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4 tips to take good care of your ukulele

Your ukulele is an investment, so you need to take good care of it!

by Jennifer VanBenschoten

When you know how to care for your ukulele like a pro, you’ll get many years of enjoyment out of your instrument! Your ukuleles are an investment, so it makes sense to take care of them properly. It doesn’t matter if your ukulele is laminate or solid wood; proper care of your instrument can make sure that it lasts and sounds great for years.

Here are some tips on how to take good care of your ukulele:

Cleaning Your Ukulele

Cleaning your ukulele doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes after you’ve finished playing or practicing. When you take the time to clean your instrument after playing, you’re extending the life of your ukulele and making it sound better!

To clean the strings daily, just use a soft 100% cotton cloth and gently wipe the strings from top to bottom a few times. This removes oil and residue from your hands that can actually cause the strings to break down and loosen the frets of your ukulele. 

After you’ve cleaned the strings, you can gently wipe down the body of your ukulele using a microfiber cloth. Run the cloth along the sides and the back of the neck of your instrument, as well as on the back, and gently place it under the strings to wipe down the top. This will keep your instrument free of dust and remove any fingerprints. 

When you change your strings (more on that later), it’s also a good idea to clean the frets and fretboard of your ukulele. You can use a very fine “0000” steel wool pad to brush the frets clean, and then apply a very light coating of mineral oil or lemon oil to the fretboard before replacing the strings. This keeps the wood of your fretboard healthy and your metal frets clean of dirt and residue. If you don’t have steel wool, a microfiber cleaning cloth works in a pinch to clean the frets of your ukulele.

If you play outdoors a lot, you’ll want to be attentive to cleaning your ukulele after every outdoor performance. Dirt, wind, and sun can damage your ukulele over time.

Changing Strings

How often do you need to change the strings on your ukulele? Most professional musicians agree that if you play your ukulele every day, it’s a good idea to put new strings on your ukulele anywhere from 6-8 months to a year. Some luthiers will tell you to change them out every three months if you play professionally! 

But if you notice your strings starting to sound a bit dull or you notice worn-out spots on your strings, don’t wait! You can change the strings on your ukulele as often as you need to keep your instrument sounding good.

When you take off your old set of strings, it’s the perfect time to give your instrument a thorough cleaning. Clean the frets, clean and oil the fretboard, and if you have a gloss finish on your ukulele, you can use some wood polish to make it look like you just took it out of the box.

Left-Handed Muting

If you’re going to change your own strings on your ukulele, I can highly recommend using a string winder to make the process easier. Changing your strings is also a good time to check the screws of your friction tuners to make sure that they’re still tight.

Keeping Your Ukulele Hydrated

One of the most important ways to care for your ukulele like a pro is to keep it well hydrated! People and ukuleles need a certain amount of moisture to stay healthy. Make sure that you store your ukuleles in relative humidity of 40% – 60%, especially if they have a solid wood top or are all solid wood. 

Some indoor thermometers measure the temperature and humidity quite well, and if you have one of those, you’ll know if you need a humidifier for your ukuleles. If you do need a humidifier, there are several styles to choose from that you can use either in a case or just place it in the soundhole of your ukulele. 

Read more: “The Tree”: The most exotic wood for ukuleles and gutiars 

If you live in an area where the humidity is too high, you might want to think about investing in a dehumidifier for the room where you keep your solid top or solid wood ukulele. If acquiring or using a room dehumidifier isn’t possible (they can be quite loud and not necessarily good in an apartment building), you can always invest in a good solid case for your ukulele and keep a few packets of silica gel beads in it to help absorb the excess moisture and prevent your ukulele from warping.

Storing Your Ukuleles

While we’re on the subject of storing your ukuleles, let’s talk about cases. There really is no substitute for a good hard-shell case for your ukuleles when you’re traveling and playing at gigs or outdoors. Whenever I set up at my local farmer’s markets, I always brought my instruments in a solid hard case to protect them from accidental damage or inclement weather. 

If humidity is an issue for you where you live, a good solid case can also be an easy way to monitor the moisture levels of your instrument. It’s much easier to control the humidity in a ukulele case than in an apartment or a single room. 

A padded gig bag is your next best option for storing your ukulele, but unlike a hard case, it’s not as easy to control the humidity in a gig bag. A gig bag is also a great way to store a ukulele to protect it from dust or the sun.

My personal philosophy when storing my ukuleles is, out of sight out of mind – so that means I invested in some good wall mounts and have my collection displayed in a way that I can easily just take one down, tune it up, and start strumming away. However, I made sure that my ukuleles are hung on the wall where they aren’t in direct sunlight, and where I can check the humidity level of the room easily. 

Knowing to take care of your ukulele like a pro isn’t difficult, it just takes a little time and a little love! Take a look at all of the great products in the Uke Like the Pros store to keep you and your ukulele happy

Happy strumming!

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