You Are At: AllSands Home > Music > Instruments > How to clean your trumpet
No matter how experienced a trumpet player you are, learning to clean and care for your instrument is a necessity. Since your trumpet is constantly subjected to air and debris from your mouth, over time a build up occurs inside the horn. Regular cleaning will not only keep your instrument free of such debris, but will also increase the life of your horn.

Sweat from your hands commonly causes "red rot" where your horn is held. Red rot not only stains your horn, but over time, begins to eat through the finish. Red rot often appears on the outer valve casings as discolored spots. Wiping your horn's outer piston area after playing is always a good idea. This will remove much of the oil from your instrument. Many professionals choose to play with a specially fitted covering, which wraps around the pistons to prevent such damage.

1. Begin disassembling your horn by removing (all tuning and spit) valves, and wiping them clean of lubricating oils with a paper towel. (If tuning slides are stuck, add a few drops of penetrating oil and allow them to sit for 30 minutes before retrying.) If you use slide grease as a lubricant, you may find it difficult to remove. Never scrub. Use gentle force to pull the paper towel along the slide. If this still does not remove lubricants, use a small amount of mineral spirits, followed by a thorough rinsing. When finished, set aside.

2. Remove pistons gently. This is a very delicate part of your instrument, so never use force. Remove the pistons by unscrewing the hubs on the outercasing. You can place valves and pistons into a plastic cup filled with lukewarm, soapy water. Make sure the felt at the top of the valve does not go into the water. Allow valves and pistons to soak while you continue. Gently unscrew the hubs at the base of the three piston valves and allow them to soak in soapy water, as well.

3. There are two methods you can use to clean the interior portions of your horn. Many people prefer to use a "snake," a long, springy wire with two bristled ends which is pushed through the trumpet. This is an effective method, but can cause interior scratching. Others choose to clean with mild, soapy water. If you use a snake, push the snake from the mouthpiece end of the horn gently. Never force. Rinse off debris in between snakings with water. If you use water, you can place your disassembled horn (minus the valves) on a towel on the floor of the bathtub. Allow horn to fill with water and then flip, making sure that water has reached every area of your horn. Allow them to soak for 30-minutes -overnight, to loosen dirt and debris.

4. Use a soft valve casing brush to gently brush out the valve casings, one by one. This is an extremely delicate part of your horn, so be careful. Debris can also be loosened with lukewarm water.

5. Once your horn has finished soaking, remove it from soapy water and begin to flush it out with a steady stream of water.

6. Carefully rinse all parts individually and dry.

7. Replace your valves first, lubricating them with several drops of oil as you go. Remember, in order for lubricating oils to work, they must be applied to dry metal. Make sure your trumpet is completely dry before reassembling.

8. Replace pistons, also using several drops of oil before rescrewing hubs into place.

9. Use a mouthpiece brush to scrub the inside of the mouthpiece. If you don't own a special brush, your mouthpiece can be soaked overnight in mildly soapy water. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

10. You can clean and shine the outside of your trumpet by using a polishing cloth or buffing cloth.

Never use abrasive cleansing pads on the exterior or interior of your instrument.

Do not clean your trumpet with harsh, chemical soaps. A light duty dish soap does wonders.

If air does not pass freely through your horn after cleaning, you may have placed the piston in the wrong casement. Open the first piston and look for a small number printed on the spring of the casing. Valve number one should always be closest to the mouthpiece.

Your trumpet should be thoroughly cleansed once every six months. Valves and pistons can be removed and cleaned alone, if need be.

You can run a snake through your trumpet once a week to remove debris.

Read your manufacturer guidelines as to which soaps, oils and polishes work best for your specific model of trumpet. What's good for one isn't necessarily good for another.