How To Fix Sticky Neck Syndrome on Guitars

After this summer’s heat wave, I’m sure many guitarists have dealt with Sticky Neck Syndrome. Humidity, sweat and dirt can make the back of your neck feel like it’s covered with oatmeal…not a great finish.

From my experience, urethane necks suffer less stickiness than nitro necks, but customers sometimes feel it lacks the richness and softness of lacquer. Or, you can avoid the stickiness of a high-gloss neck by using a flat finish, but the neck can come off looking cheap and unfinished.

With a few secret ingredients, I mix up a pre-catalyzed finish that has the look of a semi-gloss lacquer but with the smoothness and durability of urethane. It holds up very well to the rigors of heat, and I’ve been using it for about five years.

Sticky Guitar Neck Tip

Fix Sticky Neck on Guitars with Naptha

If you are not happy with the finish on your neck, try these steps that have worked for me to cure Sticky Neck Syndrome.

  1. First, clean the back of your neck with Naphtha to get rid of wax, grease and sludge. Use a couple drops on a paper towel and scrub it clean, and wipe dry. It may take several applications, but you don’t want to soak it.
  2. Now use a gray Scotch Brite pad (different colors are different grits) and gently de-gloss the back of the neck until it feels smooth and slippery. You can easily buff it back to a gloss if needed.
  3. Then, use a bit of talcum powder on a rag, and apply to the back of the neck.
  4. Wipe off the excess with a clean rag.

Fix Sticky Neck on Guitars with Scotch Brite

Gig Tips

On those steamy gigs when you’re sweating from the minute you load in, and it feels like you’re playing in a sauna, use these tips I’ve learned while doing sound on the road.

  • After you’ve loaded in, wash your hands before you touch your guitar.
  • Keep a dry rag nearby, and wipe your neck every time it starts to build up moisture.
  • Bring some talc, and put a little on your fretting hand whenever it starts to sweat.
  • Pray your next gig is inside with air conditioning.

How do you fix a sticky neck?




  1. Steve Walstrom says:

    Great tech tip, Bill! Also, I knew you made your own neck finish, but I didn’t know it was designed to combat this problem up front in addition to looking and feeling great. Do you know if any other builders, large or small, are trying to do something similar with their neck finishes?

  2. bill crook says:

    Hi Steve, It took along time to come up with this finish. Not having that “sticky” feeling was one of the primary goals.

    As far as other builders, I have no idea what they do? I’m sure everybody has there own “formula”