WD40 has been around since the 1940’s and is used in many different ways. It is commonly known as an industrial lubricant and degreaser. It is also used as a wood preservative and to clean and protect metal surfaces.
But what about using it on scratchy guitar potentiometers? Is WD40 safe for guitars and sensitive electronics?
Can you use WD40 on guitar pots?
No. I would not recommend using WD40 to clean guitar pots or any other guitar electronics. WD-40 contains a mixture of solvents and other chemicals. Some of these ingredients will actually attract dirt and dust. This is the number one reason I would not recommend using WD-40 on guitar pots.
But how can I clean the volume and tone pots properly without leaving a nasty oily residue?
- Before You Start…Are Your Pots Dirty?
- How To Clean Scratchy Guitar Pots Properly
- Help, I Cleaned My Pots But They Still Sound Bad!
- Want To See A Demo On Cleaning Pots
Before You Start…Are Your Pots Dirty?
This is easy to find out. First, plug your guitar into your amp like you are going to start playing.
Start turning your volume and tone knobs up and down. Is it quiet where you only hear your guitar or does it sound “scratchy” while you are turning the knobs. If you hear a static-like scratchy sound, you need to clean your pots.
How To Clean Scratchy Guitar Pots Properly
One of the most common guitar issues is a scratchy volume pot. This is usually due to dirt and other grime that has built up inside the pot. By cleaning your volume and tone pots regularly, you will be able to avoid a lot of unnecessary guitar problems.
What You Will Need
This is a very easy job but there are a few things that you will need to do this:
- Screwdriver – for accessing the pots.
- Spray contact cleaner – there are a number of electrical contact cleaner options out there but my favorite is one that you can find on Amazon called DeoxIT 5% Spray Contact Cleaner. One can should last you a long time too and you will be able to use it on other electrical components as well – like your guitar amp which can sometimes have scratchy pots as well. It’s an excellent pot cleaner! Isopropyl alcohol can be considered as well but I like the control you get with a contact cleaner spray.
Step 1 – Access The Guitar’s Pots
The first thing you will need to do is find the pots on your guitar. This will depend on the type of electric guitar you have but there are really only two ways to get to it.
If your guitar has a pickguard like a Fender Stratocaster, you can pull the pickguard off. You will see the pots connected to the underside of the pickguard along with the pickups.
If you do not have a pickguard like a Les Paul, the pots and other electronic components can be accessed by removing the back of your guitar. You should see a plastic panel on the back of the body right about in the same place as your guitar knobs on the front. Just take that plastic cover off with a screwdriver.
Step 2 – Spray The Contact Cleaner Into The Pot
Spray a little bit of contact cleaner into the hole. One or two quick sprays should be enough. Get enough cleaner in there so that it will not evaporate instantly but not so much that it will overflow and drip out of the pot and onto your guitar and other electronics.
While you are at it, give the pickup selector switch a couple sprays as well.
Step 3 – Distribute The Contact Cleaner
Once you have sprayed the pot, you will need to give the tone and volume controls a few turns to help get the cleaner inside the entire range of the pot. Most contact cleaners should come with the extension tube (that little straw like thing) to help you get the cleaner in the right places – I recommend using this to be more accurate with the cleaner.
You will need to repeat this in each of the pots you wish to clean. Make sure not to get too much cleaner around the outside of your pots. If you do, wiping it off with a dry cloth is fine.
If you are nervous about getting any contact cleaner on your guitar, you can wear gloves when cleaning your pots. It’s up to you but if anything does end up on your guitar, wipe it off thoroughly with a dry cloth.
Step 4 – Check To See If It Worked
Simply turn the pots up and down to make sure that you are no longer hearing the scratching sound. If it is quite and all you hear is the guitar itself, your tone and volume pots are clean and you are done!
If the pots are still scratchy sounding, repeat the process. If you tried it a few times but still have issues, read on…
Help, I Cleaned My Pots But They Still Sound Bad!
The spray contact cleaner will not fix everything. You may need to replace your pots or have a guitar repair shop look at them if they have been completely burned out.
Can Guitar Pots Go Bad?
Yes, guitar pots can go bad and degrade over time. Even the best guitar pots will get scratchy sounding eventually that cannot be cleaned out. In this case, you would need to replace it with a new pot.
If you hear a loud crunching sound when you turn the volume knob, this is often indicative of a burnt out pot or even an electrical issue with your guitar.
If cleaning doesn’t solve the problem, the best thing to do is to get new pots for your guitar.
How To Tell If A Guitar Pot Has Gone Bad
Simple. If you cleaned it using the method above a few times and it didn’t fix the scratchy noise issue, you have a bad pot. The pot will need to be replaced.
Want To See A Demo On Cleaning Pots
This is most likely the best video showing you how to do it:
If you want to get the most out of your guitar, you need to make sure that all of your pots are clean. A dirty pot can restrict the signal and can also cause a lot of unwanted noise like static and scratching sounds. By cleaning the pots with a contact cleaner before problems start, you can usually avoid bigger problems down the road.