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Regular cleaning and maintenance of your music gear is an essential part of being a musician. Or at least it should be. Not paying attention to this critical part of owning your gear can accelerate the degradation of your gear. While it might not be the most exciting part of being a musician, you will thank yourself later for keeping up with cleaning and maintenance.
Whether it’s guitar pedals, guitar strings, or even the bags you keep your equipment in, cleaning them is important.
Since the vast majority of music gear is made of wood, metal, and electrical components, they are susceptible to the effects of aging and the environment, particularly humidity and moisture.
Guitar bridges are no different.
Just like how cymbals can turn green over time, guitar bridges and other metal components can begin to rust. Sam Steele for ZRC Worldwide writes in this article that rust is iron corrosion when met with oxygen and water in a process known as oxidation.
While a rusty bridge might not affect the overall tone (rusty and old strings, on the other hand, do), it will affect the appearance.
Other parts of the guitar that have metal, such as parts of the pickups and tuners, can also rust, but the bridge is often the most notable since it is so large.
So, how do we go about getting rust off of the guitar bridge?
One of the cheapest ways to remove rust from your guitar bridge is to soak it in vinegar. A paste made of baking soda and water also works well for light rust. Specifically designed rust removers will also do the trick, and lastly, submerging the rusted guitar bridge in Coca-Cola can get the rust off.
Below I will discuss these different methods in more detail, provide some links to excellent video tutorials, and let you know my favorite method.
Disclaimer: This article is talking about removing the rust on the guitar’s bridge, not on the metal on the pickups. The cleaning methods in this article could potentially damage the pickups since they are electrical, so please be careful about that.
Further, when using any chemicals, please follow all safety precautions and use whatever protective gear is advised by the manufacturer of the product! And be mindful of any allergies you may have.
Let’s get going!
Method #1: Vinegar
My go-to method for removing rust is vinegar. Whenever I can avoid using harsh chemicals, I do so. If you can stand the smell (don’t worry, it will go away eventually), vinegar is a simple, cheap, and surprisingly effective solution to removing rust from your guitar bridge.
However, it should be noted that some people can experience adverse reactions to vinegar, according to registered dietician Cecilia Snyder in this article for Healthline. So, if you experience adverse reactions to vinegar, this method is not for you. Also, if you don’t know if you will have an adverse reaction to vinegar, use caution with this method.
One of the big benefits of using vinegar is that it is cheap. This method of removing rust from your guitar bridge will not break the bank. However, you will need to be a little patient when using this method.
While there is no set standard for how long you should leave the guitar bridge in the vinegar solution, most recommendations I have seen call for at least twenty-four hours. Kristi Kellogg and Jennifer Beck Goldblatt, in this article for architectural digest, write to leave rusty tools in the vinegar overnight and for up to twenty-four hours. While discussing tools, the same principle applies to your guitar bridge.
However, if the rusting on your guitar bridge isn’t significant, you might not need to leave the bridge in the vinegar for that long. Leaving the guitar bridge in for a longer period shouldn’t cause any issues, so for a good chance at getting all of the rust out, leaving it in for at least twenty-four hours is a good idea.
The next question you might ask is, how much vinegar should I use? Again, there is no set standard for this, but you will need enough solution to cover the guitar bridge completely. In terms of how much vinegar, a 50/50 vinegar and water solution should do the trick, but you can also just use pure vinegar, as is shown in the video below.
Just be sure to use 5% acidity vinegar, as stated in the video.
As the video shows, the vinegar does an excellent job removing the rust from the guitar bridge. I have also used this method on rusty metal dumbbells and have had fantastic results.
Diluting vinegar in a 50/50 blend with water might inhibit the vinegar’s ability to get rid of rust, so just be mindful of that. Further, the article by Kellogg and Goldblatt advises cleaning with a mild type of dish soap and water afterward and fully drying it. The video recommends using baking soda afterward.
It should be noted that with this, and any other methods on the list, you might need to use some type of steel wool or wire brush apparatus to scrub off the rust once it has been removed from the solution. If the rust isn’t extensive, it might come off on its own, but there is a good chance you will have to do some scrubbing.
Method #2: Baking Soda
The next method won’t work as well as soaking the guitar bridge in vinegar, especially for extensive rusting, but it can be effective in certain situations. Kellogg and Goldblatt mention in their article that baking soda can be a good option for metal with light rust stains.
This is defiantly not the method of choice for extensive rusting or rust that has been on your guitar bridge for years.
To use this method, mix baking soda with water until it becomes a somewhat thick paste. You don’t want this solution to be runny as it will just flow everywhere and not stay in the areas that you want to remove the rust from.
This method is substantially quicker than the vinegar method, with Kellogg and Goldblatt recommending that you let the paste sit on the rust for about an hour.
Alternatively, in the video below, Justin Clement shows that you don’t need to wait an hour but can immediately start scrubbing away the rust. The video also shows how to correctly mix baking soda and water for the desired consistency.
Method #3: Rust Removers
Of course, if you are looking for something a bit more heavy-duty or perhaps just for something specifically designed to remove rust, then rust remover products are likely what you are looking for.
There are several different rust remover products on the market. In fact, there are so many that you might have no idea where to begin. Thankfully, there are articles for just that reason.
Because there are so many different products out there and because this article is not focused on what kinds of specific rust remover products there are, I will point you to an article that will get you started.
This article by Adria Greenhauff for Better Homes & Gardens lists the ten best rust remover products for 2023. Better yet, they are categorized as the best rust removers for specific situations. The one closest to guitar bridges would be tools, for which Greenhauff recommends Rust-Oleum Rust Dissolver.
A benefit of Rust-Oleum is that it can get rid of most rust in as little as thirty minutes, but the product description on Amazon does mention that for lots of rusting, you might need to apply additional rounds of the product.
Again, if you plan to use Rust-Oleum or any other rust remover product, be sure to carefully follow the product directions and adhere to all safety precautions.
Method #4: Coca-Cola
To finish up the list of ways to remove rust from the guitar bridge, I will leave you with one final method that is also another affordable option. Yes. Coca-Cola will remove the rust from your guitar bridge. As Kellogg and Goldblatt state in their article, Coca-Cola has phosphoric acid, which can be highly effective at removing rust. Once again, they speak about tools, but the principle is the same.
To remove rust from your guitar bridge with Coca-Cola, you will follow a very similar process as you do with Vinegar. In order for Coca-Cola to work correctly, you will need to fully submerge the guitar bridge in the liquid.
The time frame is again not a set standard, with Kellogg and Goldblatt recommending for the rusted object to sit in the solution for a few minutes. In contrast, this article from Simply Home Tips suggests letting them soak for up to twenty-four hours, which is similar to the recommendations for the vinegar solution.
There you have it! Four simple methods for getting the rust off of your guitar bridge. While a rusty bridge won’t likely cause any tone issues, it is still something that is a good idea to get cleaned.
I hope you have found this article useful, and I wish you the best of luck with removing the rust from your guitar bridge!
Hi everyone! I have been involved with music most of my life, beginning in grade school with the trumpet. I am a largely self-taught multi-instrumentalist (drums, guitar, bass, and starting the piano and violin). I currently play drums in two bands and write and produce many genres of music in my home recording studio. I am also an avid guitar and drum collector.