Possible ruined finish due to bug spray


Silver Supporting Member
Hey folks. Read your labels. I tried a new kind of bug repellent (some sort of OFF branded product that is now in the garbage can). Later, I was doing some playing and at one point noticed the finish on my SG was sticky where I had been resting my arm. I believe something in the bug spray has softened the finish and now parts of it are like they are covered with an adhesive. I’ve tried Dawn, rubbing alcohol, and naphtha with little to no effect. I’m afraid to try anything else because I don’t want to damage the finish further.

Now that I look at the label, it does say to avoid using it around furniture finishes so I’m not going to have any recourse with the company.

Fortunately, there’s a great luthier/refinish shop near by (Lay’s Guitar). I’m taking it to them shortly. I’m hoping it can be buffed out, but I’m afraid a refinish is in order.

I wouldn’t have thought about bug spray being a problem but now I’m going to have to read the labels of anything that might remotely come into contact with my instruments and suggest you all do the same.

For reference, it’s a 2013 Standard. I assume it’s laquer, but I suppose it could be a poly finish.


Sorry to hear that. Let it sit until the finish re-hardens (the bug spray solvent flashes off) resting it only on the strap button and tip of the headstock.

Depending on how deep the damage went, your luthier may be able to wet sand and buff it to restore the finish. I assume the neck is affected also and you will need a complete overspray. If only the body was affected, your luthier can mask around the neck joint and respray only the affected area (top, sides and/or back). During the wet sanding and buffing process, the cut-in around the neck heel and blend to the sides or back can be made virtually undetectable.


No pics. I’ve already dropped it off. The finish had rehardened this morning, but it feels like sandpaper in the affected areas. I’m just having them strip it and start over. Now I’m going to have to go case shopping because I don’t trust that it isn’t contaminated inside. I thought about shampooing it, but I still wouldn’t be comfortable enough to trust it wouldn’t damage the new finish.


Supporting Member
I had this same experience with my Gibson ES339 Studio I had.
The deet in bug spray will mess up the nitro finish.
It made mine sticky/ orange feel like.

The finish will need to be repaired. Luckily, Nitro is easy to repair.
The way to repair it is to apply more clear as the new coat will combine with the previous coat and will essentially be a new finish.
It will need to be buffed out again, but I say take it to a professional.

I would guess it'll be $300-$500 to fix. That's a rough estimate and it depends on where you live, etc.

I am sure there are people that you could send it to to have it repaired as well.

Sorry this happened to you. I FREAKED out when it happened to me. I literally cried. Bad times.

Chris Scott

Bug spray and cheap vinyl guitar straps are the enemy of nitro finish instruments.

Don't be too bummed, as it's a mistake you make but once. :cool:


Supporting Member
Yeah. I just spoke with the shop. He said it’s a refinish for sure. The upside is that I can now ccjange the finish if I want. However, I’ll probably keep it as close to original as possible. It’s the Autumn Shade finish and I do like the way it looks quite a bit.

Lesson learned. As someone else has said, I just hope the message reaches others before they have the same problem.

I can tell you of a "fix" for it.

It is a strange thing, but works most of the time (not always).

It wont make it worse if it doesnt work, it will just be ineffective.

It is called "zip-kicker" and it is a spray that is normally used to harden super glue

If it works, it will turn the gooey portion back into functional finish. If not, no worse
off as it will just stay the same. Just costs .a few bucks

(whether it works or not depends on your exact finish makeup)



Gold Supporting Member
I’m sorry that happened but really folks....RTFM BEFORE you use stuff not afterward.


Based on a couple guitars I've bought heavy cologne use can burn into the finish and haze the finish. After years you can't get the smell out - it's worse than cigarettes.

For bugs - try a couple dabs of lavender oil, preferably where it won't come into contact with your guitar.


Gold Supporting Member
Bug spray has always been a big no no when it comes to guitars....sorry you weren't aware of it OP.

Hopefully this thread will reach others that are not aware of the issue.
It has (reached others) and I thank you for it!

I wonder of there's any corollary to spray-on sun screen?


OP, There's always a PSA every summer about this. A bunch of people on TGP have played outdoor gigs with their Gibsons or other nitro finished guitars only to destroy the nitro in the space wherever DEET mosquito repellent came into contact with the instrument. I never play an outdoor gig with anything finished in nitro ever.


Silver Supporting Member
I had sunscreen ruin the finish on my Martin D-28 years ago. I don’t remember the brand but it was a lotion, not a spray.

David Garner

Gold Supporting Member
At our 4th of July gig, everyone was putting on SPF50. I was boxing fools out from around my guitars like Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

Yeah, something like 30,000 cases of Lyme's Disease every year will certainly have you rethinking your stance on applying harsh chemicals.

I've not heard if more natural solutions like @SRQGuitar suggests have been found to be effective. I know people swore by Avon's Skin So Soft lotion a decade or two ago.
100% Deet sprayed on wristbands. One on wrist, one on ankle. Baggie them when done with a twist-tie.

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