Whether you’re planning to go on vacation, need to travel for work, or simply don’t have time to look after your guitars right now, you might be interested in storing your guitar at home (or at another location).
Obviously, you want to keep your instruments safe and in good working condition, regardless of whether you plan to play them later, sell them, or give them away.
But there are some things you should know if you want to keep your guitars in good working order for when you need them.
In this guide, we look at everything you need to know about storing your guitar.
4 Ways To Store Your Guitar(s) At Home
There are basically four (proper) ways of storing your guitar(s) at home.
We’ll be addressing some of the things you should avoid throughout, but the following four methods are all proven and workable.
Here are a few tried and true methods for keeping your guitars safe and in good working condition.
Storing Your Guitar In A Hardshell Case
The preferred way to store a guitar is in a hardshell case. Hardshell cases were built to last, can generally take a few bumps and nicks, and can protect your guitar from the elements as well as from physical damage.
Which doesn’t mean you can just toss around your guitars like they’re immortal. I recall dropping my Gibson acoustic on pavement while in its hardshell case only a few inches from the ground, and the headstock nearly came off! I suspect the guitar may have suffered previous damage, as the impact was minimal, but the point is, if you’re not careful, bad things can happen.
Generally, though, hardshell cases are excellent environments for guitars, especially if you remember to throw a humidifier in there and top it up periodically. Guitars are made of wood, and wood is sensitive to humidity levels (it shrinks and expands), so while you don’t want to over-humidify, it’s usually a good idea to keep your guitars on the moister side.
These days, there are flight ready hardshell cases that offer extra protection. I own one myself and can’t imagine taking my Ernie Ball Music Man Axis anywhere without it! You don’t necessarily need one of these for storage, but if you plan to take your guitar with you on tours or long trips, you might want one.
Hardshell cases work well for long-term storage as well, though you’ll want to follow some of the tips detailed in the next section as well (see “Short- & Long-Term Tips For Storing & Keeping Your Guitar In Ship Shape”).
Storing Your Guitar In A Gig Bag
While gig bags generally don’t offer as much protection as hardshell cases (there are some advanced gig bags with extra padding these days), they can still help protect your axe from dust, the elements, and physical damage.
Obviously, it’s always best to handle your instruments with care regardless of how much padding is around them. So, don’t expect your gig bag to hold up to bumps and knocks as well as a hardshell case would.
To that extent, it would also be wise to avoid placing anything heavy on a guitar in a gig bag. If possible, place nothing on top of a guitar in a gig bag, especially things like drums, PA speakers, or amplifiers.
Guitars in hard shell cases can be stacked, at least to an extent, but the same cannot be said for gig bags. Bad idea. User beware.
Overall, though, gig bags basically serve the same function as hardshell cases, are easier to carry to and from gigs, and still benefit from humidifiers, so gig bags are perfectly acceptable for short- and long-term storage, assuming the guitars are stored in a safe and secure environment to begin with.
Storing Your Guitar On A Guitar Stand
Guitar stands offer basic support and protection for your guitars. They are more than adequate for daily use, ongoing practice and rehearsals, gigs, and even short-term storage.
Guitar stands are also better options than merely setting your guitars against the wall or on a couch, which we generally don’t recommend. Necks can get scratched and scraped, headstocks can get damaged, strings can break, you can accidentally bump up against or fall on your guitar… there are many things that can go wrong when your guitars aren’t at least resting on their own stands.
So, at minimum, a guitar stand is recommended. And, if you don’t plan on storing your guitars in their cases, then it would be best to put them in a humidified and temperature-controlled room.
Note that stands aren’t all stable, nor do they offer a lot of protection for your instruments. They work well in spaces where you can keep your guitars tucked away, or where no one is likely to bump up against them. If a guitar falls over on a stand, it can still be damaged.
But in a space where the guitars are unlikely to be touched or moved, stands can work perfectly.
Storing Your Guitar On A Wall Mount
A wall mount basically serves the same function as a guitar stand and offers about the same amount of protection (sometimes less, because wall mounts can be placed higher up on a wall, and if the guitar were to fall… you know the rest).
Wall mounts are great for displaying your guitars as well as for daily usage. When the axes are hanging on your wall, they are easy to see and to access, and if you play and record a lot, that’s a benefit. Popular YouTuber Music Is Win / Tyler Larson utilizes wall mounts to great effect (to show off his enormous collection) in his videos.
Will a wall mount protect your guitars from earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters? Probably not. Then again, it could be quite difficult to protect your instruments from disasters regardless of storage method, even if you can give them a slightly better chance in a case.
Although guitar stores like Guitar Center typically use wall mounts to display their guitars, obviously there is still risk, given that people walk in and out of the store all day. And even if your bedroom, jam space, or studio isn’t as heavily trafficked, there are still some risks you assume when using wall mounts.
The main downside of a wall mount is that you generally need to do a little arts and crafts – measure, drill holes, make sure they’re level, ensure stability, etc. If you plan to fix up and sell the home, you’re living in, or otherwise plan to move out at some point, this will only add to your moving to-do list.
Either way, as with storing your guitars on stands, if you’re going to put them up on wall mounts, you’ll want to ensure the room is temperature-controlled and humidified (more notes on this to follow).
7 Short- & Long-Term Tips For Storing & Keeping Your Guitar In Ship Shape
Here are some additional tips that will serve you well in ensuring the safety of your guitars.
Store Your Guitar Properly
And by that, I mean:
- Don’t set your guitar against the wall or leave it sitting on a chair, couch, etc. short-term or long-term
- Don’t throw all your guitars in an unfinished basement or garage and leave them there long-term (even if they are in humidified cases)
- Don’t keep your guitars in rooms that aren’t temperature and humidity controlled (long-term, short-term is okay, especially if you’re keeping an eye on your collection and maintaining it)
- Don’t leave your guitars outside unattended, especially in direct sunlight or in damper conditions (rain or snow) – for shorter periods of time is okay
- Don’t leave your guitars in your car (to avoid theft and damage)
- When bringing your guitars inside from winter conditions, take them inside and let them sit in their case for a while before you open it (you risk cracking in the body if you jump the gun)
- And so on – there might be other (silly) possibilities we haven’t accounted for here!
Some of this might seem obvious, but worse mistakes have been made…
Generally, do the best you can. You may not always have the luxury of temperature- and humidity-controlled environments.
Many times, I didn’t. I just made sure to check up on my axes periodically, and take them in for regular setups, maintenance, and repairs (to a skilled guitar tech) as needed. I admit that I’m not the best at upkeep!
Clean Your Guitar
Cleaning your guitar before storage is always a good idea, since grime and oils can accumulate with regular usage (even if you’re diligent in cleaning your hands before playing). Corrosion isn’t that big of a deal as applied to strings (you can always replace them), but you don’t want your hardware corroding, do you? Didn’t think so. So, you might want to swap out the strings too.
We don’t recommend the use of Windex and glass cleaners for cleaning your guitar, or for that matter, paper towel and any cloths with “teeth.” To add emphasis, this is the “avoid” list.
There are guitar cleaning formulas offered by the likes of Jim Dunlop, MusicNomad, and Planet Waves. These all work quite well. This is what I use for my guitars too.
Likewise, soft cloths work perfectly for wiping down your guitar. They shouldn’t scratch or leave a mark.
Now I’m giving away some of the other “secrets” I picked up from hanging out with a guitar tech after hours at a guitar shop in my early 20s (although, to be fair, this information is out there):
Guitar necks generally take well to lemon oils, and again, brands like Jim Dunlop offer lemon oil products for guitar.
For metal parts, 3-IN-ONE oil and WD-40 works quite well. Just make sure to wipe off excess and keep it off your guitar’s finish. Overall, 3-IN-ONE is easier to use (because WD-40 is a spray), but if all you have is WD-40, no problem.
These oils are especially great, even necessary for Floyd Rose (double-locking bridge) setups. Apply oil to all the screws (and anything with threads), and your setup will work much tighter.
I find my Floyd Rose guitars are quite sensitive to weather, and they let me know by going out of tune. If this problem persists, I give the hardware the oil treatment, and they seem to work perfectly again, keeping their tune and operating smoothly.
Change Guitar Strings (As Needed)
We’ve talked about string wear and tear in the past, and the more you play your guitar, the more your strings will corrode.
There isn’t any immediate danger to this, but as noted earlier, long-term, it could end up impacting your hardware (frets, bridge, tuning pegs, etc.) and that isn’t much fun.
Also, if you want to be able to play your guitars and have them ready to go out of the case, you should put a fresh set of strings on them periodically.
Even then, you will still need to tune your guitar, and depending on how long it’s been sitting, put a fresh set of strings on it anyway.
A fresh set of strings also feels and sounds quite nice, unless your name is Eddie Van Halen.
Humidify & Control Temperatures
Okay, so we’ve talked about temperature and humidification.
To be fair, though, there is such a thing as a safe range. You can oversaturate your guitars with moisture, and you can also put them in environments that are too cold or too hot.
Since the wrong environment can lead to permanent damage – like neck warping, finish damage, changes in action (or high action), cracking, fret sprout, fret buzz, and so on – you would do well to keep this in mind.
So, what’s best practice?
A humidity level of about 45 to 55% is suitable for guitars. Avoid too much and too little. Extremes generally aren’t good.
Fortunately, humidifiers and hygrometer (for measuring humidity levels), whether central or component, are relatively affordable.
As noted earlier, beware of taking your guitar from a cold space to a warm space, a humidified space to a non-humidified space, vice versa, or any combination thereof, especially in a short amount of time. This is a recipe for unwanted cracking and body damage (which can sometimes be repaired, but sometimes not).
The best plan when moving your guitar from one place to another is to let it sit in its case for a while, to let it get accustomed to its new environment before taking it out of its case. If you’re taking your guitar inside form the cold weather, for instance, you will know when it has had a chance to warm up, because the case won’t be cold anymore.
As for temperature, somewhere in the 18 to 24 C or 65 to 75 F range is recommended. Most homes are in this range most of the year, especially in temperate climates, so you shouldn’t run into too much trouble.
The most challenging is climates that are hotter (tropical), or colder (the great white north), for obvious reasons. That said, there are still factors that can play in your favor, even in these climates, such as humidity. Either way, for long-term storage, it’s best to set up an optimal environment.
Loosen The Strings
If you’re planning to put your guitar(s) in long-term storage, we recommend loosening the strings beforehand. The same principle applies when taking your guitar on a flight or when shipping a guitar.
Long-term, the neck on your guitar can start to warp, especially when it’s under so much tension (created by the strings). So, if you have no intention of taking your guitar out for months or years on end, remember to loosen the strings before setting it in its case.
Play The Guitar
Even if you’re a collector, and even if you own guitars that are worth $10,000 and up, it’s important to recognize that, at the end of the day, most if not all instruments were designed to be played!
Now, if you intend to keep certain guitars in a glass case or in their original packaging (seems pointless, but just in case), then disregard what I just said. Otherwise, you should bust out your axes to give them a workout occasionally.
Strings can corrode. Frets can wear down. Even necks can begin to warp over time, due to temperature and humidity changes, as well as string tension. If you want to keep your guitars in the best shape possible, you should take them out, look them over, do maintenance yourself (if you’re able), or take your instruments to a qualified tech for maintenance and repairs.
Guitar setups, maintenance, and repairs can cost a bit of money, but it’s generally worthwhile.
Keep Your Guitars Locked Up
While it might fall under the category of “obvious,” as we’ve already hinted at, commonsense isn’t all that common.
Whether you’re planning to store your guitars at home while on vacation, or keep them in another environment long-term, we’d suggest:
- Keeping your axes in a room where they aren’t immediately visible (e.g., if someone were to peek inside your home from a window)
- Putting them in a locked room (if possible)
- Storing them in a studio (home, project, or otherwise) that has proper security
- Storing them inside locked compartments
This mostly applies to long-term storage and isn’t as big of a concern if you’re keeping your guitars at home, where someone is keeping an eye on them, or you return most days.
But the whole point of storing your instruments is so that you can enjoy them later. You don’t want them stolen or damaged while you’re away. So, put proper security measures in place. You won’t regret it.
Can I Store My Guitars Elsewhere?
But for obvious reasons, garages, basements, storage lockers, and any place that’s prone to cooling or susceptible to the elements is less desirable.
So, here are some ideas for storing your guitars away from home:
- At a friend’s place. If they have a permanent residence, and have space to keep your guitar, this can work out quite nicely.
- At a studio. Depending on the studio, they should be able to look after your guitar, maybe in exchange for letting them use it as needed. Look into home and project studios too.
- Other. These might be less likely, but still worth exploring in a crunch – guitar stores, schools, offices, music venues, and so on.
How To Store A Guitar, Final Thoughts
For the most part, storing a guitar is simple. Clean the guitar. Put it in its case. Loosen the strings. Add a humidifier (or use a room humidifier). Ensure the guitar is in a temperature-controlled room. And you’ll be off to the races.
Of course, other storage methods covered above can still work. It’s just that there might be some added precautions to take.
Although it might seem like a lot of work, the effort you put into it will be worth the trouble.
Have fun and keep those precious axes of yours safe!
Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!