How to Clean Brass Instruments - dummies

By Gill Chilton

Brass musical instruments need regular cleaning to continue to deliver good sound. Regularly polish the outside with a dry, lint-free cloth. Some players get more shine using a specialist cleaner, such as Brasso, now and again. Be sure to wipe off excess and keep the polish away from valves.

To get the insides clean, flush out the insides with warm (never hot) soapy water, rinse with cold water and then thoroughly dry with a soft cloth. If you’re a casual player, doing this in the bathtub a couple of times a year is fine. Ask a music teacher or professional for advice on a more thorough cleaning programme.

With a horn, you have to remove felts, caps, and finger buttons from each valve. Lay every part on a towel beside the bath and use a brass snake – a tube for cleaning that you can obtain from music shops – covered with a soft old T-shirt to help push dirt from the tubes.

Go gently. You don’t want to shift slide grease that’s meant to be in the tubes out onto the valve openings.

Afterwards, dry as quickly as possible with a second, dry T-shirt. Finally, grease moving parts and add valve oil as you put the instrument back together.

If your brass is old and a bit battered, don’t polish it. Bringing up a shine brings clearly into view dents and irregularities.

Clean your teeth before you play. It sounds a bit grim, but clearly any food particles left in your mouth are liable to be blown into your horn! So cleaning teeth dramatically cuts the number of times you need to clean your horn.