Do Stainless Steel Frets Ever Wear Out?

When people worry about different parts of their guitars getting damaged, they rarely consider frets. Like every other part, frets can wear out, especially if made of a soft material. However, frets made of stainless steel seem quite resistant; can they wear out the same way?

Stainless steel frets can wear out much more slowly than any other fret material. It can take decades to notice any difference, even if you’re playing frequently. Factors like your playing style, moisture, and lack of maintenance can cause the stainless steel to wear out more quickly.

If you want to know more, stick around! I will explain how stainless steel frets can wear out and list all the factors that may damage them. Additionally, I will show you the pros and cons of these frets and list some extra tips for their maintenance

Can Stainless Steel Frets Wear Out?

Stainless steel is probably the best material you can pick for your guitar frets. It’s resistant, durable, and lasts for a very long time. The only issue is that it may cause the strings to wear out more quickly as they make contact with the frets.

That being said, no matter how resistant stainless steel is, it can still wear out with time because of certain factors. But, it will take a much longer time and prolonged use for stainless steel to wear out the same way other materials do in frets, but it will happen nevertheless.

So, like every other material, stainless steel frets may wear out eventually, but it may take decades before you notice it. This material is solid and durable, so you won’t need to deal with fret issues for long.

Factors That Affect the Lifespan of Stainless Steel Frets

While stainless steel frets are the most resistant ones you can find, they may still get damaged and wear out more quickly than you expect if they are exposed to certain factors. Here are the main aspects that affect the lifespan of stainless steel frets:

  • Frequency of use. As common sense dictates, the more you play your guitar, the quicker the frets will wear out. The frequency of use is one of the deciding factors of fret life, no matter the material. But, with stainless steel, this wearing-out time is much longer than the other materials.
  • Playing style. The playing style can also be one factor that makes the frets wear out more quickly. If your playing style is harsh on the frets, they may wear out after prolonged use.
  • String gauge. The bigger the string gauge, the more likely it is to damage the frets of your guitar, even the stainless steel ones. A heavier string gauge means a larger contact area between frets and strings, meaning more damage. Once again, it will take a long time before the damage is significant enough.
  • Physical impact. Dropping your guitar or accidentally hitting it with a hard object can also cause damage to your frets.
  • Extreme exposure to moisture. Stainless steel is considered relatively resistant to moisture, but it can still rust over time if continuously exposed to humidity. That is why maintenance and using products to prevent corrosion is important.
  • Exposure to acidic substances. Certain acidic substances can affect stainless steel and cause it to become visibly damaged. Your guitar may come into contact with such substances if you clean it with a powerful detergent. 
  • Lack of maintenance. Stainless steel is super resistant, but only if you know how to maintain it. If you don’t clean and polish the frets properly, they can wear out more quickly than expected.

Pros and Cons of Stainless Steel Frets

Stainless steel frets are not as widespread as others, such as silver-nickel frets, but they are still among the best choices you can make for your guitar. Here are some pros and cons that can give you more information on stainless steel frets:


  • Stainless steel frets are very durable. As mentioned above, they can wear out only after decades of continuous use or exposure to extreme conditions.
  • Stainless steel frets provide a unique tone to your guitar. The contact that the strings make with the frets has its distinctive tone, which can be brighter and bolder than other alternatives.
  • Stainless steel frets are pretty stable. These frets are less likely to expand or contract in extreme temperatures, unlike most other materials.
  • Stainless steel frets create a much smoother surface to play on. The steel makes the fretboard’s surface smoother, making it much easier and effortless for you to play the guitar. The bends and vibratos feel much smoother with stainless steel frets as the resistance between the frets and the strings is lower.


  • Stainless steel can cause the strings to wear out. As I mentioned, the steel in the frets can cause the strings to wear out more quickly than expected, causing you to replace them more often.
  • Stainless steel frets can be more expensive. Guitars with built-in stainless steel frets are more expensive; installing new ones to your existing guitar is also more costly than usual. 
  • Everyone does not prefer bright tones. Some guitarists don’t like the effect of stainless steel frets on the guitar’s tone.

How To Maintain Stainless Steel Frets

Stainless steel frets are very durable but can wear out more quickly if you don’t provide the necessary maintenance to your guitar. Here are some tips that can help you maintain your stainless steel frets:

  • Keep your guitar inside a case. Keep your instrument inside a protective case to protect your guitar from any potential hazardous factor that may cause the stainless steel frets to wear.
  • Clean the fretboard after every use. Use a clean and soft cloth to wipe the fretboard after every use to avoid grime and dust gathering on it.
  • Polish the stainless steel frets once in a while. Use a polishing cloth and preferably a fret cleaning solution to polish the frets occasionally to keep them in good shape.

Are Stainless Steel Frets Worth The Price?

My main electric guitar has stainless steel frets. So, yes, I do think stainless steel frets are worth the money.

Usually, guitars with stainless steel frets have significantly higher prices than other guitars. There are, of course, budget guitars and brands like Harley Benton, Cort, LTD, and others that can offer guitars with stainless steel frets at much lower prices than other brands.

If you have a guitar that you absolutely play all the time and your current frets are dead or have major dents in them and you need new frets, you may want to consider installing stainless steel frets. This can cost you around $400 or even more, depending on the guitar, the luthier, and your location. I would recommend you go with stainless steel frets, as their playability, longevity, and stability are well worth the price.  

Final Thoughts

Stainless steel frets are durable and resistant but can wear out under extreme conditions. Repeated exposure to moisture or acidic substances, frequent playing, and thicker strings may eventually cause stainless steel frets to wear out. However, the damage may take a long time to be visible.

Keep your guitar inside a case to protect it from harmful agents and ensure your frets don’t wear out. Moreover, you should clean the fretboard after every use and polish the frets occasionally to maintain the stainless steel.

If you found this article useful, you may want to save this pin below to your Guitar board.


I have been playing guitar since 2004. As long as I can remember I always had a huge passion for rock music and I extremely enjoy playing it. Helping people on their rock journey is what drives me to keep on playing. Read More About Me

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