New electric guitar strings seem to almost stick to the fingers, and within hours start to turn gray/black-ish in the spots I've played them most.

By contrast, lubricating and cleaning the strings with GHS Fast Fret (actually wrapping its cloth around each string and rubbing it thoroughly) before and after each time I play prevents them from getting sticky and keeps them cleaner. It might also lubricate the contact point between the strings and frets, reducing friction when bending.

I almost never see this subject discussed in interviews with accomplished guitarists. I realize each musician is different, but can you point to particular guitarists and what they do, if anything, about this? Does the skin on the fingertips of guitarists who play regularly get hardened enough that this stops being an issue?

Note: my hands are clean before playing.

5 Answers 5


This issue differs greatly between different guitarists. Some people get the issue you are reporting, that the strings get discoloured almost immediately, while others are not experiencing this at all. This is likely the reason that it is not discussed as a general problem, since it is not something everyone is experiencing.

I don't think calluses help this problem. At any rate, you won't get heavy calluses all over your fingers, so barre chords would still bring the problems.


Some players have sweat that is acidic, and this can affect strings. It's not that common, but I had a pupil whose strings were always rusty only a week after they were fitted new. Fast fret, etc., work well, but so does just rubbing a dry cloth along the strings, particularly underneath, and also on the fretboard itself. I knew one guy who would put talcum powder (French chalk) all over his strings before playing.As M.U. says, the callouses wont make any difference.Try drying your hands every 10/15 mins or so - it may make the strings last better.


You've really got a couple of questions here: one about string lubricants, and one about whether calluses eventually get hard enough that it's not an issue.

I've been a pro guitarist since 1976 (and yes, it's my full-time job). I never use string lubricants, and I'm not aware of any other pros who do.

Fast Fret is marketed as a string cleaner, but I think it's just mineral oil - I couldn't find an MSDS online. Any oil will prevent dead skin cells from sticking to the strings, which will prolong their life - if you're interested in why, I can go into more detail. But if you're a working guitarist, you're going into gigs with new (or at least new-ish) strings, so intonation isn't going to be an issue.

The oil will repel water, so if you sweat a lot I guess that might help prevent strings from rusting. But I just keep some talcum powder in my case in the event I have a gig in high temperatures, so that's never been an issue for me.

FWIW, a competing product (Finger-Ease) is mostly naptha, a solvent. I do use naptha to clean my fretboards when I do string changes, but I use the much cheaper version - old school lighter fluid. It's the same stuff without the aerosol propellants. But I don't use it on the strings.

For the second part (the calluses), the answer is yes/maybe. When I was younger my fingertips looked like glass - perfectly smooth, you couldn't see any fingerprints, and if I tapped them against a piece of glass they sounded like metal.

They're not like that anymore, even though I play just as much. The difference? I have better gear, and it's better maintained. When the best instruments I could afford weren't really that good, thicker calluses were the result. As I was able to afford better gear, my calluses downsized. Now they feel kind of like smooth leather - there's a bit of 'give' to them. I can still get a clear sound by tapping on a piece of glass (I just tried it!), but it's not the clear metallic sound they once had.


I never use it. Before playing I wash my hands, and make sure the neck, fingerboard and strings are very clean.

I found that using teflon-coated strings makes a big difference in how my fingers (don't) stick too. Better quality strings seem to avoid corrosion better than cheap ones also.

Professional players often have their strings changed nightly by their tech, so it's not much of an issue for them.


I used to live in California (dryer type climate). I now live in Hawaii (more humid). I have many guitars so this is an issue with me. I am convinced that the humidity has an impact. I have found also that cleaning the strings after playing is even more important than before playing. The acids that are mentioned in other posts do the most damage when the guitar is in between uses. It has time to corrode the strings. This is all just my opinion but it is based on 40 years of learning how to play. Still learning!

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