It is a great idea to clean your instrument regularly as part of your maintenance routine. Often instruments can gather dirt, oils or moisture that gets built up on the surface. As we apply protective oil or wax, we then continually trap these particles under each layer, potentially exposing the surface to an increased risk of rust or damage.
By performing this cleaning we can bring the surface back to its bare state and then apply a fresh coat of protective oil or wax. This will not only help with the longevity of your instrument but also with the sustain and resonance, as you will ensure there is the thinnest layer of oil/wax coating the surface.
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Prepare the instrument by removing any rubber or fabric trims to expose the rim. Place the instrument on a flat, stable surface with a cloth underneath to protect the metal. It may be useful to have a doughnut shaped pillow to place the instrument face down on the ding when cleaning the bottom.
Using Isopropyl Alcohol (IA) apply this to the outer surface and wipe with a rag or paper towel to remove any dirt or oils. Depending how dirty your instrument is, you may need a second rag to remove the oil from the surface if you find it is quite smudgy, Warm soapy water can be a substitute but is less effective.
Ensure you clean both sides, the rim and inside the port ONLY up to a fingers length inside port (essentially where you would grip the instrument). Do this until the rag or towel no longer appears discoloured after wiping.
DO NOT clean the inside surface UNLESS you have oiled this or touched this inner surface in the past. This is best to be left alone.
If your instrument has any rust spots on it, please read below for delicate instructions on how to remove this.
Once all surfaces are stripped clean, ensure you do not touch any bare surface with your hands to ensure you don't apply any new finger oils to the instrument. Now you can apply your protective oil or wax such as Phoenix Oil or Pure Sound Wax.
Rust Removal Instructions
Sometimes despite all our efforts, rust can develop on the surface of our beloved instruments. It happens to the best of us. Don't worry, this wont dramatically affect the sound of the instrument unless it has been rusting for a long time. Most often, the worst case scenario is an aesthetic blemish or discolouration on the surface after we perform the following techniques to clean it.
Suffice to say, if your instrument is rusting, then you need to be cleaning and applying protective oil or wax more often. You need to also consider your storage location and method. It is best to store the instrument outside the case and on a safe surface like a high shelf or wall mount in a relatively dry room. It is important to remove rust AS SOON AS POSSIBLE as it is contagious and will spread throughout your instrument if left.
To remove rust you will need the following items in addition to the cleaning items:
Flat Blade (optional in EXTREME cases)
Ensure you are EXTREMELY cautious using any of the above three items as they can easily damage the surface of your instrument beyond repair. Best to test this on an inconspicuous spot on the underside AND consult the manufacturer of your instrument first.
For light rust that is caught at early stages, the Miracle cloth can be quite effective at removing the rust. You can use the cloth as it is and gently apply it to the rusty surface in circular motions to loosen the rust.
For slightly more stubborn rust, using the Scourer might be more effective. As above, you can gently run over the rusty area in a circular motion with some isopropyl alcohol to loosen the rust.
Once the rust is loosened with either of the above, and the surface is smooth, you can use a clean rag/towel with some alcohol to remove the excess rust. Clean it in this way until your rag no longer comes up dirty after wiping.
If the rust is quite developed you may need to use a flat blade VERY gently to pick off the bumpy areas to get it down to a smooth surface again. Be careful not to scratch your instrument, if in doubt, don't perform this and seek professional assistance or guidance.
Note that any of the above methods will likely degrade the outer finish of your instrument. For Nitrided instruments, this may remove the oxidised layer. This is a compromise that is best accepted as it is necessary to remove the rust before it spreads. Note that if the oxidised layer has been removed and the raw metal is exposed (a silver colour), then it will be more prone to rust in the future and may require a more diligent maintenance routine.