In this guide I will give you a few tips on how to take care of your ukulele. How do you properly maintain your ukulele to keep it in good shape? And what kind of work does it require?
Perhaps you are wondering whether it is necessary to restring and clean your ukulele regularly. Did you know that you also need to check the humidity level? You also might want to use a bag or case when travelling.
How to take care of your ukulele? Restring it once in a while
- You find yourself tuning your ukulele a lot more then you used to do.
- The strings don’t feel as smooth as they used to feel. Maybe they have notches in them caused by pressing the strings against the frets.
- Your ukulele doesn’t sound that good anymore. The sound isn’t as clear, bright and loud as it should be.
When replacing your strings, do not just replace that one string which is no longer in good shape. Replace all the strings at once, because the others are probably worn out as well. In any case, old strings will have a different tension.
If you have not noticed any of these signs, it is up to you when you restring your ukulele. It depends on how much you play your ukulele and how “hard”. Some people change them after a few weeks, but other people only do so after several months.
I usually change them every 4-6 months and of course you should always consider restringing your ukulele when a string breaks.
Should I worry about humidity affecting my ukulele?
Humidity affects everything made of wood and especially wooden instruments. Note that solid ukuleles are affected a lot more by humidity levels than laminated ukuleles. As Wikipedia explains, “humidity is the amount of water vapour in the air”.
Wood is a natural material that expands in very humid conditions because it absorbs vapour. The wood will swell, which causes distortions such as bending of the neck and changes in intonation. When the wood loses water vapour due to low or decreased humidity, it will contract. This can cause serious damage to your ukulele such as cracking.
In other words: to take care of your ukulele properly, you need to consider the humidity level.
So what is the right humidity level? The right humidity for ukuleles is between 45% and 55%. Most locations in the world will be around these levels but it can depend a lot on the season. It doesn’t matter if the humidity goes above or below these limits a few times, but you should start thinking about doing something if it stays permanently at a very low or very high level.
So what can you do?
- Too dry: Get a decent humidifier. There are quite a few budget-friendly instrument humidifiers out there. My favourite is the Oasis humidifier, which I use personally. It is really easy to use and does its job well. You can also buy a hygrometer from the same company which measures the temperature and humidity level quite accurately. I’ve heard great things however about the D’Addario humidipak and D’Addario ukulele humidifier pro (pictured above) as well. I’ve had the opportunity to work with them in the past and can in good faith recommend them.
- Too humid: Unfortunately this problem isn’t as easy to solve. You may need to consider investing in a de-humidifier for the room where you keep your ukulele. If that is not possible, always try to store it in a case with silica drying crystals or gel when you are not playing it.
Is a case necessary? Isn’t a bag enough?
There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether or not you need a case. Ultimately it really is a personal choice.
- What do you plan on doing with your ukulele? If you travel a lot, you should definitely consider a hard case. If you mainly play at home and only take your ukulele round to your friends’ houses now and then, a soft case or bag should be enough. These colorful HOT SEAL backpack type ukulele gig bags come in at only $20 and are padded very well to protect your ukulele. Keep in mind the previous section about humidity though. If humidity is too high where you live, a case can be very useful.
- How much did you spend on your ukulele? If you have a $50-$100 ukulele, it probably isn’t really worth putting it in a case that costs about the same amount. If you have a $200+ ukulele it is definitely worth considering a hard case for your ukulele. Do you have a $500+ ukulele? There’s no question about it, buy a case! My all time favorite case is the tweed case by Kala. I use it to store my limited edition Kala tenor ukulele with solid golden acacia in. I only have one though as it’s quite expensive at $95. More affordable options that I were able to test in the past and get my recommendation are the tweed case GCX-UKT by Stagg and the black one from Gator Cases.
Want to take care of your ukulele? Clean it!
How should you take care of your ukulele? Think about cleaning it once in a while. Cleaning a ukulele is almost exactly the same as cleaning a guitar.
When you play the ukulele, your fingers produce sweat that can damage the wood and finish over time. It will collect on the surface and trap more dust and dirt.
How do you solve the problem? It’s simple: use a bit of Dunlop 65 lemon oil. This is the best fretboard cleaner that I know of and I have been using it for years. Give it a rub every 4-6 months and your fretboard will stay as good as new.
And what about the wood? A simple cleaning and polishing will do the trick, making it as shiny as possible. As well as fretboard cleaner, Dunlop also produces some very good polishers.
The ukulele is a wonderful little instrument, and it doesn’t take long at all to take care of it. When you are not playing it, for example, put it in its case or bag. If you take care of your ukulele properly, you’ll enjoy playing it a lot more – and a well cared-for instrument will even sound better!
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Also interested in learning how to fix your ukulele string buzzing?