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Uke Care: My Top 5 Recommendations

Instrument care is one topic I rarely hear my fellow players talk about, and because I remember my father’s mantra, “if you take care of something, it will take care of you,” I would like to share five care tips for your ‘ukulele.

Photo credit: Jen Negrete

#1 Strings

Almost daily, I read posts inquiring, "when should I change my strings?" To answer this question, it really depends on how often you play your instrument and string condition. Indicators of when it may be time to change your strings are: frequently tuning the instrument (with settled strings), the strings are not smooth (sometimes you can see grooves/notches in the strings), or decreasing sound quality. I also advise if one string is worn, most likely the others are too so, change them all at once.

#2 Storage

Properly storing your instrument is one of the most important things you can do for it. This includes ensuring the room temperature is around 72-77 degrees and that the instrument is not in direct sunlight, especially for wood instruments. Extreme heat/cold or excessive moisture/dryness can damage your ‘ukulele. I highly recommend storing your instrument in an area where it cannot be easily bumped, dropped, or knocked over and the temperature and humidity can be controlled. Speaking of humidity, it is #3 on my list.

Good temperature, bad humidity

Photo credit: Jen Negrete

#3 Humidity

Fortunately, I live in a place where the humidity is ideal for the ‘ukulele most of the year. The exception to this is in the winter when our humidity drops, usually between 20-25%. Wood is a natural material that swells with moisture and shrinks when dry. Because of this, it is important to monitor humidity levels to properly care for your uke.

So, what is the right humidity level? Ideally, you want to keep it between 45-55%. Luckily, there are tools to help with your home's humidity level. One of them is called a hygro-thermometer. This gadget helps to monitor a room's humidity and temperature. Some of the newer devices can sync up with your smartphone and alert you when levels are not optimal. I also recommend investing in a good humidifier and keeping it replenished during drier months. There is also such a thing as too much humidity. In this case, you would need to remove the humidifier from wherever you store your instrument and possibly invest in a dehumidifier to help manage air moisture.

The humidifier in my case compartment

Photo credit: Jen Negrete

#4 General Surface Care

Keeping your instrument clean is important. I like to wash my hands and dry them well before each play. I am not saying you must do this, but it helps to remove extra moisture from your hands and anything else you do not want on your instrument. Also, keep a microfiber cloth handy to wipe the body, neck, and strings after each play. Dirt, sweat, and grease from your hands and arms can harm the finish and potentially deteriorate the condition of the wood. Lastly, I enjoy giving my ‘ukuleles extra attention when I change my strings. This takes us to care tip #5, cleaning and conditioning.

#5 Cleaning & Conditioning

When restringing my instrument, I take advantage of the removed strings to clean and condition the entire 'ukulele. This includes the fretboard, neck, body, bridge, and headstock. There are numerous cleaners/conditioners on the market, so please check with your local instrument store or luthier for their recommendation. I personally use Music Nomad MN121 Ukulele Cleaner, along with their F-ONE fretboard oil (*side note: this is not an endorsement), and like it a lot.

Photo by Avi Naim on Unsplash

The life of your instrument will depend on how you care for it. Take care of your ‘ukulele and it will take care of you. Until next time, keep strumming!

Are there any care tips you would like to share with our fellow uke players? If so, drop a comment below.

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