The Guide to Using Car Wax on Guitars (Amazing Results!)

As the saying goes… “a clean guitar is a faster playing guitar”.

I agree, there’s something about a newly cleaned and polished axe armed with a fresh set of strings that somehow lifts and improves your playing. Not to mention it feels like you have a brand new guitar in your possession!

A little-known secret, however, is applying car wax to your guitar after the usual clean to create an amazingly glossy shine and finish. Applying car wax to your guitar body is 100% safe, blemishes the small scratches from daily use and has the added benefit of protecting the paint from oxidization.

Here is another fact… did you know your guitar’s paint job is actually similar to the paint job of a car? I know weird right?

Your guitar’s finish is comprised of a painted cover than an additional thin layer of clear coat to cover the first layer, similar to most automobiles. Another fun fact is that the Mexicans use actual car paint for their finishes for the popular Mexican-made Stratocaster.

What about Guitar Waxing Products?

I agree there are a number of popular guitar waxing products such as the ‘Dunlop Formula 65’ and ‘Gerlitz No1 Wax and Polish’ that are guitar-specific waxes. These are marketed as ‘guitar waxing products’ when in reality, there’s not much difference between using these products and regular car wax.

You can pay up to $8 for one of these tiny bottles when in actual fact, applying plain old regular car wax can do the same job if not better. The best thing about using car wax is that most people will conveniently have a bottle lying around in their garage.

What Guitars Can Car Wax be used?

The first thing to mention, Is although I love vintage guitars and it’s awesome if you happen to own one.

It has to be said using car wax or any guitar wax product will not suit the vintage style look with dull finishes, battle scars, dings, knocks, and worn wood. As much as I love the vintage look, car wax is better suited for guitars with the glossy, laminated or lacquer style finish.

Secondly, vintage guitars usually have a soft nitro finish which is a part of the aging process so only look to remove dirt and oils from a vintage guitar and avoid heavy buffing.

Vintage guitars develop a sheen or patina when they age, so heavy polishing can interfere with this process and devalue your instrument in the process (not cool). So keep the wax away and let your guitar stay looking cool and vintage (thanks)!

Can Car Wax be Applied on an Acoustic?

Car wax can certainly be applied to an acoustic guitar because automotive wax works wonders with satin finishes, even high-end guitar manufacturer ‘Taylor’ guitars even recommend using car wax to polish their products.

Keep in mind, a useful tip is to fill the soundhole with some paper towels or a balloon to avoid the hard wax pieces from going in the soundhole. Also, do not apply the wax to the fretboard or neck only the main body.

What Car Wax products can I use?

Most car wax products are fine to use, the only products to avoid are silicone-based waxes.

The reason is that silicone-based waxes include compounds that will prevent any future finish repairs such as resprays and touch-ups because paint has a tough time being applied to silicone. Avoid this if you have any future finish repair jobs lined up in the future.

Another good option would be a ‘carnauba’ based wax. Carnauba is a natural wax sourced from palm trees in the northeast of Brazil and is one of the hardest and best-known natural waxes.

The purpose of the wax is to protect the leaves against the fierce tropical sun and is regarded as one of the best natural waxes to provide shine, warmth, and protection. Carnauba is used in most guitar waxing products but a car wax product will also do the job just fine.

Can I use Turtle wax on my guitar?

Yes, Turtle wax is a silicone-free-based product and is one of the most popular brands when it comes to automotive cleaning which can be applied to the body of a cleaned and polished guitar. Turtle wax also produces a carnauba-based wax which would be an ideal product to use on your electric or acoustic guitar.

How to apply Car Wax to your Guitar

When that time comes to changing the strings and doing the routine clean, add car wax to the finish you will be amazed at how glossy your axe looks. You will need…

  • Warm water
  • Paper towels
  • Car wax
  • Microfiber towel
  • Low percentage Lemon oil (optional)
  1. Remove strings
  2. With a damp microfiber towel remove dirt, grime, and residue to the body and hardware using warm soapy water or your favorite guitar cleaning products.
  3. Use a dry paper towel or use a paper towel with a splash of your desire fretboard cleaner to remove sweat and grime from the surface of the frets.
  4. Once the body and frets are clean and dry, time to add the car wax polish.
  5. Apply the first coat to the body using a dry and clean microfiber cloth in a circular motion. Make sure not apply the car wax to the hardware (pickups, saddle, bridge, tuners). You can cover the hardware using painters tape which has the added benefit of not leaving any residue. Do not apply the wax to the fretboard or neck only the body.
  6. With a dry cloth, wipe off the wax and apply a second coat if need be.

The finished Product….Very Shiny!

Products to Avoid when Cleaning a Guitar!

  • Lighter fluid to clean the guitar body (The reason being lighter fluid can have a reaction with the finish and is not safe to inhale for long periods of time)
  • Bleach
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Furniture polish
  • All-purpose cleaners
  • Cleaners with silicone
  • Do not use 100% lemon oil for cleaning the fretboard! This product is the last thing your fretboard needs as it dries out the wood and will destroy the adhesives holding the frets or inlays to the wood. Instead only use lemon oil products with a low percentage or lemon scented products NOT 100% lemon oil.

Final Thoughts

Although a bit unconventional using car wax can certainly be used to get an amazing shiny glossy finish and protects the paint in the process.

If your guitar is due a clean, give it a try! Just remember to follow my advice discussed above, it also saves money on conventional guitar cleaning products. Hopefully, this post has assisted in leveling up your guitar cleaning game!


Adam is the founder and author of Tone Topics and dedicated to providing the best guitar content for like-minded gear nerds. Please enjoy all the content on the site and support us by sharing these posts with other people. It would really help us out!

Recent Posts