Sticky guitar strings

Hi: Am having a problem with sticky, new guitar strings. Also with fretboard care. When I change strings I also use Fretboard F1 oil on the fretboard. So this is like a couple times a year. I’m now noticing the new strings seem sticky and guess the oil is getting on the strings somehow. Possibly on the frets which eventually touch the strings. Do you think this is the case or are the strings I’m installing got some kind of coating on them? I’ve read contradictory info on fretboard care also. You hear so much about taking care of the fretboard then I read you can do too much. How do you maintain your fretboard and how do I avoid sticky strings? Thanks.


If you have a maple fretboard, you should NOT be putting oil on it. Maple fretboards are finished with some sort of varnish or lacquer. Oil should only be used on unfinished fretboards like rosewood.

If you oil a maple fretboard it will sit on the surface and not absorb, which will make it slippery and, eventually, sticky as the oil dries out and gets dirty.

I suspect this is your problem.

In this case, I would carefully wipe off as much oil from the fretboard as you can with an absorbent cloth or paper towel, and don’t put any more on.




No Keith these are rosewood fretboards on PRS guitars and an Epiphone.

OK, in that case, maybe you are putting too much oil on.

Oil really isn’t essential for any fretboard unless you are living somewhere with extremely low humidity. There’s a lot of mixed information about this because, frankly, there’s a lot of companies trying to sell products, and the profit margin on fretboard care products is huge.

Most people can get away with never oiling their fretboard. The primary reason to oil a fretboard for most people is cosmetic.

To me, twice a year is too much. Once a year is probably too much.

When you oil the fretboard, just put enough on to lightly coat it, leave it for a few minutes, and then wipe off any remaining oil with an absorbent cloth or paper towel. There shouldn’t be any obvious oil left on the fretboard after you’ve done. It should feel completely dry. You should be able to wipe it with a paper towel and there be nothing transferred to the paper towel.

if you are already doing this, then it’s probably nothing to do with the oil, although I would cut right back on how often you are oiling them.




Yeah marketing for money. I’m definitely doing too much and not wiping it off. Thanks Keith

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and even then I’d argue that low humidity isn’t going to remove any oil from the fretboard, only water.

These days I oil my fretboard precisely never.


That’s a really good point. If you are in a really dry environment, you would be better off with a humidifier and hygrometer.

I’ve also heard that over-oiling fretboards can actually loosen frets over time. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it sounds feasible.




I don’t know if anyone here frequents the “acoustic guitar forum”. Over there this idea of oiling gets dissected in a thread a couple of times a years, it seems.

There is no consensus. There are Luthiers like McKnight who make a lovely fretboard wax and many products from all sorts of guitar supply stores, people who oil/wax at every string change and many accomplished players with large and boutique guitar collections who have never done it in multiple decades.

I oiled a few times, definitely letting soak in and thoroughly wiping off. That has been fine, but I think going forward I will only do it if my fretboard is getting grimy enough to need to be cleaned. Then a scape, scrub with naphtha and an oil. But I wash my hands before playing and likely won’t get it that dirty for ages.

When I have bought used guitars, I do this process and restring right away. I hate the thought of other people’s accumulated grime on my fretboard :nauseated_face:, but that is just me.

I think there’s not much harm in a little treatment, for cosmetic purposes.

Bear in mind oil isn’t for cleaning. But putting a bit of oil on after you’ve cleaned is properly OK, as long as you don’t overdo it and wipe it off after.

After all, the oil is supposed to penetrate the surface of the wood, not sit on top of it.

As I said, it’s primarily for cosmetic purposes.

I imagine wax is less likely to be overused as it tends to be thicker and something that people will want to polish off after applying.



Remember too that old strings can impart all sorts of dirt and grime to the fretboard.
Change them often if you play for long hours, if you get sweaty hands etc.

hi @harryr3

I live in a very dry climate and have kept my fretboards oiled. I also do a fairly thorough cleaning during string change, so that can remove the top oils from the fretboard, and I prefer to put that back half of the time I change - about every 8-10 weeks. I will oil about every two changes unless things look dry, so I oil about 3x per year. Remember this is for thorough cleaning as well as dry (10-20% humidity) in my house half the year.

As Keith was saying, you don’t want to use much. I use a thin fine cloth, put two drops on it and work that into the cleaned fretboard. I get about half the length and need to add another drop. I do mean just a drop, too.

I typically will wash my hands before playing. This can cut down on the feeling as well, but it really does sound like too much oil.

For decades my mother oiled her furniture too much. I could never convince her to back off. Today all of her stuff has this horrible sticky coating on it. Just be vey light with the oiling.

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