar with a really exotic neck wood. Maybe you have a nice Hawaiian Koa wood neck or a Ziricote neck, who knows? There’s a lot of choices out there for people who are looking for it!

Well, my best recommendation would be the Gerlitz Guitar Honey, it specifically states that it is suitable for exotic woods. But if you are at all apprehensive then contact whoever you bought the guitar from, or the guitar manufacturers. They will be able to sort you out! Find Guitar Honey here on Amazon.

Best Fretboard Cleaner

Now if your fingerboard is absolutely filthy then Dunlops Lemon Oil will be the direction you want to go. But you need to be aware of what can happen with Lemon Oil. Lemon Oil has a higher acidity content, being made from lemons and all, which can lead to drying out of the fretboard in the long term.

Think of it like alcohol, you have a beer and feel really good and refreshed, it’s not till you’ve had ten and woken up the next day that you feel the dehydrating effects of alcohol. Luckily, Lemon Oil does not cause the same levels of shame. It is this extra acidity that makes Lemon Oil a really effective cleaner, so if you have a really dirty fretboard lemon oil is the way to go. You can get Dunlops Fretboard Ultimate Lemon Oil here on Amazon. Then, you can get yourself the Gerlitz guitar honey and condition the fretboard to its peak!

Best Fretboard Conditioner

As I said before when conditioning you might be best to avoid Lemon Oil as it could end up drying out the fretboard in the long term. Now, both the Gerlitz Guitar Honey and Planet Waves Hydrate are dedicated conditioners as opposed to the 2 in 1 conditioner and cleaner like F-ONE oil. But the Guitar Honey and the Hydrate are both mineral based, and mineral oil is made from petroleum distillates which are made from crude oil, similar to white spirits.

Now there hasn’t been much study or proof to back this up, but to me, something that is made from petroleum doesn’t sound like it would prevent the fretboard from drying up. It sounds like it would do exactly the opposite. That is mere speculation of course but if that is the case then an alternative is the F-ONE Oil which is made from Oil derived from Nuts and Seeds.

Best Fretboard Oil

The overall winner has to be the Music Nomads F-ONE Fretboard Cleaner and Conditioner. It is simply a fantastic and versatile product suited for any job you could put it through. It is the absolute best value product available. Check out the price here on Amazon!

Or you can find it at the guitar center

8 thoughts on “The Best Fretboard Oils And How To Use Them

  1. Nice writeup, and I totally agree with your overall winner: The Music Nomad F-ONE. The Music Nomad F-ONE is fantastic stuff and has become MY go-to fretboard conditioner. However, don’t use it (or any oil, for that matter) as a “cleaner.” For actual cleaning, I still use the old school methods of scraping, steel wool, Naphtha, etc. as necessary. I especially like your lemon oil analogy: about how drinking a bunch of beer will leave you feeling refreshed at first, but you’ll feel like crap and be totally dehydrated the next day.

    1. Glad you enjoyed the article, Music Nomad is definitely the way to go. Understandable about old school cleaning. There isn;t much that can’t be cleaned with a good bit of elbow grease!

      1. Actually, I see now that I made a typo in my comment which changed the context. I typed “However, don’t used it… as a cleaner” when I meant to say “However, I don’t use it … as a cleaner.” In other words, I wasn’t telling anyone not to use oil as a cleaner, just that I personally don’t. For lighter “cleaning” yes, a good lemon-based oil can work well, as long as you wipe it all off and follow-up with a good oil (Guitar Honey is a great one) 😀

  2. Looking forward to buy Dunlop 6554, here it says its a cleaner and not conditioner but in an other post its mentioned as a conditioner and not a cleaner.

    1. Not quite sure what you’re asking? If you asking if you can make your own oil I definitely wouldn’t. Stick to one of the recommendations above, you don’t want to do any damage to your fretboard.

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