If you’re wondering, “Can I reuse my guitar strings” – you’re not alone.
In this article, we’ve put together everything you need to know about playing with used strings – what are the pros and cons of doing it, how long can the strings last, how to make them stronger, and what to do with your old strings if you don’t want to reuse them.
What would make you reuse guitar strings?
If you have no intention of reusing strings, you might be curious why anyone would. Here are some good reasons for this:
- You broke a string before a gig and didn’t have time to buy new ones.
- You want to move the strings from one guitar to another because they sound better.
- You’ve broken just one string and don’t want to buy a whole new set of guitar strings.
- You play a lot, so you often buy new strings, and this affects your wallet.
Why is reusing strings not a good idea?
Old strings may sound dull
Even if they look good at first glance, old guitar strings cannot sound like new. They will produce a dull, lifeless tone that may sound completely different from other strings.
Older strings break quickly
The used strings are already worn out; therefore, it is uncertain how long they will last before breaking. If you decide to use them, we advise you to have a plan B – just in case.
New strings are not that expensive
Of course, things are very individual here. We just have to note that new guitar strings are always worth the investment and good to have on hand. Reusing strings should be more of a temporary solution until you find an opportunity to get new ones.
Individual strings are now available for purchase
If, until recently, you had to buy a whole package to change one guitar string, there are now options for buying individual strings.
When is reusing strings a good idea?
You can use second-hand strings as a backup option
When you urgently need to change a string and don’t have new ones at hand or if you break a string during a concert, you can finish it using an old one. Many musicians prefer this option instead of immediately putting on new strings because the new ones will need more time to tune.
If you use coated strings
These strings are coated with a thin layer of polymer that protects them from corrosion and dirt. This makes them more durable and suitable for reuse.
If you don’t play guitar professionally
If you only play the guitar occasionally, you won’t need to change strings as often. And if you decide to reuse them, they won’t be so wasted.
How to make strings reusable?
When it comes to reusing strings, there’s a practice that many musicians are familiar with – boiling strings. Some say it works wonders, while others remain skeptical and think it’s a waste of time.
To be fully informed and decide whether to try this method, we have described in detail what you need to do.
Step-by-step guide on how to boil your string:
- Fill a pot with water. It is recommended that it is distilled, but tap water will also work for you. Place the full pot on the stove.
- When the water boils, use kitchen tongs to place the coiled strings in the pot and cook for 3 to 5 minutes maximum.
- When the time is up, remove the strings with the kitchen tongs and place them on a cloth towel. Wipe them gently.
- Preheat the oven to the lowest setting. Place the strings in it and let them dry for about 15 minutes.
- Remove them with the tongs and let them cool.
And that’s it!
Do we recommend this method?
Well, with proper string maintenance, you can save yourself all that. However, if you currently do not have the opportunity to get new strings or you want to be environmentally conscious – try it and decide for yourself if it is your thing.
Take care of your strings to make them last longer
So that you don’t have to buy new strings often or use old ones, it’s best to take care of the ones you already have.
Keep your guitar properly
The humidity and temperature in the room have an effect on the strings and can cause premature corrosion.
Clean your strings
After every play, you should wipe the strings with a soft cloth because oils, dead skin, and dirt remain from the fingers.
Wash your hands before playing
As mentioned above, strings collect dirt from your fingers, which builds up and shortens their life.
Use string products
You can buy some products that are made to protect the strings and make them more durable.
Recycle your strings – D’Addario’s string recycling program
American guitar brand D’Addario in collaboration with an international upcycling and recycling company TerraCycle has created a string recycling program. It started in 2016 and aimed to reduce the amount of waste in the US, which is 1.5 million pounds per year.
The campaign is currently taking place only in the US. Still, if you’d like to participate, you can collect strings and send them directly to D’Addario.
You can see more details about the campaign at: https://www.daddario.com/playback/recycle/
How to participate in the campaign
The program accepts all types of strings, and for every .25lb, you get 100 Players Circle points, which translates to $1 towards The D’Addario.
To participate, you must collect at least 2 lbs which are around 40 sets of strings. This is the minimum amount to reduce the carbon footprint required to ship strings.
Send the strings to recycling centers
Once you have collected the required amount, you can send it to the recycling centers. You can do it for free by signing up at the Players Circle.
Get your points
A few weeks after you send the strings, you will receive the points in your account at Players Circle. You can use these points for gear or merch.
That’s all you need to know about reusing strings.
Whether you find a new use for your old strings or donate them for recycling – it’s cool to do your part to protect the environment.
How long do guitar strings last if not played?
According to the manufacturers, the strings have no expiration date if stored unopened.
However, if they are already placed on the guitar, remember that the strings oxidize over time, and even if you don’t touch them, they will still wear out.
How do I know if my guitar strings are bad?
There are a few ways to understand that it’s time to change your strings:
- The tone is dull.
- You feel dirt on your fingers as you play.
- The strings are stained or discolored.
- They’re hard to tune.
- They’ve lost elasticity and feel stiff.
Is it OK to mix and match guitar strings?
In general, there is no problem mixing different brands of strings. But if you are mixing old and new strings, it will certainly affect the tone.
What can be done with old guitar strings?
As mentioned above in the article, it is best to give your old strings for recycling. You can also donate them if they are well-preserved.
You can also use old strings in Arts and Crafts if this is your hobby.
It is also very popular to make jewelry from strings, especially bracelets.
Gary has been in love with music since he was a child. His passion is guitars and everything related to them. He is the founder of
Riff-Mag and can’t wait to share his knowledge with you.