It was time for a string change on my custom strat. I hadn't done much cleaning on the fretboard for like a year either, so I went ahead and did that, too. But instead of the usual lemon oil wiping, I wanted to try something. In one of his youtube videos, Scott Grove asserted how unnecessary it is to use oils when cleaning unfinished fretboards. A damp cloth would do. I wanted to test this.
After polishing the frets, I dampened some cotton balls and wiped. It did get gunk off the wood and the frets. But I expected that. My question was whether or not water can get all of it. So, I got my trusty bottle of oil out of the drawer and put just a little bit (much less than I ever did) on some cotton and buffed away. Even more dirt came off the board.
Cotton balls by cutaway -- with water on the left and lemon oil on the right
Water does not get it all off. Now, do you really need to? Not all the time, at least as far as I am concerned. But if I ever use water, I'd feel safer following it up a little bit of oil, anyway. I doubt it'll ever be much of a problem for Scott Grove, as he lives in Nevada and actually needs to use humidifiers for his guitars. But keep wood damp even for a short while in a warm humid area, like the entire Philippines, and you're bound to grow all sorts of fungus fairly quick.
At least this is something I only need to do once in a while. So, it's not much of a bother having to be more thorough.