The Unwound Third > Gitfiddles, Harps, Washboards & Kazoos

Sticky guitar neck syndrome

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Thanks Parlor Picker and Harriet.

No vintage guitars for me: a Martin D-1, a Takamine F340, and a Ron Phillips-built resonator. I've had them all for 20+ years. The stickiness on all three is a recent thing. I'm talking about the backs of the necks, not the fretboards.

I've heard that it's a common complaint for "glossy necks" or "finished necks," and that a simple fix doesn't require sanding multiple layers and refinishing. One source even says a squirt of naptha-type cleaner and a Scotch brite scouring pad is enough.

I'll let you know how it goes.


For many years I have used Dr Duck's Ax Wax, a guitar cleaning and polishing agent that, actually, contains no wax, so no build up. It was recommended by a luthier. I actually use it on all finished surfaces on wood guitars but, yes mine are all well worn vintage and I'm not concerned with maintaining a gloss finish. During gigs I occasionally use a little baby powder to combat sweaty hands in warm venues and have never had a problem with the powder building up with Dr Duck's. I usually clean/polish all necks before a gig.


Iíve always found that a damp cloth does the trick on the neck. Best not to let it build up too much.

Hi Lindy:

Before I used abrasives like steel wool, Scotch-Brite or Wetordry--or solvents like naphtha, I'd first try some household cleaners. After the detergent/water solution I previously suggested, I'd try vinegar to see how that works re: removing the sticky material that's on the necks of your guitars. If that doesn't work, I'd then try a Simple Green/water solution. I'd moisten a rag or paper towel and hold it against the problem area for a few minutes to let it work before wiping it off. If that doesn't yield results, I'd then use original Goo Gone, wiping a thin layer on the problem area and let it work for a few minutes. You could use the edge of a credit card, etc., to see if it scrapes off anything one the above cleaners has been applied to.

Using a wax or polish specifically formulated for guitars is probably a good idea since it adds a layer of protection between the guitar's finish and the environment.

My guess is that the sticky stuff (grime, crud, gunk, sludge, etc.--whatever you want to call it--take your pick) is a combination of oil and perspiration from your skin, plus anything else that has been transferred from the environment to the neck via your hands. We're only human after all...

As a tangentially related aside:

Another vote for naphtha, but skip the scotch brite and just use a lint-free rag.


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