Cleaning a dirty old guitar

regularslinky

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Sorry if I’m not posting in the right place. A friend gave me a 1961 Harmony electric that I’m trying to restore. It’s filthy after 50 years in an attic, and guitar cleaner/polish isn’t doing it. What stronger cleaner can I use but still not harm the finish? Thanks.
 

hnryclay

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I would use napatha on my guitar. I would also test it on a small area first. Apply to a rag, wearing gloves and see if it will cut the crud. That stuff has toxic vapors, and is flammable so read instructions and work in a venalated area. Also while I would do this on MY guitar I also have a long history of working with antique furniture, and understand finishes, if you are not comfortable doing so, then look for a milder solvent.
 

Boreas

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Sorry if I’m not posting in the right place. A friend gave me a 1961 Harmony electric that I’m trying to restore. It’s filthy after 50 years in an attic, and guitar cleaner/polish isn’t doing it. What stronger cleaner can I use but still not harm the finish? Thanks.
Naphtha (lighter fluid) would be the cleaner of choice. Grab a ton of soft cloths, apply naphtha to wet the cloth, apply and work into a small area until clean, then move on tho the next area with a fresh spot on the cloth. DO NOT rub the dirt into the finish of the guitar, but keep lifting the dirt with the naphtha. When you have finished with the guitar, go over it again with naphtha and make sure the dirt is off. Then you may want to polish or buff if the finish is in good shape. Just don't be overly aggressive with it. A 60 year old guitar should look like a 60 year old guitar.

And yes, we need pix!:)
 
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jvin248

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Well, there is this "technique" ....




Grungy guitars acquired for flipping ... I'll use a 50/50 mix of ammonia/water, put that on a cloth, and then scrub the guitar. I tend to avoid the 'nitro' models so I'm not worried plus the liquid goes on the rag not poured on the guitar. The fretboard oils get lifted so after a good drying they get oiled.

Chrome bits full of rust get scrubbed with crumpled aluminum foil and vinegar with an immediate wash. Some 'chrome' is softer so make sure it doesn't scratch by testing in hidden areas first. Jay Leno does this on vehicle restorations.

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Stubee

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I used to buy and sell a number of old guitars and a couple were pretty grungy. I’d start with the simplest solvent and move up.

Start with water. Try slightly damp warm cotton cloth, like a well worn cotton towel or diaper. Rub with that and follow with a dry cloth. I’ve found some stuff resistant to stronger solvents that do release with plain old water. A lot of dirt/sweat etc will clean up like this.

Next step would be mineral spirits, the old stuff. Try a small area first but most finishes can withstand naphtha. This will remove glues etc that water will only soften.

I’ve never had to go beyond these two solvents if I take my time and dry residue before getting back at it.
 

Freeman Keller

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I start with a damp cloth, if that won't do it naphtha (white gas, Coleman fuel) is the one solvent that is safe on most guitar finishes (with the exception of French polish shellac). Your Harmony will be lacquer, naphtha is fine.

Don't use any waxes or cleaners with silicon, they will make any future finish repairs almost impossible. Waxes and cleaners tend to get in the tiny little cracks that old lacquer has and almost impossible to get out. Some oils used to "condition" fretboards are harmful to lacquer.

Old Harmonies can be fun guitars, treat it with respect.
 

Deaf Eddie

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Believe it or not, I've had very good results with ... (aerosol) shaving cream! I don't know what possessed me to try it, but it works like a charm and will not damage any finish...
 

northernguitar

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I’m normally not a fan of guitar products but I swear by Gorgomyte for frets and fretboards. Just a small square of the cloth will do one guitar.

 

hopdybob

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Believe it or not, I've had very good results with ... (aerosol) shaving cream! I don't know what possessed me to try it, but it works like a charm and will not damage any finish...
did just read that it helps to with condensing car windows in winter time
spray it on a cloth, wipe the inside of the window until the shaving cream is gone.
 




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