Is It Okay For An Acoustic Guitar To Get Wet?

Acoustic guitars are generally covered in a lacquer on their exterior which acts as a water-resistant barrier, so getting the lacquered parts of the guitar wet for a short period of time would be easy to clean up and likely have no effect on the guitar. If you were to get the internal components of the guitar wet, or any part that wasn’t lacquered, this could cause serious damage to the structure of the guitar, resulting in losing the function of the guitar. 

Continue reading this article for further details on the parts of the guitar that would be fragile and some tips for taking care of a guitar if you were to get it wet. 

Is It Okay For An Acoustic Guitar To Get Wet?

What Happens If An Acoustic Guitar Gets Wet?

If an acoustic guitar gets wet, it could go one of two ways. If you’re lucky and take care of the water quickly and efficiently, then the water will likely cause little to no damage to the guitar. If you’re not so lucky, on the other hand, and the water sits too long or gets to the part of the guitar that is not protected by a lacquered finish, then it could impair and diminish further use of the guitar for its intended purposes.

Most acoustic guitars are covered in a lacquer finish that protects the wood they are created out of. Do not mistake this for them being waterproof or even run the risk of exposing your guitar to the risk of water damage by rain, pools, or even drinks. This lacquer finish is not indestructible – it simply protects the exterior of your guitar from the basic wear and tear of owning and using a guitar. Just if you were to leave a sweating drink sitting on a wooden table for too long without a coaster, water on the lacquer of your guitar would also share a similar effect. 

If the water penetrates the barrier of the lacquer, it will reach the wood the guitar is made of. Because wood is a porous material when exposed to water, it will warp or become waterlogged (saturated with water). When the soundboard/body of the guitar is warped, this affects how sounds bounce and can completely ruin the tone of the guitar. Once the wood is warped, there is no way to un-warp it. 

If water gets in the interior of the guitar, you need to act fast to clean it up and to allow the guitar to completely dry out. The interior of the guitar is not protected with lacquer, so it is much easier to cause damage to the internal structure of the guitar, which will also affect the sound the guitar creates. 

If water gets on your fretboard, it is imperative to clean it up as soon as possible. The fretboard is attached with a glue to the neck of the guitar – if the neck were to swell or warp, it could loosen or even detach the fretboard from the guitar which would not be an easy fix, if it was even possible to fix. 

If water gets on the strings of your guitar, this could cause them to rust and make playing painful or difficult. Rust can also change the tone of your guitar. 

Is Rain Bad For Acoustic Guitar? 

Rain and any other form of water are bad for acoustic guitars. Whenever possible, you should protect your guitar from any exposure to water. If you know you are going to be outdoors with your guitar, you should plan ahead by keeping the guitar in a waterproof case or covering. If it does rain on your guitar, you need to act fast to get the water cleaned up and put your guitar away to prevent any further damage. Prolonged exposure will cause lasting effects to your guitar. 

What To Do If Guitar Gets Wet? 

If an acoustic guitar gets wet, you need to act fast to clean up the water to prevent further damage to the guitar. The damage may not be visibly noticeable but can cause your guitar to become weakened in the parts that are glued together (like the fretboard or the bridge) and can cause the tone to change even if your guitar looks perfectly fine. 

Adrian Romano, a guitar enthusiast for over 15 years, recounts his personal experience with water damage to a guitar. The water loosened the glue that held the bridge of his guitar to the body and unfortunately came apart. When the bridge of the guitar comes off of the body, this is a structural change that even when someone could fix it for a hefty price, your guitar would not sound the same. The integrity of your guitar would be diminished. 

Conclusion – Is It Okay For An Acoustic Guitar To Get Wet?

Regardless of the material, your guitar is made of, whether a porous wood like cedar or a stronger wood like mahogany, you should take these steps to ensure the proper care is taken of your guitar. First, clean up any visible water on the exterior and interior of your guitar. Second, allow the guitar to dry out (you may need to aid in this process depending on the severity of the water exposure). Third, invest in a protective case if you haven’t already.

When cleaning up water, make sure you are of course using a clean towel or preferably a microfiber cloth to prevent damaging the finish. Once the water is cleaned up, you may need to use a de-humidifier to ensure that the guitar gets completely dry. The D’Addario Acoustic Guitar Humidifer can be used without even touching the body of the guitar. It is suspended by the strings into the soundhole to draw out any extra moisture.

It is not recommended to use high heat (like a blow dryer) for drying out the guitar as that can also cause warping to the wood. If your case also gets wet, make sure you dry it out before returning the guitar to safe-keeping. You can use a blow dryer on your case and even use silica gel packets to keep moisture levels lowered inside your guitar case.

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