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Cleaning Brass Instruments

Some instruments, such as trumpets, can easily be cleaned at home. Others, such as French horns, rotor tubas and rotor trombones (all of which can be extremely expensive), require expert cleaning in only the hands of a professional. We therefore recommend that you raise the issue with the vendor when you purchase your particular instrument. It is always better to be safe than be sorry!

Assuming your instrument is suitable for home cleaning, the procedure isn’t nearly so daunting as it may first appear.

You will need: Brass instrument cleaning brushes Valve oil Slide grease Washing up liquid

The ideal location for cleaning your instrument is the bath, unless you have a particularly large sink. It is a good idea to lay the parts out for drying on a towel, ideally off the floor and out of harm’s way.

Firstly, remove all slides, valves and valve bottom caps. Do so very carefully, exercising extreme caution in the case of trombone slides because, as discussed, these are particularly delicate and susceptible to damage. If any slides are stuck, do not try to force them. Take them to your local repair shop and have them removed. Again, better safe than sorry!

Setting the valves to one side, place all of the other parts in tepid water containing a squirt or two of washing up liquid. Leave the parts to soak for approximately ten minutes, whilst you attend to the valves.

Run tepid water over the valves and brush out all valve openings with the valve brush. Shake off the excess water and place the valves to one side to dry.

Using a snake brush, brush out all the tubes. Brush out the valve casings with the valve brush. Ensure that any dirt and debris is cleaned from the inside of the valve bottom caps.

Rinse out the instrument in tepid clean water. Carefully wipe off the instrument and set it aside to dry completely. It is imperative that the interior of your instrument is bone dry before you proceed any further.

Apply a little slide grease to the slides and reassemble. In the case of a trombone, never put slide grease on the main slide – slide oil or cream must be used here.

Replace the valve bottom caps. Add a drop of valve oil to each valve and put them in their proper place. All valves are numbered for easy reassembly. It is important that valves are replaced in their correct position, otherwise the instrument will not play properly. Give the outside of the instrument a wipeover to remove fingermarks, and that’s it! Mission accomplished! Your brass musical instrument is gleaming like a new penny and you’re ready to play with the best of them!


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