Mandolin Maintenance, Care and Cleaning

Mandolin Maintenance, Care and Cleaning

Take care of your mandolin and you will enjoy it for many years to come! Basic mandolin maintenance and care described in this article is easy and should be done regularly. These are just common sense instructions but nevertheless I suggest you read them as you may find something you have not though of, which may help prolong your mandolin’s life and increase playability and good sound.

So, acquainting yourself with the parts of the instrument will make basic maintenance tasks just that much easier. For advanced mandolin maintenance tasks such as refretting, it’s recommended you take your mandolin to a luthier.

Sections below provide information about:

  • Tools to use
  • Strings maintenance
  • Wood maintenance and cleaning
  • Fretwood maintenance
  • Handling of the Mandolin
  • Traveling with the Mandolin
  • Storage best practices


Tools to use

  1. Soft Microfiber Cloth – to clean the body without scratching
  2. Furniture polish – to clean the body
  3. String oil – to maintain the strings
Cleaning solutions from other instruments such as the guitar can be used on mandolins also.

Strings Maintenance

New mandolin strings are typically dry. It helps to wipe the strings regularly with a bit of oil so that it is easier to slide up or down the strings when playing. A music store will carry oil for strings, but even a very light coat of furniture polish will work. You can use a soft cloth to apply the oil easily.

The mandolin strings should be maintained so they are up to tension when you are regularly playing the instrument. The mandolin is a rather fragile stringed instrument so you want to make sure that it is not tuned higher than what is appropriate or you can harm your instrument. Tuning is the same as that of a violin, or in the GDAE range.

Clean your strings every time you play your mandolin to get rid of the grime and oil that accumulates from your fingers. Always use a clean, soft cotton cloth.

Replace your strings on your mandolin regularly to ensure the best of sound.

If you are not using the instrument on a routine basis, then the tension should be brought down about three half tones.


Wood Maintenance & Cleaning

Use a microfiber cloth on the wood to remove dust and give it a bit more shine. A soft bristle brush can be used in hard-to-dust areas, such as under the bridge.

Polish the wood every now and then. Use a soft cloth such as a diaper and furniture polish, but make sure the polish does not contain any silicone or wax.

Do not immerse the instrument in water as this will result in severe damage to the instrument.


Fretwood Maintenance

It is generally a good idea to clean the mandolin fretboard each time you replace the strings.

Polish the fretboard occasionally with almond oil if it isn’t finished.


Always handle the mandolin with care, as it is a sensitive instrument. Keep your mandolin in its case when you are not using it. Here is a list of what to avoid:

  • Do not drop the instrument as this could damage the finish or cause a crack in the body.
  • Do not leave the mandolin unattended in the presence of unsupervised young children or toddlers unless you have adult supervision present at all times.
  • Never place your mandolin upright against the back of chairs as mishaps can occur. Many repairs that are made to mandolins result from the instrument being knocked over accidentally.


Traveling with the Mandolin

Take special care when transporting the instrument, especially in extreme temperatures.

Make sure the mandolin is well-insulated if you are taking it from frigid temperatures into warmer environments or from hot extremes into air conditioning. It is advisable that you carry the instrument in a case that’s padded or cover the instrument in a covering such as a towel or blanket.

Acclimate the mandolin to room temperature. Don’t take it out of its case or remove the covering until it’s been out of the cold or heat for a while.

Never leave the mandolin in an automobile, especially during extreme hot or cold periods. Extreme heat during the summer or direct sunlight may damage it.


Mandolin Storage

Do not store the mandolin near a front door or open window or heater or air condition. The temperature changes will cause the instrument to go out of tune.

When storing, keep the mandolin out of the direct rays of the sun as the heat can damage the joints and loosen the glue.

When storing in a place with moisture or humidity place silica gel inside the instrument’s case to get rid of any excess moisture that can cause problems. Not only does humidity affect the glue, it can cause certain parts, especially the neck, to warp on the instrument.

Buy a case humidifier to reduce the chances of cracks on the surface of your mandolin due to dry conditions. Wood will shrink in exceptionally arid environments. As a result, cracks can appear on the surface of the instrument.


Mandolin Maintenance Resources

Before clicking on the below resources that may be helpful in mandolin care and maintenance, an important disclosure.

Mandolin Maintenance with Music Nomad Microfiber cloth

Microfiber Cloth

Mandolin Maintenance with Music Nomad spray

Finish Cleaner

Mandolin Maintenance & Care with Music Nomad Fretboard cleaner spray

Fretboard Cleaner

Mandolin Maintenance Tool

Cleaning Tool

Mandolin Maintenance Hygrometer

Digital Hygrometer

Mandolin Maintenance Humidifier

Mandolin Humidifier

Mandolin Maintenance Indoor Humidity Monitor

Indoor Humidity Monitor


Basic mandolin maintenance and care is easy and should be done regularly. Following the above instructions will help prolong your mandolins life-cycle and will ensure that you enjoy playing your instrument(s) for years to come.

Without a well-maintained instrument, you will gradually stop practicing as you will no longer enjoy playing that much. So, maintain your mandolin, it’s easy!


Did you like this article? Then, leave a comment or just say thank you and share it. This will help spread the word and will make the article visible to more people; it makes a difference!

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About the Author:

I’m Chris, a mandolin lover from Greece, trained in Music, Mathematics and IT who makes a living on technology but enjoys life through music and arts. Welcome to my adventures!


  1. Michelle M Ruiz November 5, 2012 at 16:12

    I love the valuable info you supply in your posts. I like your writing style.

    • admin November 5, 2012 at 21:29

      Thank you Michelle for your kind words. I will be posting new stuff soon,so stay tuned.
      – Chris

  2. Sanjiv March 10, 2013 at 23:32

    Thank you for your tips .

    • Chris April 1, 2013 at 10:45

      No problem! I hope my tips have helped you maintain your mandolin.

  3. jimmie kelley December 3, 2015 at 19:24

    Have family handdown for 100 years its in good shape and need help order new strings how to put them on and cleaning it up to give it to grandson for christmas also where to order selfteaching to play as we live in rual area

    • Christos Rizos December 3, 2015 at 21:33

      Hi Jimmie,
      if the mandolin is a bowlback, you should get “light” strings like these ones
      If the mandolin is a flat back, or if you are lucky to own a hand carved one like a Gibson, you can go for medium strings like these ones, or heavy strings like these ones.

      To clean it, it is better to use just a micro fiber cloth, slightly wet. To clean up the fretboard, you can use again the fiber cloth, but when you have removed the old strings and before putting on the new ones. Finally, after replacing strings, you need to setup the mandolin. You can find instructions here.

      Finally, for lessons you can check youtube. I created two lessons for beginners, you can check them here.

      Hope that helps. I am sure your grandson will be very happy!

  4. wiesh November 23, 2016 at 02:14

    Hi Chris

    I would like to play to a backtrack rhythm at home or in the park. How to get about in finding a simple, practical and useful solution. Iphone? Not the best sound. It would be nice to play to a leading rhythm, just like having to play with a band.
    Any ideas? I appreciate your advice.

    • Christos Rizos November 23, 2016 at 12:17

      Hi Wiesh,
      it is an amazing coincidence that I am too doing a research for such tools.

      Till now I had been using GarageBand from Apple, both on my iPhone and my mac mini (desktop at home). The recordings in theMandolinTuner have all be created with this software.

      But as I have just finished creating a dedicated music/studio room at my basement, I am doing a research to see what is the best solution to use. I am about to try these two solutions:
      iRealPro, a very portable and … inexpensive software that runs on iPhone, iPAD, Android, Mac (but not on Windows)
      Band in a Box, a more expensive tool with MANY more features available also for Windows. Unfortunately no trial is available.

      As I have not really used them yet, I can not recommend any of the two. I suggest you try them to see for yourself, especially the inexpensive one that perhaps may cover your needs!

  5. Deborah A Willis December 1, 2016 at 02:45

    What brand of furniture polish is safe to use on a mandolin fretboard? It’s made of rosewood. Dare I use a bit of Liquid Gold? Or would a drop or two of linseed oil (artist quality) be best?

    • Christos Rizos December 2, 2016 at 17:52

      Hi Deborah,
      I am using a slightly wet microfiber cloth like this (the one in the article) for basic clean-up of the fretboard.
      In case I need a more thorough clean-up and maintenance, perhaps once per year, I am using the Music Nomad Fretboard Oil Cleaner and Conditioner, as it is free of lemon extracts or petroleum, wax, detergents, or water. The Nomad is intended to be used as a cleaner and conditioner for rosewood and ebony fretboards which can dry out and need a penetrating conditioner (as well as a cleaner) to prevent them from drying out and possible cracking. So I guess it would be good for your mandolin too.
      I have not used Liquid Gold nor linseed oil so I can not recommend them.
      Hope this helps!

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