How to Lubricate a Guitar Nut?

The guitar nut sits between the fretboard and the headstock and acts as a bridge for the strings to pass between tuning pegs and bridge.

Just like every other part of your guitar, it’s important to maintain. This is done by lubricating it.

There are a couple of methods for lubricating your guitar’s nut, the main recommendation being to use graphite. Graphite is a “dry” lubricant and is commonly used to decrease the friction on the nut that happens when strings move through the grooves.

So before we can ask how to lubricate the nut, there are a few other things you need to know first.

For one, you can’t just use any kind of lubricant and you most definitely don’t want materials spilling onto other parts of your guitar. So let’s take a look at what’s needed first.

What kind of lubricant should you use on guitar nuts?

Now, I’ve mentioned graphite, but there are a number of specialized nut lubricants on the market, most of them pretty affordable all around.

To list a few:

  • MusicNomad TUNE-IT Lubricant
  • Big Bends Nuts Sauce
  • Squirt Dry Lubricant
  • Cooler Master HTK-002

These are all viable options and they all do the same job. If you’re heavily bending your strings and using your whammy bar a lot, you might run through a tube very quickly, which is why a lot of guitarists recommend using graphite instead.

How to apply lubricant to a guitar nut?

With graphite,  it’s as simple as taking a pencil and rubbing the point into the grooves on the nut. You’ll know you’ve gotten enough on when you notice a slightly shiny, silver film of lead formed on the groove of the nut.

Pencils aside, the store-bought lubricants can be a little trickier to use. Firstly, you’ll need to remove your strings or you can lubricate the nut during a string change as well.

You’ll then want to make sure you don’t mess up and spill any lubricant on your fretboard or headstock. 

Low tack tape works great for this- you simply tape over the first fret and around the headstock, isolating the nut so that any messes will land on the tape.

After you’ve removed the strings and put tape around the nut, you’ll need to get the lubricant into the grooves. Some lubricants come with a needle-sized nozzle to help with the application process, but some are less intuitive.

In the second case, you can use a small syringe or if you don’t have that, a straw works just as well.

You’ll need to cut one end of the straw into a sharp tip, almost like a paintbrush and from then you’ll lift small bits of lubricant and work them into the grooves. And wallah, repeat that five times and you’ve lubricated your guitar nut.

Why should you lubricate your nut?

One word, Friction.

The nut is a point through which your strings pass and when you’re tuning them or bending them or even pressing them, there’s a bit of movement at the nut where your strings are passing through.

If your nut becomes too “dried out”, it increases the wear and tear on your strings and will shorten their lifespan. The increased friction can also lead to tuning issues.

If you’re particularly drawn to bending and whammy bar use, then you’ll need to lubricate your nut frequently to prevent sudden snaps or having to return your strings every time you play. But just how frequently?

How often should you lubricate your nut?

It depends on the guitar, but most guitar players recommend doing it every string change. 

Some nuts are self-lubricating, like bone nuts, but they’re considered somewhat unethical because of what’s needed to produce them. Either way, nuts wear down over time too and lubricant helps slow down the wear.

There are synthetic nuts like TUSQ, which is a plastic that mimics bone’s self-lubricating properties. In these cases, you don’t actually need to lubricate your nut, or at least very rarely.

What happens if you have never lubricated your nut?

You mainly run the risk of string snaps or your guitar detuning during a gig. It’s not going to break your guitar to leave the nut unlubricated, but it’s a lot like trying to drive a car with flat tires. It’ll work, but you’re going to do a lot more replacing.

Mainly your strings will need more replacing and you might that if you’re lubricating the nut for the first time, your next set of strings may last way longer before snapping. 

I noticed a particular change in the longevity of my G-string after giving the groove some lubrication.

At the end of the day, lubricating your guitar nut is such an easy task and it makes such a great difference when done regularly. I don’t see any point in not doing it when you do your string change.