Do Unused Guitar Strings Go Bad?


Apart from how much fine-tone guitars produce, a guitar gives a fine rock star look to any artist. Little wonder why most kids want to learn to play the guitar than a piano.

Many artists and guitarists have many questions about guitars. Most of these questions are about the guitar strings and how long they last. Well, why not. It is the main thing responsible for most of the tones produced by the guitar. And if you are new to using the instrument, you are probably wondering how long it would last or long you have to wait to change the strings. Whether you like it or not, change is very constant with guitar strings.

Do unused guitars go bad? Well actually, according to a general rule of thumb, guitar strings can last like forever. And that’s because they don’t have the features that cause them to break. However, they are most likely to oxidize and lose their tunability over time especially within 2 to 6 months depending on the type of materials the strings are made of. But kept under the right conditions, it can last for at least 2 years. 

used guitar strings

When unused or still left boxed in their package, guitar strings can last for as long as forever. But this depends on the environment in which it is stored. In every package, it is written that the product should be stored in a cool, dry place. So, if your guitar is kept in a cool, dry environment away from direct sunlight, then you can trust that your guitar strings can last for as long as many years.

Do They Go Bad When Played?

If you are a guitarist, you already know how flexible guitar strings are. This flexibility allows you to strike the strings thereby producing a tune. When played for a long period, let’s say a year or even a couple of months, the strings will wear out.

While some of them will get hard, the others will get too stretched out and lose shape. They corrode and lose the ability to create nice tones. Instead of sharp tunes, they release dull sounds.

So yes, guitar strings do go bad when played. And it could be caused by several factors that are quite inevitable. So, do not blame yourself when your guitar strings go bad.

  • Sweats and oil from your hands
  • A buildup of skin particles from the palm
  • Grime and dirt possibly from the hands or the environment it is kept in

I’m talking about long years of use before the effects of the mentioned factors eventually happen. But then again if after use, you keep your guitar where water can touch them and the sun can get to them, it will go bad, maybe sooner.

Guitar Playing

So, whether they are played or unused, one common factor that could cause the guitar strings to go bad is the environment it is kept in and the elements it is exposed to.

How Long Do Guitar Strings Last?

Guitars do not have expiry dates written on them. This is because manufacturers know that if kept right, it can last for several years. That is why instead, they write “store in a cool dry place” on the package.

However, the longevity and life span of guitar strings depend on the material it is made of. Some are made of nylon and the others are made of metal.

Nylon strings

As the name implies, they are made of nylon and little plastic. These materials are very likely to react to changes in temperature. When exposed to very high temperatures, they could get stiff and reduce in quality quickly.

These types of strings when unboxed removed from their package and kept in good condition, they could last for 6 months. Once they are out of the package, they get exposed to changes in temperature and other factors. But if they are stored back or kept back in their package after use, they can last for a longer period.

Metal strings

They last longer than nylon strings. They also have factors that could cause them to go bad like nylon strings. But unlike nylon strings, they are more resistant to temperature change. It takes good quality metal for a metal guitar string to last for as long as 6 months. Poor quality ones when managed well can last for about 3 months.

Talking about factors that can affect the longevity of a metal string, the worst thing that can happen to it is getting exposed to humidity and moisture. When it comes in contact with any of those elements, it begins to corrode and rust.

Fortunately, most manufacturers of guitars with metal strings use some kind of protection on them. This protection is called coating. The coating prevents oil, liquid spills, and sweat from getting into the metal. Apart from this coating and good storage, metal stings can last longer when cleaned regularly.

How To Know When They Go Bad

Several things happen to guitar strings when they go bad. They, however, happen slowly and are most times very hard to notice. So you need to pay attention to know when it’s beginning to change.

  • Feel the guitar strings. If the guitar strings feel rough to your touch, then it is likely that the strings are corroding and will get rust if nothing is done fast.
  • They sound dull and quite out of tune.
  • It gets harder than normal to tune.
  • It seems like it will snap
  • Discolouration is possibly caused by specks of dirt and sweat from your hands or the environment.
guitar strings

How To Store Them To Keep Them From Going Bad Easily

Nobody wants to waste money on buying the same product within short periods of the first purchase. Artists get attached to their musical instruments, especially guitarists. That is why care for objects cannot be overemphasized.

To enjoy a long period of use and a nice experience with your guitar, it needs to be stored in a cool dry place. A place far away from direct sunlight. It should also be cleaned properly and in the right way after every use.


So, your newly purchased guitar just landed in your apartment and you are not yet ready to unbox and start using it. It is all good but are you storing it in the right place? If you’ve read through this article attentively, even if it was with the least attention, you’d find that where you store your instrument is important. Whether it is still packaged or not plays a huge role in how long it will last.

Sourav Biswas

Music is my life and I love to play guitar so much. It's been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a musical family, and my parents were always supportive of my passion for music. I am also a freelance writer who has been writing for over 10 years. I have written for both online and offline publications, including Amazon and Medium.

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