Today we look into a long-standing home remedy for guitar: using toothpaste to clean your guitar’s hardware. Does it work? Is there a better way? Should you try it for yourself? Let’s find out.
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What’s up, everybody? I’m Scott from Stringjoy Guitar Strings in Nashville, Tennessee. Today, we’re looking into a pretty popular home remedy for guitar. We’re going to look and see whether just standard, regular, old toothpaste can do a good job cleaning up the hardware on your guitar.
I have just the guitar for the challenge, too. This is my old Epiphone 335. It was the guitar I played in jazz band back in high school so it’s seen quite a bit of beating along its day and the hardware especially on it has very dull, cloudy, worn finish to it. A lot of the gold is worn off down to the nickel. Obviously, this isn’t going to do anything to get the gold back, but I think it will be a pretty good canvas for us to see what this toothpaste can do and whether it actually really matters or helps.
All right. We’re going to try it here on the neck pickup. We lost the cover on the bridge pickup a long time ago. I was probably trying to be very Jimmy Page-like back in high school or something and knocked it off. But we do still have a very nicely worn down or aged neck pickup cover that I think will be an interesting little test for this trick.
The good news is you don’t have to use your toothbrush. That would be gross but just a little bit of paper towel will do the job. You just want to use a little bit of toothpaste. It’s surprising how far just a little dab will go, especially when you’re working on a pretty small surface like this. But just a little dab like this will do it. The idea is to just rub this in here, rub it around for a little bit and let the friction of the toothpaste do the job.
All right. Now, once you’ve rubbed the end for long enough, I did it for probably 20, 30 seconds. It’s got a little bit of a film buildup. Then you’re just going to want to use the clean part of your paper towel to get all that off, at least that’s what they say to do.
I’ve actually got just a little bit of moisture on this paper towel. Generally, I would never recommend getting that near a pickup but the toothpaste got this funky, sticky, little film that was hard to get up with just the paper towel alone. I have the least bit of water that you could ever get on a paper towel on here. I’m just using that to get it off. Obviously, this is not ideal but we’re really just testing to see if this will work.
All right. Now, we’ve got all the toothpaste off of here and the results were mixed but interesting. I will say it did work somewhat. Definitely the parts that weren’t already a little bit rusted or corroded are nice and shiny. They are certainly a lot shinier than they were before. How much of that might have come from just a little bit of water and the paper towel that we were using, I don’t know but I would venture a pretty strong guess that the toothpaste helped quite a bit at getting that gunk or tarnish off. If you’re doing it to a guitar that wasn’t nearly as worn as this one, I think you’d have a lot more luck with it working out.
Let’s do a little bit of a report card. Did it work? I would give it about a C+ or a B-. It definitely got a lot of that funky, filmy stuff off. But the more serious corrosion is still there. That’s not too surprising. A lot of that stuff can be pretty tough to get up. But all that said, it did make everything a little bit shinier. It definitely seemed to do something and brought a little bit of a luster or a sheen back to the humbucker pickup on this 335.
All that said, was it worthwhile? In my opinion, not necessarily. I don’t really like the risk of putting any moisture near my guitar and that’s what I had to do in order to get all the toothpaste up. It’s possible that a tech that’s been doing this for a long time might have some sort of trick for that that I’ve never heard of. If you do, please share it down in the comments. As far as I’m aware, there’s not much of a way to get that off of there without putting a little bit of moisture and that does make me nervous. I’m not sure that it’s necessarily going to hurt my guitar, but that said, I wouldn’t ever really advise anybody to get moisture really close to your guitar as pickups in the future. It’s just not really worth the risk. We’re doing it as an experiment. At home, if you really care about your guitar and don’t want to mess it up, I wouldn’t really recommend it.
The other big problem is it’s just messy. It’s not really the most fun thing to work within the entire world. I’m sure that there are more standard polishes that you could use or just metal cleaners that would do the same job without having that gunky stickiness that this toothpaste has.
Altogether, I would say that this trick does work at least to a point. But honestly, it’s not really a lot of fun and I’m not really sure that the results are worth the potential risk or the trouble that you go through to do it.
What do you think? Have you tried this trick before at home? Do you have another trick that works really well for the same purposes and it’s maybe just a little bit less icky? Let us know down in the comments.