Fretboard Oil

Hey JK,

Just referring to rosewood, and other unfinished fretboards, that generally benefit from an oiling about twice a year.
Basically mineral oil, often with a lemon scent, which funnily enough they call lemon oil.
Finished woods like maple obviously would not require this.



I lurk on the Acoustic Guitar Forum and there always is interesting when fretboard oils come up. There are defiantly people who think it is super important and many who think it is super ridiculous.

I think these hard woods are pretty resilient on their own. They probably don’t need oil often, and may not really need it at all. Certainly if your electric has maple, it is usually finished so wouldn’t need it.

One argument against it is that the unfinished interior of any hollow body guitar needs no such treatment, so why would the fretboard.

I bought and fixed up an old classical that had been given the raisin treatment in an attic for one or two decades. It had cracks on the lower bout but also shrinkage cracks on the “dusty” end of the ebony fretboard. So I think an occasional oil is probably helpful.

Certainly after a deep clean of grunge that may strip oils already present.

I do like the clean look of a recently oiled fretboard, so I do it maybe every year or a little less.

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That’s about twice a year too much. The truth of the matter is a properly humidified fret board won’t absorb any oil. It will sit on top of the wood and attact dust and dirt.
If you like the look of an oiled fret board then it only needs to be done when it looks like it needs it.
I have 4 guitars and 1 mandolin with rosewood fret boards and 1 guitar with ebony ,
1 rosewood fret board is 76 years old 1 is 49 years old and 1 is 10 years old, mandolin is 20 years old, ebony fret board is 48 years old. None of them have been oiled since i have owned them. All have been humidified properly since new, exept the 1947 Gibson. It’s older than I am and I’ve only had it for 15 years so what happened to it before that is a mistery but it does look like it has been oiled at some point in it’s life.

The moral of the story is oiling a fret board is for looks only. If your fret board is dry your whole guitar is dry and needs humidifying not oil. If your fret board is dirty it needs cleaning not oil.
Also a lot of new inexpensive guitar have Ritchlite or other man made products that don’t need oil. So it’s best to know your guitar before buying what ever product you use.


I’ve never cleaned my guitar with specified oils. I generally use simple wooden surface cleaning wipes. Is that bad (like in the future gonna have problems or something)?

For sale: 1 D’addario hydrate fingerboard conditoner… :see_no_evil:

Okay. I like the looks of a little oil on it (and odor)…but Rick you convinced me it’s not necessary ,thanks :sunglasses:

:see_no_evil: Ooo i feel :upside_down_face:


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Different wood being used in a different way?

The unfinished interior isn’t having fingers all over it or steel wires scraped over it…


Dunlop 65. Apply to fretboard and use 0000 steel wool with the grain. Wipe clean with a cloth. Fantastic results for over 20+ years.

Rosewood and ebony. Certainly not for maple !

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Hey Rick,

I respect your experience and knowledge Rick - always have - but disagree here.

The feel and playability of the guitar afterwards has convinced me this is the right thing for my guitars. Keeps the board nice and smooth. Plus it will actually aid in protecting against humidity fluctuations, dirt buildup etc. Although I dont own expensive guitars, I keep them very clean, and have yet to have any issues with them. And its not for looks, at least not for me. It doesn’t change the look of my guitar any more than a good wipeover/ clean does.
Each to their own I suppose. At least you’ve saved some money on lemon oil over the years :rofl:

Cheers, Shane


Ah… I consider oil a finish, albeit one that wears off. Many years ago I did a bit of amateur woodwork.

I still would only re-oil if it wore away and the fretboard started to look or feel bad. Then again, I want my guitars to look worn in a few years.

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No, it’s fine. Some oil, some don’t.

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For emphasis - never oil a maple fretboard. Never.

You only need a small amount and only once or twice a year.
You will never get through a large bottle before it loses potency.


What part of the guitar? If you mean the fretboard then stop - don’t do that. The body … well it isn’t recommended for matte, satin or nitro finish guitars.
A soft, fry cloth to buff will suffice.

Fair comment. There is no need in the grand scheme of things.

Good point - but most people (imho) do not properly humidify.

It will sit on top of the wood and attact dust and dirt.

Any excess oil does not wiping off with a dry, soft cloth.

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I also use nomad f-one oil. I’ve heard of linseed oil as well and not to use lemon oil. Can’t remember why though.

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Food grade lemon oil will go rancid and isn’t the same as Mineral Lemon oil. Lemon oil is just mineral oil with a lemon sent added.

One thing to Never use is products containing silicone like Pledge or other sprays sold as furniture cleaner/polish.

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Check this guy out here in America. He’s pretty good.

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Has anyone used snake oil?
Sorry, couldn’t help it :joy:
Feel free to ignore/delete!


I have an Epiphone ES-335 and its fretboard is Indian Laurel according specs. Honestly looking back I think it looked kind of dry since day one, not bad but could be better compared with my other guitars…
I have it about 5 months but who knows how long it was in the store.
I’m thinking to use lemon oil only and that’s it, what do you think?
I saw a video from Gibson on YouTube about using lemon oil but the example given was for a rosewood fretboard. But the EP is Indian Laurel…
Any recommendation for Indian Laurel or for this specific guitar? Epiphone website is very poor with product manuals. I just want to be sure I’m doing the right ting, nothing beyond the minimum to keep it looking good.
I’m about to change the strings so that’s the right moment I guess!
Thanks :blush:

The nomad products that were mentioned are quite good, I can recommend both the fretboard oil and the fret polishing product they have.

Alternatively, if you’re in the UK or shopping from the UK is an option this set of products is also very good (and as the supplier says “a little goes a long way”): Fretboard Cleaner and Restorative - 50ml Bottles

By the way I don’t think that Indian Laurel is much different than rosewood. The problem would be if you had a maple fretboard.

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