The last time I thoroughly cleaned my Taylor 214ce-SB DLX, I used toothpaste to polish the frets. I got lazy towards the end and stopped taping off the wood, resulting in toothpaste getting into the grain of the wood and the edges of the frets (see photos).

I'm wondering how I can safely get rid of the toothpaste residue. In a thread about a similar issue, one of the recommendations was to use mineral spirits and a new toothbrush. Would that be okay to use on an ebony fretboard? (I realize that it could dry out the wood at least a little, so I'd definitely follow up with Dr. Duck's Ax Wax.)

If that's not a good suggestion, what would be the best way to go about solving this problem?

toothpaste residue in wood grain

toothpaste residue on edge of fret

  • IS it a problem? How did it respond to a damp cloth? But you could just leave it.
    – Laurence
    Jan 5, 2020 at 23:46
  • I don't think that it's affecting the guitar's tone or my playing at all. However, in my opinion it looks really ugly. I haven't tried using a damp cloth yet, since I've heard that using water on a guitar can cause problems. But maybe if it's only slightly damp it'll be fine. Jan 5, 2020 at 23:57
  • 1
    Try dental floss. :o) Jan 6, 2020 at 12:44
  • If it's just normal dry, crusted toothpaste, you might be able to get away with lightly scraping it away with something like a scalpel. Be careful not to scratch away any of the actual wood though. Jan 6, 2020 at 13:21
  • 1
    why on earth did you use toothpaste? Brasso is much more effective. Jan 8, 2020 at 14:21

2 Answers 2


Scrub vigorously with a DRY stiff bristle nylon brush. An extra firm tooth brush would possibly work. I use a nylon grout brush (you can google for examples) to clean polish compound out of wood pores and it works with not too much effort and no marring of the wood.

Scrub both directions, with the grain first, then against the grain.

You can slack the strings, remove them from the nut slots, and masking tape them to either side of the neck at the end of the fret board so you don't have to replace them.

edit: and to be honest, if a customer brought in a guitar with toothpaste in the fretboard, I would use a spray bottle of water and my brush to clean it. I've worked on many guitars though, and wouldn't recommend it in general...


I have found the green scouring pads(plastic) commonly used to scour pots and pans, fairly effective for cleaning residue in wood grain. I use them dry and scrub in the direction of the wood grain, never across the wood grain. Patience and care are advised. Although ebony is a pretty hardy wood, it is possible to accidently scar it. If you find you need a solvent, linseed oil is pretty good, but I recommend using it sparingly and wiping it off with a dry rag. The oil will darken the ebony so keep that in mind. I also recommend removing the strings to make the whole task much easier. Another alternative would be to show it to a professional furniture refinisher and ask their advice.

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