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7 Best Guitar Fretboard Oils to Help Maintain Your Axe

The guitar fretboard is the most sensitive part of the guitar and where ‘most of the magic happens.’ Therefore, it’s an important area to take care of. As well as regular polishing to remove sweat, dirt, and grease, it needs oiling every so often to keep it topped up with essential oils.

In this article, we review the best products.

Best Fretboard Oils: Product Guide

Music Nomad F-One

MusicNomad F-ONE Fretboard Oil Cleaner & Conditioner 2 oz (MN105)
7,387 Reviews
MusicNomad F-ONE Fretboard Oil Cleaner & Conditioner 2 oz (MN105)
  • 100% natural oils ultra-refined to clean, condition, and protect
  • Completely free of lemon extracts, so it is safe on all unfinished fretboards: rosewood, ebony and Maple
  • Premium quality Cleaner and conditioner used by high-end repair shops

F-One uses all-natural ingredients, so you needn’t worry about synthetic damage or residue on your instrument. There’s no wax included and it’s also free of lemon, making it safe for all kinds of finishes. The natural oils work to clean as well as conditions, refreshing the wood and giving it silky-smooth playability.

This oil comes in a small, 60ml bottle with a slow-drip release. You don’t need to make any extra effort not to spill it all over the place. It’s pretty reasonably priced and one small bottle will last a long time.

F-One is the perfect option for those who like to keep things natural.

What we like:

  • Free of lemon extract, so it’s safe for all kinds of wood.
  • Cleans as well as conditions.

MusicNomad MN144 Total Fretboard Care

MusicNomad Total Fretboard Care (MN144)
1,667 Reviews
MusicNomad Total Fretboard Care (MN144)
  • F-ONE oil cleans & conditions & protects all unfinished fretboards including rosewood, ebony, Maple
  • F-ONE contains 100% natural oils & is Lemon-Oil free. Petroleum & wax free
  • FRINE Fret Polish revolutionary, petroleum free formulation is designed to clean and polish All Frets safely and quickly

If you want to give your fretboard a serious clean, you’ll need more than just oil. This 5-piece kit should do the trick.

As well as a bottle of the F-One (see above), you get a tube of Frine Fret Polish and 3 contoured fretboard guards (small, medium, and jumbo fret slot sizes) so you can give your fret wires the ultimate makeover. 

In addition, they include a quality machine-washable microfiber suede cloth, that won’t leave shreds of cotton all over your fretboard.

What we like:

  • Includes 3 fretboard guards – 1 each for all small, medium, large and large frets.
  • Machine washable, microfibre suede cloth.

Gerlitz Guitar Honey

Gerlitz Guitar Honey Fretboard Oil - Premium Guitar Fretboard Cleaner and Fretboard Conditioner For All Dark Natural Woods - Rosewood, Ebony, and Exotic - 2 Oz. Spray Bottle
246 Reviews
Gerlitz Guitar Honey Fretboard Oil – Premium Guitar Fretboard Cleaner and Fretboard Conditioner For All Dark Natural Woods – Rosewood, Ebony, and Exotic – 2 Oz. Spray Bottle
  • [Premium Fretboard Oil] Gerlitz guitar fretboard oil is a unique blend of conditioning oils specifically formulated for the treatment of rosewood, ebony, & other exotic woods, perfected over 30 years, to nourish, condition, and enhance your fingerboard’s natural character.
  • [Enhance and Protect] Gerlitz guitar cleaner and fingerboard conditioner cleanses and enhances your guitar fretboard giving it a smooth silky feel and lustrous glowing sheen, while protecting against moisture, sweat, and grime from finger transfer.
  • [Special Formula and Ingredients] Gerlitz fret board oil ingredients have been perfected by a wood finish chemist to ensure the highest level of care and treatment for your beloved instruments. This formula is lemon oil and linseed oil free to maintain perfect treatment of vintage to modern, beginner to professional level instruments.

This one contains petroleum distillates, so you need to take a bit more careful handling it, but don’t let that take anything away from this product. The petroleum distillates work to thoroughly clean and protect, but this honey should be used sparingly, to ensure that it doesn’t prematurely wear out your fretboard. It does provide a really good layer of protection, though.

The solution is neither greasy or slimy and it can be sprayed on straight from the bottle. The bottle’s around the same size as the F-One solution, and it’s similarly priced. This honey is suited to dark woods including rosewood, ebony, as well as more exotic woods. It will restore the silky smooth playability like your guitar was brand new.

It will suit people who have dark wood that’s prone to moisture, sweat, alcohol or general grime. This liquid will clean it up thoroughly and keep your strings and fingers clean as well. It’s not suited for use on a maple neck.

What we like:

  • Cleans as well as conditions.
  • It comes in a spray-dispenser bottle.

Roche Thomas

Bore is a popular (but less well-known amongst guitarists) oil and a good alternative to lemon-based substances. It’s used a lot by classical instrument owners to protect their wind instruments and is made of ultra-refined tree and seed oils.

Like Guitar Honey, it’s best applied to dark woods such as rosewood and ebony and should also be used sparingly to eliminate the risk of damage/wearing out of your wood.

It comes in a bottle the same size as the Honey and the F-One liquids and is easy to drip out through the small drip release. There’s no lemon in this, so it’s safe and the liquid has been filtered to eliminate impurities and residue.

The Roche Thomas Bore will suit guitarists who require a nourishing liquid to maintain and encourage smoothness across the wood. It will be less suited to those looking for something protective against the grime.

What we like:

  • It leaves you with a nice smooth finish.
  • It contains no lemon oil.
  • Suited to classical instruments as well as guitar.

Music Nomad Bore Oil

MusicNomad Bore Oil Cleaner & Conditioner for Wooden Bore Instruments, 2 oz. (MN702)
373 Reviews
MusicNomad Bore Oil Cleaner & Conditioner for Wooden Bore Instruments, 2 oz. (MN702)
  • Cleans and conditions Granadilla and other wooden instruments
  • 100% natural organic oils. Free of lemon extracts, petroleum, and water
  • Great for wooden bore instruments and any unfinished wooden parts

Another bore product, this time from Music Nomads. This bore oil is a cleaner and conditioner free of lemon, water, and petroleum, so you don’t need to worry about damage or unwanted residue.

It comes in the same sized bottle as all the rest, at a similar price, and has a drip release, making it easy to work with. As well as cleaning and conditioning, it protects your guitar from cracking and, like the Roche Thomas bottle, is suited to instruments beyond the guitar.

It’s made entirely of natural minerals, which nourish the fingerboard and restore the smoothness from when the instrument was brand new.

What we like:

  • Free from lemon extracts, water, and petroleum.
  • Cleans and conditions.
  • Suits maple, rosewood, and ebony.

Dunlop Fretboard 65

Save $1.00
Jim Dunlop Formula 65 Ultimate Lemon Oil - 1.00 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)
268 Reviews
Jim Dunlop Formula 65 Ultimate Lemon Oil – 1.00 Fl Oz (Pack of 1)
  • Package Dimensions: 2.8 H X 9.4 L X 2.8 W (Centimeters)
  • Protects Against Stains And Moisture
  • Package Weight: 0.088 Pounds

Now, to the lemon oils. Known colloquially as ‘Fretboard 65’, this is one of the most popular lemon-based substances. It has a good applicator and smells great without making your guitar smell like a floor cleaner.

Jim Dunlop’s 6554 comes in a slightly larger bottle than those we’ve already looked at and requires an applicator (included) to be applied effectively. Once applied, it removes grime and leaves a protective layer to prevent another layer from forming.

The cleanliness leaves it feeling brand new and has the added benefit of a fresh, lemony smell.

It will suit those who get grime on their fretboard and want to wash it away quickly and easily. It’s less of a conditioner than some of the other bottles, so it might not be right for those who are looking for something to simply nourish their wood.

What we like:

  • Great value and a large bottle.
  • Easy to apply with the applicator.
  • Spreads really well.

Peavey Lemon Oil

Peavey Lemon Oil
2 Reviews
Peavey Lemon Oil
  • Great Guitar care product
  • Extend String life
  • Keeps your guitar string shiny and comfortable

Our final lemon oil is from Peavey. This one works well as a cleaner and conditioner. It contains petroleum distillates, so it needs to be used sparingly but this does give a protective layer against grime, sweat, and dust.

It lubricates the wood and can be poured via its small drip-release onto a cloth before you rub it in. The size of the bottle is on the small side (2 fl. oz) compared to other similarly priced products, but this does make it nicely portable.

As with other lemon-based products, it’s unsuitable for use with a maple.

The Peavey lemon oil will suit those looking for a cleaner and conditioner. It won’t be suited to those who are looking for something gentle, as it contains petroleum distillates as part of its protection against grime.

What we like:

  • Cleans protects and conditions.
  • Easy to apply.
  • It offers long-lasting protection.

What is Fretboard Oil?

There are four main types:

  • natural mineral
  • petroleum distillates
  • bore oil
  • lemon oil

They’re all solutions that are applied to the fingerboard to protect it against moisture, sweat, alcohol, and grime. In essence, they provide a protective barrier, and it helps in general with maintenance.

Benefits

As well as protection against all those nasties above, applying oil will condition the tonewood and stop it drying out. What are the consequences of it drying out?

Well, in extreme cases, the wood can crack and your fret wires (the bits of protruding metal) can loosen.

But enough with the scaremongering. That’s probably not going to happen.

A well-maintained fretboard definitely makes the guitar nicer to play, and no doubt improves speed and playability, as well sustain.

Does My Fretboard Need Oil?

It depends on two things:

  • Firstly, which type of wood yours is made from (see below).
  • Secondly, where you live. If you live in a very arid, desert-like place you should undoubtedly use one of these products, as well as keep humidity levels at the correct level as much as possible.

Dark Woods – Rosewood, Ebony, etc.

You can use any of these oils on dark, ‘unfinished’ woods such as rosewood and ebony. ‘Unfinished’ means there’s no lacquer finish on it, and has a dull, matte look to it.

Maple

Maple fretboards usually have a hard, lacquered finish on them so they actually don’t need oil. It will have no effect, and could even harm the lacquer. If you have one made of maple, a simple wipe down with gentle cleaner will suffice.

Exotic Wood

If your fingerboard is made from an exotic wood such as Hawaiian Koa, or Ziricote, then products made of petroleum distillates such as Gerlitz Honey (see below) are a great option. If you want to play it really safe, try Music Nomad’s F1 which is 100% natural mineral-based, so it won’t harm your wood.

When to Use Lemon Oil?

There is plenty of controversy about whether you should or shouldn’t use lemon oil. As an acidic solution, you need to go easy with this stuff. It’s used as a cleaning agent, so you only need it if yours is filthy and needs a really good scrub.

Let’s say you buy a used guitar that’s never had a clean, or your own ax has gone unloved for years. In that case, lemon oil is a great cleaning solution. For a newish guitar, it’s total overkill. A simple conditioner is all you need to keep the grease and grit at bay.

Note: make sure you don’t use a household cleaning product such as Lemon Pledge. These things are water-based and the last thing you should be using.

How Often Should I Apply it?

It depends on what you’re using. If you plan to use lemon oil, as it’s such a strong solution don’t use too often. If you’re using a mineral-based conditioner, then little and often is fine. Just don’t go overboard with it. Once or twice a year will suffice to keep it nicely oiled.

Can I keep the strings on while I apply it? No, you shouldn’t. You need to use these solutions when you change your strings.

There’s no harm in applying a bit every time you change them, indeed some argue it preserves the life of your strings as well, so it’s a win-win.

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About Ged Richardson

Ged Richardson is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ZingInstruments.com. He has been featured in Entrepreneur, PremierGuitar, Hallmark, Wanderlust, CreativeLive, and other major publications. As an avid music fan, he spends his time researching and writing about new and old music, as well as testing and reviewing music-related products. He's played guitar in various bands, from rock to gypsy jazz. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel, where he geeks out about his favorite bands.

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