How To Clean Guitar Pedals

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Cleaning and regular maintenance of your music equipment is paramount if you want to keep them working well for years to come.

The worst thing you can do is neglect to clean and provide regular preventative maintenance on your music equipment. You do not want to be like me in my younger years of playing when I didn’t think twice about cleaning and maintaining my equipment.

Most guitar pedals are not exactly cheap, so it is a good idea that once you have invested your hard-earned money into them, you take care of them.

The good news is that guitar pedals are easy to clean, especially if you make cleaning a regular part of your routine. Each part of the pedal, case (if you have one), and pedalboard should be regularly cleaned. Thankfully, cleaning them is relatively simple and can usually be accomplished with the supplies you already have.

Below, we will take a closer look at how to clean each part of the guitar pedal and pedalboard.

How To Clean Guitar Pedals

Just like the rest of your music equipment, guitar pedals will eventually collect dirt and grime with use. This is especially true if you frequently travel and use your pedals for live shows. There are likely not many times when you will be playing live events in immaculately clean environments, so it is a safe bet that you will be getting dirt and grime on your pedals and pedalboards as you step on them during your shows.

Even if you keep your pedals at home unless you keep them in the boxes they came in, dust will accumulate on them, just as it does your guitars. I keep my pedals on my shelf, so they tend to collect dust regularly.

Regular dusting of your pedals is a good habit to start. Frequently dusting off the pedals will prevent dirt and grime accumulation, and there will be less of a chance of the dirt getting into the pots, switches, and input/output jacks.

If you have a dusting wand (microfiber works the best) or simply a microfiber cloth, getting in the practice of dusting the pedals with this every couple of weeks does a decent job of preventing excess dust buildup.

Of course, there will be situations where your pedals have accumulated dirt and grime to the point where a light dusting will not clean the pedal. For instance, if you have gone months or even years between cleanings, have purchased a used pedal that wasn’t well taken care of, or have spilled liquid or gotten mud or some other grime on the pedal during a performance, it is time to elevate your cleaning game.

For most instances, a damp cloth with a bit of soap will get stubborn grime off the pedal. I have also heard of many guitarists using their guitar cleaning spray on the pedals, which also works great.

Since your pedals have electrical components, you want to ensure you do not leave any excess water on the pedals. It is a good idea to always carefully wipe down and dry off the pedals with a dry microfiber cloth or paper towel when you are done cleaning.

If you have used Velcro on the back of your pedals and removed them, or perhaps you have recently bought a used pedal, there may be a sticky residue. This can also happen when removing the rubber backing or feet from your pedals.

In this case, you may need something a bit stronger than soap and water. While soap, water, and a little scrubbing effort often take care of the sticky residue, products such as WD40, which many recommend, can help take that sticky residue away.

The video below shows when and how to use WD40. However, as with any chemicals, ensure you carefully read and follow the directions on the label for safety. It should also be noted that chemicals like WD40 could potentially take away the paint finish on your pedals, so make sure you only use a small amount at first to make sure this won’t happen to your pedal.

Further, as the video explains, you should be careful not to use WD40 around the pots and input/output jacks as it could accumulate and cause further grime and dust build-up.

How To Clean Pots and Switches on Pedals

It is also important to clean around the pots and switches on the pedals, as this is a common area that will accumulate dirt and grime build-up. Similar to guitars and amplifiers, these areas can sometimes get overlooked, but cleaning them properly is crucial. The caps easily come off on most pedals with rubber caps, as you can see in the picture below on my Boss Metal Zone MT-2 pedal.

You can also see in the picture that it is particularly dirty around the knobs. You can clean off the areas around the knobs as described above, but in order to clean the pots themselves, you will need some kind of electrical contact spray.

A small spray nozzle and a cloth, paper towel, or even a Q-tip can work well to get into those small areas and ensure everything is fully clean and ready to go.

To get the best clean, it is a good idea to remove the back of the pedal so you can make sure the pots are completely and adequately cleaned. It is also a good idea to clean off the inside of the cover while it is off with a cloth or some soap and water.

The video below describes how to get rid of “scratchy pots,” but the cleaning principles are exactly the same, and it is a great visual guide to follow.

When you are done cleaning, make sure everything is dry, screw the plate back on, put the knob covers back on and you are all set!

How To Clean The Pedalboard

Pedalboards are notorious for becoming filthy rather quickly, especially if you are playing live shows. But even if you are only playing at home, they will collect all sorts of dust, grime, and hair.

Whether you have a metal pedalboard or a homemade wooden one like I do, they will get dirty over time. While the Velcro is the quickest portion of the pedalboard to become dirty, the rest will also collect dirt and grime, especially if you play with shoes.

Luckily, the pedalboard is relatively easy to clean. I have heard of several methods guitarists use to clean their pedalboards, and I have used many of these methods myself.

Getting the dust and grime off the board can be accomplished in a couple of simple ways.

The first way is to dust off the dirt that has undoubtedly collected on the board. This is a simple task for those with metal pedalboards; often, a household duster works just fine.

However, if you have neglected your board for some time or got liquid on the board, you might need a deeper cleaning than just dusting. In this case, a damp washrag with a bit of soap does the trick quite nicely.

Another method is to vacuum the pedalboard. Vacuuming the pedalboard not only cleans up the dirt on the board itself, but if you have Velcro on your board, this can also get a lot of the hair and dirt out of the Velcro.

The Velcro on pedalboards is like a magnet for all sorts of things, especially for hair.

Even within a few hours of use, it can begin to attract hair and other unwanted grime. If you own pets, this only further increases the amount of hair that will collect on the Velcro.

The hair will not usually affect how well the pedals stick to the board, but it is still unsightly and annoying.

I have a Mini Australian Sheppard that sheds like crazy and spends a lot of time with me in my music room, so the dog hair in the Velcro is a constant issue to deal with.

Ideally, when using a vacuum, you will want to use an attachment with bristles to dig deeper into the Velcro to work out the hair. If the hair is stubborn, you can also use an old toothbrush. The fine bristles on the toothbrush will give you more precision when scrubbing to get the hair out.

Lint rollers work well, too, especially as an initial step to removing hair and dirt from the Velcro. However, just like on clothes, lint rollers will often miss smaller pieces of dirt and grime and won’t be able to remove hair that is significantly stuck.

Duct tape can also be an effective way to get the hair and grime out of the Velcro. Lay the tape over the Velcro and pull up fast to ensure hair and other grime and dirt particles don’t fall off the tape. It is also important that you know your Velcro is very secure; otherwise, you might risk pulling up the Velcro from the pedalboard.

In other cases, you might just decide to remove the velcro altogether which can work too.

Another option I recently started trying is using the sticky cleaning gels that you typically use for car detailing and getting the dirt out of cup holders. I have found this gel to work better than the lint roller, but I still need to use a toothbrush and vacuum to get everything out.

Below is a before and after of my pedalboard just using a vacuum and a toothbrush:

Although it wasn’t overly dirty to begin with, you can see, a quick five-minute clean with just a vacuum, toothbrush, and lint roller did a good job of getting most of the hair and other dirt out of the Velcro on the board.

You don’t need anything fancy to keep your board looking clean.

How To Clean Pedal/Pedalboard Case

The last item on our list is the case that houses your pedals and pedalboard.

I do not have a case for my board, as my pedalboard is homemade, and if I take it anywhere, I just carry it. However, most purchased pedalboards will come with cases and must be cleaned.

Pedalboard cases either come in a soft or hard shell casing, both of which will need regular cleaning. Both cases can usually be cleaned by vacuuming. However, some hard shell cases have grooved padding, so cleaning them might take some more time.

Lint rollers also work well for cases, as does the cleaning gel mentioned above, but the first option of vacuuming tends to work the best.

Closing Thoughts

There you have it! Some simple and efficient ways to clean your pedals, pedalboard, and cases.

Regular cleaning can be time-consuming, but keeping your pedals working right for years to come is essential.

Thankfully, keeping these items clean is a relatively simple process that can usually be accomplished with cleaning supplies you already have around the house.

The more frequently you clean your gear, the easier and less time it takes during each cleaning session, so you can focus more of your time on playing and developing your skills.