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How to clean your instrument

We want to make playing brass music accessible to everyone in our band.

The instruments we give you are not usually brand new, but they still are valuable and we ask that you look after them carefully. We are a charitable organization and need our band to be as self-sufficient as possible; this means that we ask you to carry out simple maintenance tasks on your instrument on a regular basis.


If you are a junior member of band, please also ask your parents or carers for help with looking after your instrument, particularly when using cleaning materials.

Brass Instrument Cleaning and Maintenance

As a band member you are expected to ensure that your instrument is kept in good working order and in the condition in which you received it.

Always return your instrument to its case after use, having first made sure that you have drained any water from the spit valves and slides. Try not to eat food immediately before playing to prevent food particles can enter the tubing.

You will need to get your own valve oil and slide grease for day-to-day maintenance; this is available from music shops or online (there are also very good brass care kits available, which can work out cheaper than buying brushes and lubricant separately).

You should carry out the cleaning procedures in this leaflet roughly to the following timescale:

  • Trumpet and cornet - every 3 month

  • Horn, baritone and trombone - every 4 months

  • Euphonium and tuba - every 5-4 months

You should clean your mouthpiece more often than this!


General Day-to-Day Maintenance

The following tasks should be carried out whenever necessary:

Valve cleaning – all instruments except French horn and trombone

  • Unscrew one at a time and wipe with a clean cloth

  • Apply a small amount of valve oil to cover the surface of the valve

  • Re-insert valve and turn it a few times to lubricate the inside of the casing

  • Line up the valve guide with the slots inside the valve casing. For larger instruments this should be easy; for trumpets and cornets (any instruments where the spring is inside the valve) there is only one way the valve will fit, otherwise no sound can be produced – normally the smaller valve guide (white plastic bit) should go next to the small lead pipe (where you blow in). Larger instruments have a separate, loose spring – be careful not to lose this!

  • Tighten up the screw and repeat as necessary for the other valves.

  • Top and bottom valve caps should be gently tested out each time you start/finish playing, to keep them free.

One of the best valve oils is ‘Blue Juice’ – it is the most expensive, but lasts a long time. It is available from music shops, or online.

Valve cleaning – French horn and trombone

  • Unscrew one valve at a time to expose the rotary mechanism

  • Apply a small amount of rotary oil and move the valve so the oil lubricates the surface

  • Replace the valve cap

Slide cleaning – Trombone only

  • Carefully remove the outer slide from the inner slide

  • Carefully wipe the inner slide with a clean cloth

  • Apply lubricant according to the instructions provided on the bottle/tub. This may include squirting water onto the slide after application of the lubricant

One of the best lubricants is ‘Slide-o-Mix’ which is a liquid lubricant. Slide cream can often be messy and less effective


Brass instruments rarely need cleaning on the outside, but if this becomes necessary (perhaps because you have been playing in the rain) a simple soft cloth is all that is needed.

Regular Cleaning

The following tasks should be carried out regularly to ensure your instrument remains in a good condition and sounds the best it can. You will need:

  • A bath (or sink for small instruments)

  • A valve casing brush (correct size for your instrument)

  • A bore cleaning “snake” brush (correct size for your instrument)

  • A mouthpiece cleaning brush (correct size for your instrument)

  • A towel/soft cloth

  • Valve oil

  • Slide grease

  • A polishing cloth (optional)

Mouthpiece cleaning

  • Place the mouthpiece in a saucepan.

  • Pour hot water over the mouthpiece until it is covered –BE CAREFUL AND GET HELP IF YOU NEED IT!

  • Leave for a few minutes before removing and drying.

  • Use a mouthpiece cleaning brush to clean the inside of the mouthpiece.

Instrument Cleaning Method

1. Fill the bath with warm water – no soap required.
2. Take apart the instrument – remember which piece goes where!
3. Place the valves in order on a clean cloth; there is usually a tiny number (1-4) marked on each valve stem. Number 1 is closest to the mouthpiece and so on…Do not muddle them up or they won’t work!
4. Give the valves a good wipe and clean but DO NOT immerse in water. Optional: use a small amount of lighter fluid on the valves and slides to remove all excess grime.
5. Place all parts of the instrument except the valves (including the main instrument itself) in the bath. Use a snake brush to clean inside all the slides and the main body of the instrument.
6. Rinse and dry using a towel/soft cloth and leave to air dry in a safe place.
7. Once dry, reassemble the instrument, lubricating the valves and trombone as overleaf previously detailed. Other slides, such as the tuning slide, should be given a light lubrication with slide grease.

It is a good idea to move slides gently in and out from time to time to keep them free. Depress the valve whilst you do this to avoid pressure

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