Keep in mind, this article is for a Rosewood (or similar) fretboard, and not for a maple one, which will often have a lacquer on it and in that case you should definitely NOT follow these instructions.
Not the most difficult of tasks to perform on your guitar or bass, but definitely worthwhile. Cleaning a fretboard is a simple way to bring back some of the oomph of your instrument. There are really two things you’ll need to do this:
The first picture (left) is a set of basic razor blades. I bought this pack of 10 for $4 at home depot, not a bad deal. The right hand side is Dunlop fretboard oil which I’ll admit I bought at my local music store because we currently don’t stock it (although that may change soon), cost me a whole $7 plus tax.
If we look at the fretboard in its original condition, we can see it’s not so bad (this is an old Squire Jazz Bass), but it could definitely use a bit more life. I’ve removed the strings here to make it easier, you can leave them part on if you wish, but you continuously have to move them out of the way, so I find it easier to just remove entirely, this could also be a good time to replace your strings, check out our collection of strings.
Now that the strings are out of the way, you’ll want to take a fresh razor, and position it at a 45 degree angle (see below image). You don’t want it to stand up too straight, or be too flat, because you don’t want to risk putting little gouges in your fretboard, but rather you want to draaaaaaaaag the razor from side to side (alternating the 45 degree angle) so that it picks up all the grossness on your fretboard and brings it in towards the frets like so.
Once you’re satisfied with a fret, lightly drag just the corner of the razor down where the fret meets the fretboard. This should clear off the majority of the shavings, but if it doesn’t repeat until they are gone, or at least enough that you can just wipe them off with a paper towel (or blow them off if you wish).
Repeat this process for every fret. Yes, every fret. It can get a bit annoying but it’s really not so bad, maybe 10 minutes or so, making sure to be careful not to gouge your fretboard by putting the razor too straight.
Finally, with the frets all cleaned and clear of shavings, break out the fretboard oil and use the built in applicator to cover each fret. Give it a little bit of time to soak in there before you touch the neck again and you should be good to put your strings back on.
Ta-da, simple and effective way to bring your fretboard back to life, for about the cost of a McDonald’s trio (supersized at least).