Can Guitar Strings Rust?


Strings play an important role in producing sounds on a guitar. They are made in a variety of materials and numerous ways. These are sold in different string gauges for certain tones and feel. When using it for a long time, can guitar strings rust?

Guitar strings rust due to the tarnishing of their outer coating. These types of layers aim to protect the inner steel core from rust. Once the coat is tarnished, elements of rusting will emerge in it.

Guitar strings are vulnerable to breakages for many reasons. Rusting is one of the culprits as to why it is susceptible to damage. In this article, we will tackle the rusting of guitar strings.

Can Guitar Strings Rust?

Guitar strings rust over time due to factors of usage. While playing it, oils and dead skins of your hands are gathered on the strings. It is also exposed to dust, dirt, and debris that contribute to the development of rust.

old rusty nylon strings of an acoustic guitar

Guitar strings are generally made with steel wire and covered with copper-core wire. Sometimes, it is enveloped with nickel-plated steel. Although it is protected from rust, it wears out from continuous handling.

Instead of rusting, you should call it “tarnishing” since the strings are rust-resistant. The naked area of the guitar strings does not rust automatically. It decays the covering first before the rust grows to the steel wire.

Why Are Guitar Strings More Likely To Tarnish Before They Rust?

Rust emerges due to certain factors such as humidity and moisture. Guitar playing involves your hands which potentially produce oil and sweat. These elements cause the coating to deteriorate which results in the exposure of steel wire. This is where the strings start to collect the elements that can turn to rust.

Guitar strings are made of layers of materials. These are infused to maintain their texture so you can play it smoothly for a long time. Although it is guarded with dependable coverings, it is still susceptible to damage.

Once the guitar strings are tarnished, their sound is affected. The texture is another problem if rust has infiltrated the inner steel wire. It will lead to its roughness and uncomfy feeling when fretting.

Some strings are made with iron wire in their inner core. Similar to other types of strings, these are vulnerable to finger moisture. It will oxidize which leads to rusting.

The tarnishing of the strings is uncontrollable but you can minimize it. They are at risk of unexpected breakages. Other guitars may have been left somewhere for a long time. By the time you try to tune the strings, they are most likely to break due to tarnishing and rusting.

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Why Do Guitar Strings Rust?

Guitar strings are used for both acoustic and electric guitars. They are made in several ways. Generally, they have outer and inner core layers.

The typical materials that are used to manufacture guitar strings are steel, brass, and nickel. You can see it in the description of their packaging.

Steel types are vulnerable to rusting. It contains iron since it is also an alloy. If iron is present, rusting will occur to the strings.

You will know if your string is made of steel as it will rust in due time. Since the majority of the strings are made of this, most guitar players may experience this frequently.

Reasons for Strings Rusting Quickly

Strings rust does not only develop immediately on its own. It is influenced by several aspects that form it. There are specific reasons why this occurs without notice.

Electric Guitar Strings

1. Exposure

The rusting of guitar strings is due to moisture and humidity. If you place your guitar in your room, it will probably start to rust.

Oxygen and moisture are present in the air which is also a substantial factor in oxidation. Also, the water vapor concentration that is found in the air is humidity.

Some places are naturally humid. These areas are subject to causing your strings to rust.

Rooms with poor ventilation can increase humidity. Steaming of windows or damping of fabrics are signs that your room is humid. 

2. Hand moist

One of the factors that cause the string to rust is moisture. Our hands produce oils and sweat. There are instances when it feels greasy when playing the guitar.

The rust builds up quickly if your hands consistently produce moisture frequently. We can’t prevent it sometimes and the strings end up collecting moisture. Poor hygiene will leave unnecessary components from your hands to the strings.

3. Low-quality string

Low-quality strings are usually cheap. They are most likely made without coatings or layers. Without the outer wrap, rust can directly emerge from the bare string.

Cheap strings are normally thin. The more expensive ones are thicker and have that durable feeling. These are influenced by how they are made and the materials used.

Tips for Stopping Guitar Strings from Rusting Quickly

Although you can’t cease rusting, you can slow down its process. Things tend to wear out over time and the same thing happens to guitar strings. Take note of some useful tips to prevent your string from rusting quickly.

Playing guitar

1. Clean your hands before playing the guitar

Your hands produce moisture and it collects dirt unnoticeably. To prevent it from getting in contact with strings, you should wash your hands before playing it. With such, tarnishing and rusting may not develop fast.

2. Use appropriate cleaning substances

Several cleaning products are specifically made for guitar strings. You can purchase this for cleaning and smoothening the strings.

3. Buy high-quality strings

As we mentioned, cheap strings lack coating and are vulnerable to rust. High quality-strings are durable and have a layer to prevent rust. This material can extend the life of the strings for an extensive period. Apart from that, these produce excellent sound.

4. Avoid areas prone to moisture

Look for the driest area in your house. You can also buy a dehumidifier to prevent moist exposure. Not all the places are humid so this is useful only if you live in an area with this problem.

5. Clean your guitar after using it

Washing your hands before playing and cleaning the guitar after using it is an efficient combo. It will remove the unwanted stuff that came from your hands. In this way, you can prevent elements that can lead to tarnishing and rusting.


Guitar strings need regular cleaning to prevent them from wearing out quickly. Without taking care of it, it will rapidly break due to rust. Make sure to practice proper hygiene to maintain its quality for a long time.

Sourav Biswas

Music is my life and I love to play guitar so much. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a musical family, and my parents were always supportive of my passion for music. I am also a freelance writer who has been writing for over 10 years. I have written for both online and offline publications, including Amazon and Medium.

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