How to clean humbucker pickups

Written by perry piekarski
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How to clean humbucker pickups
Humbucking pickups look like two single-coil pickups bundled together. (electric guitar body image by Jeffrey Zalesny from

Many electric guitars use humbucker pickups (the other type being single-coil pickups). Pickups are the part of an electric guitar that "picks up" the vibrations of the strings and feeds them into an amplifier. To keep your guitar looking, playing and sounding great, you should clean it often, especially when changing the strings. Cleaning your humbuckers is easy to do, even if they're incredibly gunked up or showing signs of rust.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Soft cloth
  • Cotton swabs
  • White pencil eraser
  • Window cleaner
  • Lighter fluid
  • Compressed air

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  1. 1

    Remove the strings from your guitar. Loosen them by turning the tuning pegs on the guitar's head. When they're loose enough, remove them completely.

  2. 2

    Wipe the humbuckers with a cloth to get rid of any easily removed dust and debris. If your humbuckers are covered, don't remove the cover. The cover protects them from wear, scratching, rust and other damage. Simply clean the cover as you would the actual humbuckers.

  3. 3

    Spray a cloth with window cleaner and use it to clean more tenacious grime build-up on your humbuckers.

  4. 4

    Remove rust spots using a white pencil eraser and a bit of elbow grease. You can also remove rust using a cotton swab with a small amount of lighter fluid. Rust can appear on any metal portions of your humbuckers, including chrome- and gold-plated covers.

  5. 5

    Wipe the humbuckers dry when finished. Use compressed air to blow away any pencil eraser shavings.

  6. 6

    Clean the rest of your guitar, and restring it when finished.

Tips and warnings

  • If you want to quickly dust off your humbuckers without removing the strings, slide a T-shirt or soft cloth under the strings, then shimmy it back and forth to get rid of the dust.
  • It is safe to use a damp cloth to clean the humbuckers, as long as you dry them completely.

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