The 7 Best Guitar Polishes (2021 Guide)

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Don’t Mess Around – Get The Best Guitar Polish Available!

Do you have a guitar that is loaded with smudges, fingerprints, and even a few minor scratches on the body? You might want to pick up some guitar polish.

Aside from making your axe look great – proper cleaning of the guitar is pretty important for the longevity of the instrument.

shiny wooden electric guitar body with strings

However, not all guitar polishes are made the same – and it can be difficult to choose which is the best guitar polish for your guitar.

Some are great for some finishes while others are meant to polish your hardware, too. Some are more of a guitar cleaner, whereas others are more for waxing. And some guitars don’t even need polish!

In this article, we’ll break down the best guitar polishes on the market, but also walk you through where guitar polish fits into the question of “how to clean a guitar”.

We’ll also discuss different types, benefits of guitar polish, and things to consider before buying polish for your own guitar!

Top Guitar Polishes

If you’re confident in what kind of guitar polish you’re looking for, below are three of the top guitar polishes you can buy.

We’ve chosen these products as some of the top polishes based on a combination of experience, industry chatter, as well as ratings, and overall reliability.

Dunlop Formula 65 Guitar Polish Kit
Ernie Ball Instrument Polish w/ Mircofiber Cloth
Music Nomad Premium Pro-Strength Guitar Polish
Dunlop 6501 Formula 65 Guitar Polish Kit
Ernie Ball Instrument Polish with mircofiber cloth
MusicNomad MN101 Premium Pro-Strength Guitar Polish, 4 oz
Dunlop Formula 65 Guitar Polish Kit
Dunlop 6501 Formula 65 Guitar Polish Kit
Ernie Ball Instrument Polish w/ Mircofiber Cloth
Ernie Ball Instrument Polish with mircofiber cloth
Music Nomad Premium Pro-Strength Guitar Polish
MusicNomad MN101 Premium Pro-Strength Guitar Polish, 4 oz

Last update on 2021-06-22 at 17:04

Dunlop Formula 65 Guitar Polish Kit

Sale
Dunlop 6501 Formula 65 Guitar Polish Kit
  • Formula 65 Guitar Polish Kit
  • Country of Origin: United States

Last update on 2021-06-22 at 17:04

  • Features: A classic formula that is trusted by guitarists
  • Pros: Comes with a cloth and a bottle of wax for additional shine
  • Cons: Higher price but it’s for a small guitar care kit (polish and wax)

The Dunlop Formula 65 Polish and Cleaner is definitely among the top polishes out there. This guitar polish kit is safe for nitrocellulose finishes and it’s great for keeping a well-maintained electric guitar with a glossy finish as glossy as can be!

Ernie Ball Instrument Polish w/ Mircofiber Cloth

Last update on 2021-06-22 at 17:04

  • Features: A simple polish that works on finished wood and metallic hardware
  • Pros: Cheaper price tag, can come with a cloth or can be purchased just the bottle
  • Cons: Very much a polish and not necessarily a “cleaner”

From a name we know and trust, Ernie Ball has a nice “universal” instrument polish that works well on lots of different surfaces. This one comes with a nice soft cloth so why not pair the two since you will need one anyway!

Music Nomad Premium Pro-Strength Guitar Polish

MusicNomad MN101 Premium Pro-Strength Guitar Polish, 4 oz
  • Pro-strength polish restores, maintains, shines, and protects using micro fine polishing compounds
  • Restores faded surfaces and hardware, and removes oxidation

Last update on 2021-06-22 at 17:04

  • Features: A multi-purpose polish that works on wood and metal
  • Pros: Good for many finished kinds of wood – including nitro and poly – and good for oxidation on metal hardware
  • Cons: Not a wax, and not made for matte finishes

Music Nomad – made in the USA – has a nice guitar polish which actually checks a number of boxes. It’s also well-priced for a 4 oz bottle considering what it can be used for. You should really pair it with a guitar cleaning cloth to go with.

If you like the brand, Music Nomad also has more of an All-in-One Cleaner (which includes some wax). This puts all the cleaning, polishing, and waxing in one step.

D’Addario Restore Guitar Polish

D'Addario Restore Guitar Polish
  • Designed to cut through the toughest grime
  • Safe on all common guitar finishes

Last update on 2021-06-22 at 17:04

  • Features: A restoring polish that also cleans grime
  • Pros: Safe on most common finishes, helps to remove/minimize small scratches
  • Cons: Just a polish – there are other products to cover other steps (see below).

As one of the few polishes that are supposed to be a guitar scratch remover, D’Addario Restore Guitar Polish shouldn’t be overlooked.

It’s safe on common finishes and is only one part of a number of steps in the cleaning process (they also sell a wax and a guitar shine).

You can toss in a D’Addario Polish Cloth to get the most out of this guitar maintenance kit.

Fender Custom Shop Guitar Polish Spray

Sale
Fender Custom Shop Guitar Polish Spray - 2 oz
  • Fender Custom Shop polishes and waxes are high-grade carnauba formulations containing no silicones, resins, polymers, bonding agents or alcohol.
  • Our polishes are compatible with all finishes, including nitrocellulose

Last update on 2021-06-22 at 17:04

  • Features: A reputable polish from a reputable brand
  • Pros: Safe for all finishes including nitro, nice smelling
  • Cons: Smaller bottle size

Fender makes quality products (most of the time!) and their polish is well-regarded. Keep in mind, this is just polish.

They have a whole Fender maintenance kit which even has a remedy for the fretboard in it. Oh, and you can grab a Fender polishing cloth since you’ll be needing it.

Martin Instrument Polish & Cleaner

Last update on 2021-06-22 at 17:04

  • Features: A simple polish and cleaner from the name Martin
  • Pros: Large 6 oz bottle is among the larger sizes available
  • Cons: Bit higher price but little is used at a time so it lasts

If you trust the name Martin, then Martin guitar polish is what you should get. This simple polish cleans up fingerprints and dust and leaves a great shine on already shiny, gloss finishes.

Lizard Spit Guitar Polish

Lizard Spit Guitar Polish, 4 fl. oz.
  • Perfect for use on metal, plastics as well as painted, lacquered (including nitrocellulose) and varnished wood
  • Specially formulated for ease of application and removal

Last update on 2021-06-22 at 16:39

  • Features: A multi-purpose polish that helps to also repel dust
  • Pros: Great for different materials and finishes – metal, plastic, finished wood (lacquered like Nitro, satin, etc)
  • Cons: Higher price for a smaller bottle – but spray bottle makes it easy to use

With a name like Lizard Spit, how can you go wrong? This is a multi-purpose product that is meant as a polish and light cleaner. There’s no silicone or wax in it so it’s not for buffing out minor scratches – just something to keep in mind!

What Is Guitar Polish And Why You Need It

If you are new to guitars – and maybe looking into maintenance for the first time – you’ll need to know what guitar polish is, what it doesn’t do, and why you need it.

Guitar polish is a fluid substance usually in a spray bottle but sometimes it comes in the form of a paste or cream. Polishes are applied to different finishes on a guitar – wooden finishes but sometimes the metal hardware – to clean, shine, and protect the guitar.

Generally speaking, cleaning a guitar involves the following steps in this order: cleaning, polishing, waxing. Some people consider “polishing” the same as cleaning but this isn’t technically right. Sure, polishes inevitably remove a little surface dirt and grime but we think it’s important to separate the two steps.

The polish step of cleaning your guitar is meant to polish the finish after it has been cleaned. It is a product to help to restore a shine but it is not necessarily meant to provide a deep clean. There are specifically products to really clean your guitar – that’s another article.

Polishes are most commonly used on electric guitars. This is because electric guitars often have a lacquer, polyester, or polyurethane finish – the latter two are known as “poly” finishes – over the wooden body. Some polishes are also meant to spruce up the metal hardware commonly found on an electric guitar.

That said, polish can also help protect the guitar finish and keep the guitar looking nice and sounding great over the long run.

A little dirt, sweat, or grime – built up over time – can actually damage the guitar to the point where it creates permanent damage and/or affects the sound quality of the guitar.

Acoustic guitars rarely have a glossy finish and tend to be comprised of more natural wood finishes. In this case, a simple dry cloth or very slightly damp cloth will clean these more porous surfaces. No need for a guitar polish here.

The Different Types of Guitar Polish

As there are a few different steps in cleaning and polishing a guitar, there are a number of polish-related products that have different uses for different parts of the guitar.

Again, also keep in mind that polishing a guitar is really only for electric guitars that have a gloss finish. Polishes aren’t usually for guitars with satin or matte finishes – but each product is different.

Guitar Polish/Cleaner

Basic guitar polish – without wax, silicone, or a few other products – can be used on finished wood and most metallic hardware. Most polishes are for wood, but some are cleaners which are used on hardware (which is metallic).

By nature, these products are supposed to be used to polish. You should only use regular guitar polish to restore a finish to a shine and to help protect a finished wood or metallic surface.

However, many of these kinds of products merge the cleaning of the guitar with the polishing of the guitar in one products.

These products clean different material surfaces of dirt, grime, oil, food, sweat, etc., and can be buffed up to a shine. A classic guitar polish that also cleans would be the Music Nomad Pro-Strength Guitar Polish.

If you want to clean your guitar and then polish it in two steps separately, you might find complete guitar maintenance kits like the Fender Deluxe Guitar Cleaning Kit or the PRS Guitar Care Bundle handy. Both have specific individual products to use at different times and steps to follow when cleaning your guitar.

Fretboard Oil

Keep in mind, these kinds of guitar polishes are not to be used on the fretboard. Fretboards are made from different woods like Ebony that have a more natural and porous finish. This is where Fretboard Oil – though not a “polish” – comes in handy.

For these parts, you can use fretboard oil to hydrate fretboard wood which can dry out and even crack from dehydration over time.

A solid fretboard conditioner like D’Addario Lemon Oil is designed for fretboards and unfinished wood surfaces.

Fret Polish

Back to polishes, if you want to clean the metallic frets, it’s best to use a specific fret polish like the MusicNomad Frine Fret Polish. It’s designed to help remove oxidation on the metal surface.

Along with a specific polish for the frets, it’s also important to have a microfiber cloth with a slighty abrasive surface (like very, very fine steel wool) or the Dunlop 5410 Micro Fret Polishing Cloth.

In short, fret polish is only for cleaning and shining metal frets. It is not intended for the wooden body, neck, or hardware.

Polish with Wax

Finally, there is guitar wax which is another type of polish. Polishes with wax in them are more for bringing a clean guitar finish to an exceptional, showroom quality shine.

So, a polish with wax is only for wooden parts of the guitar finish after you have removed surface dirt. Again, this is more for guitar bodies with gloss finishes.

A wax layer can help to protect the finish from scratches and can be buffed or polished out later. The Dunlop 65 Kit comes with Cream of Carnauba Wax which is designed to be applied after polishing!

How to Polish A Guitar

We’ll cover this in-depth in another article but the basic steps to polishing up your glossy (again, polyester or polyurethane – known as “poly” finishes) electric guitar are quite simple.

  1. Wash your hands, then secure your guitar on your lap or on a work table with the neck supported.
  2. Use as directed on the bottle. If there are no instructions, spray or apply a small amount of polish to your cloth of choice (ideally a proper microfiber cloth, not an old t-shirt). Choice of cloth is important because the wrong cloth can create more scratches in the finish on the guitar.
  3. Wipe the polish over the finished wood surface in a small circular motion. Depending on the product, it may start out creamy/waxy and buff up to a shine as you polish or it may go on clear and work to clean and polish right away.
  4. If you are at all unsure about the polish on your guitar’s finish, you can always test a small hidden area on the guitar.

3 Benefits Of Using Guitar Polish

We’ve discussed them above, but here are the benefits of using guitar polish laid out for you in case you were still unsure about if it’s a product you need.

Cleans Your Guitar

A good guitar polish will help to remove dirt, dust, grime, etc from the guitar. So think of polishing as another way of cleaning certain parts of your guitar. It won’t replace a deep clean of the hardware and other components, but it’s a good step.

To be fair, another way to keep the guitar clean is to keep it stored away in a gig bag or hard case when not using it… but we know some people love to display their instruments.

Shines The Guitar

A good polish is definitely going to bring out the best in your guitar’s finish. This might be especially important for those who like to display their guitars out in the open.

If you want your guitars hanging from a wall hanger or sitting on a guitar stand and looking great for visitors, then a polish is key to have. There’s nothing like a large collection of guitars all shining in the showroom lighting…

Protects The Guitar

Lastly, a good polish job will help to protect the guitar’s finish as well as any hardware which you’re able to polish up (depends on the polish you buy).

Some polishes are also meant to repel fingerprints and dust. Even though it’s never perfect, this can add an extra layer of preventative protection.

Overall, polishing your guitar is a step to take if you want to keep the guitar in good condition. Guitars can last for decades if taken care of properly and every little bit of regular cleaning and maintenance goes a long way!

4 Things To Look For In A Good Guitar Polish

Even though many guitar polishes are similar, there are still a number of things you need to consider when buying polish for your guitar.

Safe For Your Guitar Finish

Above all else, you need to read up on if the guitar polish in question is safe for your guitar’s finish.

Many polishes will clearly state whether they are meant for one type of finished wood, suitable for many different finishes, and/or for the metallic hardware on your guitar – which could be made from stainless steel, nickel, etc.

A big consideration for older electric guitars is that they used to commonly have Nitrocellulose finishes (known as having a Nitro finish). Most polishes are safe for Nitro but not all of them are.

Also, polishes are not meant for some matte finishes, satin finishes, or natural wood. Always read the label. If you are unsure you can always test a small hidden area on the guitar.

Overall Function

Again, this one seems straightforward but definitely check to see what the polish is meant for. Does it clean and protect? It is meant to just polish? Does it have wax in it for a buffed shine?

Polish is supposed to be used for polishing the guitar. There are other products that you can (and should) use in combination with a good guitar polish to keep your guitar in top condition.

Remember, some polishes can be a cleaner but not all cleaners will also necessarily polish!

Bottle Size

This may seem silly, but guitar polishes come in very different bottle sizes. It can be easy to get searching around and think products are similar but there is a difference between a bottle with 2oz, 4oz, or even 6 oz.

Often times, the price will reflect this size difference – but it’s always good to compare price and size to see if you’re getting a fair price on your polish.

You generally don’t use a ton of polish at a time (and it has a longer shelf life). So guitar polish is a product that can last quite long in your guitar kit.

Cleaning Cloth Included

Honestly, usually not a deal-breaker, but some of the best guitar polishes from the top guitar brands include a cleaning cloth. Because – let’s face it – you can’t apply guitar polish without a proper microfiber cloth.

To be fair, some argue that it’s more important what cloth you use to polish the guitar with (i.e a proper soft cloth made for instruments) rather than the concoction in the bottle!

And there you have it – a rundown of the best guitar polish you can find on the market today. Guitar polish – and general cleaning – is something you may not think about right away. However, a good polish is essential if you wish to keep your pride and joy singing for years to come!

As always, Happy Strumming,

-E