Stickers On Guitars… here’s what you need to know
We’ve all seen famous guitarists who’ve covered their guitars with stickers. People like Joan Jett, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Billie Joe Armstrong all have stickers covering their guitars. Is it lame? Is It cool? And more importantly, does it damage the guitar?
Whether it’s lame or cool is a personal matter, the guitarists mentioned above were cool long before they added any stickers to their guitars. Many professional guitarists who add stickers are often receiving affiliate fees for displaying them, and that’s fine. But if it damages the guitar, that has potentially serious implications.
Do Stickers Damage A Guitar?
This is a hard one to answer because there are so many different types of finishes used on guitars and of course we have no idea what adhesive has been used to make the sticker. In general, anything stuck to the body of a guitar will at some point fade and not look cool anymore. Whether that’s because your interests change or light has affected the finish on the sticker over time is immaterial.
Stickers won’t necessarily damage your guitar, but if you try to remove a sticker, your guitar might get damaged. The only way to successfully remove a sticker from a guitar involves moisture and scraping. Both of which can damage the body of your guitar.
Do Stickers Affect The Guitar’s Sound?
If the guitar in question is an acoustic, adding anything to the surface of the wood can technically affect the quality of the sound produced by the guitar. An acoustic guitar’s sound is slightly altered wherever you touch it from the headstock to the base of the body and everywhere in between. The key word being “slightly” you’d have to be pitch perfect to notice the slight change, but nevertheless, it’s there.
That said if you have amplified your acoustic, stickers can cause an issue, a magnetic pick-up probably won’t notice any stickers. An under saddle pick-up could detect some variation and although it’s only a might, is it worth the risk?
Solid bodied electric guitars on the other hand, create the sound via the pick-ups, amp and so on. Adding stickers to the solid body of the guitar won’t affect the sound at all. But they could most definitely affect your street cred.
How Difficult Is It To Remove Stickers?
The short answer is stickers that have been in place for some time are incredibly difficult to remove. What usually happens is the top layer comes off in patches, leaving a messy part sticker, part black mess. You’re then in the position of do you commit to further stickers to cover the mess, or do you try removing the remains of the old sticker no matter how long it will take?
How To Remove Old Stickers From Guitars
To remove stickers from your guitar you will need; proprietary adhesive remover, an old CD and a soft cloth.
- Test The Guitar’s Finish
Using a small amount of the adhesive remover on a cloth, apply a very small amount to an unseen area on the back of the guitar. Leave for 10 minutes and check the area isn’t damaged or tarnished at all.
- Apply adhesive remover to the sticker
Start by wrapping the soft cloth around your fingers and then dip into the adhesive remover. Using small, circular motions entirely cover the sticker.
- Use The CD As A Scraper
Starting at one edge, gently prise the sticker from the guitar using the edge of the old CD. Gently work from one corner, the adhesive remover should have softened the sticker’s glue just enough for you to remove the sticker. Keep going until all of the residue is gone.
- Remove Any Residue
Once all of the sticker has been removed, apply a damp cloth to the area to remove any residue chemicals from the adhesive remover. Just gently moisten the area without soaking the guitar too much.
- Dry The Guitar’s Body
Using a clean, dry, soft cloth, completely remove any sign of moisture from the body of the guitar. This might take two or more cloths, but ensure the wood is as dry as possible.
What Adhesive Remover Should You Use?
There are a number of adhesive removers available from hardware stores and online. Always check the descriptions for suitability of use on guitars. Remember not all guitar bodies are the same, acoustics are almost always wooden, but solid bodied electric guitars are made from wood coated in any number of coatings. Ranging from metal all the way through to plastics and anywhere in between.
Some common adhesive removers include;
- Goof Off
- Goo Gone
- 151 Sticker Remover
- Acetone 99.6% Nail Varnish Remover
- HGKJ-17 Adhesive Remover
Other Adhesive Removers
If you cannot remove the sticker using one of the above solutions, you could consider one of the following;
Naphtha is found in many common household products like shoe polish, camping fuel, and lighter fluid. Naphtha can be purchased from hardware stores usually in the form of mothballs, but take care when using naphtha as it is highly flammable. Never use it near an open flame.
Acetone is used in nail polish remover and can be used in place of naphtha. Use in small quantities and keep away from pets and children.
Coconut Oil & Baking Soda
Take two parts coconut oil and one part baking soda and mix in a bowl. This is a similar solution to Goo Gone only without any added chemicals. If you would prefer, you can add a few drops of lemon, orange or bergamot oil to the solution to make it smell more pleasant. Substitute this mixture for a proprietary brand and follow our how to guide.
It’s completely up to you whether you put stickers onto your guitar or not, but remember, adding stickers will not make you play any better or worse. As for being lame or cool, again that’s a personal preference. The chances are, adding stickers will not affect the tonal qualities of your guitar, but they can in some cases.
When you eventually get fed up with the stickers, either the message no longer applies, or the logo fades, it will be a difficult task to remove them. Removing stickers from a wooden guitar will take time and care so think very carefully before adding stickers to your guitar.
We would never recommend adding any stickers to an expensive or cherished guitar. Adding stickers to an old beaten up guitar might improve the appearance, but it will never improve the sound quality.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is neither bad or good to put stickers on guitars. From a tonal point of view, stickers make only a negligible difference to the tone. Remember that if you get fed up with the stickers, they will be difficult to remove.
Painting an acoustic guitar will change the sound. The body of the guitar is the soundboard, it actually vibrates to increase the sound of the strings. Applying paint will alter the resonance of the body and could ruin the sound of your guitar.
Refinishing a guitar will affect its value in a negative way. Old, antique guitars are worth more if left in their original condition.