Hello, I just picked-up a used Washburn 12-string acoustic, model D10S12. It has a rosewood

fretboard that needs cleaning/oiling. I do not know what to use. I have read online to use the

following: furniture oil, mineral oil, almond oil, lemon oil. Which one should I use??

Also, someone once told me to never remove all the strings of the guitar at once.

Is this true? Thank you for your advice. Most appreciated.


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mineral oil or a buffing wheel dose the trick you can pull all the strings back .so if you have a trem is where you might run into tuning issues if detuned ,but your 12 string is cool to de tune so if you have finger gunk all ready built up id scrub it off with a scotch bright and buff again with a high speed buffer experience needed when approaching a high speed buffer or risk tossing the instrument to the floor  .now mineral oil is not for cleaning it is to bring back the natural luster back to the finger board since it is exposed to the elements ,so clean it up and oil away maby once or twice a year apply with a paper towel .and mop up the rest . let us know if this was helpful? 

Hi Arthur,


I suggest that you use lemon oil with a paper towel, with all the strings removed. Lemon oil with paper towel plus elbow grease should remove any fingerboard dirt.

There is a product on the market and I believe the name is duck wax, but dont quote me..

What ever you do, DO NOT USE any oil that has petrolium destilits in it .....  peace 

DR Ducks AXE wax never used it hum GC sales this stuff .


I believe Stew mac has it or LMII  -- I like the stuff  :)

Basically you should never oil a board. Maybe once a year, very lightly, just to make it look good. You don't help or "rejuvenate" wood with oils or anything else. Wood is dead - it died and was deliberately dried out completely before it was even used for a fingerboard.It's not thirsty.


Depending on the encrustation, I usually clean a board one of two ways:


1) with a good household cleaner like Simple Green or the like, which is water-based and has a detergent. Get the munge off (terrycloth is good) and wipe it dry immediately and completely.


2) with dry 0000 steel wool, period.


And if I want to darken it, I use a simple oil, something you wouldn't mind getting a taste of, which includes mineral oil, paste wax, even cooking oil. Rub it on then wipe it hard to get as much of it off as possible.The mineral oil they sell at the drugstore to cure constipation is a petroleum distillate. You can drink it (if you wish).


BTW, there's lemon oil and there's lemon oil. Some is genuine, but most is an aroma added to fairly gnarly furniture waxes to make them seem less toxic than they are. Read the label. And again, real lemon oil is an oil, it's just a cosmetic treatment. It doesn't help the wood in any way.

Hi Arthur.

I remember your posts about looking for a 12 string.  Congrat's on your find (:

"Also, someone once told me to never remove all the strings of the guitar at once."  This is an obsolete urban legend.  Pay no mind to it.

I (and every other tech in my area), use Naptha (lighter fluid) to clean the fingerboard [FB].  I use it and a nylon bristle scrub-brush or an old stiff toothbrush, to do the initial scrubbing/cleaning followed by a clean-up using paper towels & more clean lighter fluid.  Depending on the age & condition of the FB, this step may need to be repeated. 

Once the FB is clean, and assuming the frets are in good shape & not corroded, I use 0000 steel wool to give the FB & frets a nice feel.

I'm really picky when it comes to hydrating the FB.  I use either Stew-Mac's Fingerboard Oil,_... or Petros' FB Oil

They are the only formulations that I found that dry completely hard within 24 hours.  They also don't get gummy under playing conditions. A side benefit: they both smell great with the Petros formula having a "that's what guitars are supposed to smell like" advantage.

I agree that this only needs done twice a year, at most. Oh yes, it's a good idea to judiciously oil the bridge too.  It keeps it looking & feeling great.

Again, I'm very happy to hear that you found a 12 string you like.  May you have MANY years of enjoyment with it.

Best of luck,

Paul (:


I'm with Paul on this method,  we see a lot of really dirty fingerboards especially with the electric community (sweat + smoke + dirt + string lube + alcohol +  heat + fog machines + everything else) - not so nice really.   Two things need to be done here: clean and protect. 

I clean with a toothbrush and a commercial bio-thinner and Naptha if necessary - I do not use pure citrus based cleaners unless the grunge is particularly baked on and requires softening.  0000 Steel wool soaked with these solvent is also an established method of cleaning and freshening/normalising timber finishes.  

Secondly, protecting.  If one is of the opinion that protecting wood from the aforementioned filth is somehow not necessary please accept that I disagree for the following reasons. 

Wood is an organic substance and is atttacked by all manner of moisture and chemicals/acids found in the playing environment and is also in direct contact with metal frets which will corrode (the green/brown stuff seen around fret slots/ends  from time to time is an example of corrosion) and affect the adjacent areas.  The general dirt around fret slots and in divots traps moisture and holds it and is a certified tone killer.   Wood will rot in these conditions just like it does in general service. Old Fender Electric gloss poly necks and the rot that occurs when the poly breaks down is a classic example of the destruction that occurs when wood, in this case maple, is left unprotected.

Obviously some woods like cedar and teak have natural resistance to water and the like but as we don't use them for fingerboards they are the exception.

I use a commercial system:  Kunos (Natural Oil Sealer) , which has multiple DIN Specs for water/saliva resistance and general surface protection of wood in service.  The 'clear' non staining system is Linseed based with some natural hardeners and other stuff and when used with a bio-thinner has a penetrating and hardening action which buffs to a natural stain finish if that is what is required.  I t does not build up over time and refinishing it breaks down the preceding surface and reapplies the protection. 

I advocate this system because it is one of a number of  modern high performance, natural, cleaner and preservative which appears, to me at least, to advance our ability to provided solutions beyond ancient folk lore/bad practices that are embedded in our craft/industry.  The folks at the factories hold wide ranging and disparate views on the subject, generally opting out of providing any useful advice in the name of safety, you can add this one to the mix for consideration.





I discovered a new technique recently that may be worthwhile.  When cleaning fingerboards with abrasives like steel wool or Scotch Brite, I always get stuff that stays behind--because the abrasive works from the top and needs to wear down through the munge.  Without lots of work, the schmutz doesn't come off and there's still cleanup to do and sometimes, abrasion to the board.  I have a dental pick with right angle straight scraper ends that are slightly blunt, each 90 degrees off axis from the other.  Gentle scraping at an oblique angle with this thing takes the schmutz right off the board without appreciable marking of the wood.  That's GENTLE scraping, I said.  Don't dig in.  Works like a charm, and takes very little time.  the pointed ends take it right up to the frets. is the source, IIRC.  Dental supply houses may be another, as may Harbor Freight.

I haven't tried naptha, might be a good way to finish up.  BTW, adhesive removal products like Goof Off, etc. are basically naptha with another set of directions.


Naphtha is fairly harmless, though not really called for except to loosen adhesives and petroleum-based goo. It's lighter fluid and it's also dry cleaning fluid.  


Goof-Off contains a good dose of xylene, which is extremely toxic, accumulates permanently in the liver, etc. I am amazed it's still on the market, it's so bad.



I use linseed oil, from my leftover oil painting art supplies from college. Works great and smells nice too.

First clean/scrub with Naphtha (aka; Zippo lighter fluid). I use a toothbrush, the real heavy gunk, I'll use a scraper first, then the tooth bush.  BTW; Naphtha works great for cleaning all the guitar,

Go to an artist supply and get NON boiled Linseed oil to lightly go over the board. ("raw" linseed oil)  NEVER anything with a petroleum in it !!


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