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Playing the trumpet is extremely rewarding, but brass instruments can be some of the dirtiest in the entire orchestra after a practice session. Knowing how to clean your trumpet from right at home is an essential skill for any player.
Wait! Before you go tossing it into the tub and slathering on your favorite body wash, there's a couple of things you should know before you start cleaning. Let’s go over how to deep clean a trumpet at home so you can feel confident in doing it yourself.
Finding a place to work is a perfect place to start. You're going to need some space to organize your tools and break apart your trumpet. Somewhere close to a sink and drain would work perfectly, such as:
- Utility rooms
- Garages with sinks
Cleaning the trumpet can be messy, so make sure that you have plenty of space and you're comfortable wherever you choose to start breaking down and cleaning your trumpet.
Getting too bunched up can make for a disorganized space that causes parts to go missing and other headaches.
Your workstation needs to be a place free of distraction, especially if this is your first time taking your instrument apart.
To avoid any confusion about your valves, you will want to be mindful of where they are supposed to go. Miss place one of your valves, and your trumpet will sound way off. Use a non-staining marker to mark them individually as you remove them, if necessary.
You're not going to need much in the way of hand tools since it will mostly slide apart. However, you will still need:
- Several towels
- An extra soft towel to polish
- A trumpet snake and brushes
- Dish soap
- A scouring pad
- A well-reviewed valve oil and slide grease
It's not a bad idea to get a mouthpiece remover just in case though it's not necessary.
Keep in mind that trumpets are, in general, made of brass or silver. Neither of these materials is a particularly strong metal, and they are susceptible to scratching and can be bent or dented up if you're not careful. So, stay away from banging on them with hammers or on the side of a table.
If you find that something is sticking, then it's best not to risk ruining the trumpet. While a professional may seem expensive, having to replace your instrument will cause even more damage to your wallet.
Where to Find Trumpet Cleaning Gear
The items that you need for cleaning your trumpet aren't rare or hard to find. They aren't even all that expensive unless you're buying top-of-the-line products.
For everything you'll need to clean your trumpet, expect to pay somewhere around $50 and have the supplies to clean your instrument for months. You’d have to pay someone that much just for a single cleaning!
In most cases, if not all, you can order all of the products on Amazon, and pretty much any music shop will either have them on hand or will be able to order them for you.
Here is a list of our picks for the tools you’ll need to clean your trumpet:
- These polish rags you can usually pick up for $10-20 on Amazon
- A trumpet snake is anywhere from $5 to $15 dollars. Make sure to get one that has soft brushes as well, like our choice.
- A green scratchy pad (or a whole pack!) will only set you back less than $20, and they can often be found for cheap in bulk like our choice.
- Valve oil will only run you $5-$10 depending on brand. Make sure to get a well-reviewed brand, like our famous “Blue Juice” here.
- Slide grease can also be found online for only a few dollars.
Of course, if you would rather support your local instrument supply store, then you’ll just need to swing by the grocery store and grab the rags, scouring pads, and soap.
You're going to want to start by laying out a nice soft towel to keep the instrument from getting scratched up. It'll make life easier if you lay out all the trumpet pieces in a way that will help you remember how to put them back.
Organizing is essential if it's your first time breaking your trumpet down. Another tip to help you remember what goes where is to take a picture—keeping organized will also help you get the job done just a little quicker.
Removing the mouthpiece is a simple process; you pull it out. However, the mouthpiece might stick if it’s been a while since it has been cleaned. If you try removing the mouthpiece and find that it's stuck, your best bet is to get a mouthpiece puller to ensure that there's no damage to the instrument.
If the mouthpiece just won't come out, or you are unable to get a mouthpiece puller, then a small mallet will do—but be very careful. Please don't take your mallet and start going to town like you have a personal vendetta against your poor trumpet, no matter how frustrating a stuck mouthpiece can be.
- You want to take your small rubber mallet and gently tap around the end where the mouthpiece slides in.
- Once you've given the connection three or four taps, try to slide the mouthpiece out.
- You can also try to twist as you pull but don't get too carried away and definitely don't use a wrench or pliers; that won't end well.
If the mouthpiece doesn't budge, you'll need a professional—though it's doubtful that the mouthpiece puller won't do the trick for you, and it's far less costly and time-consuming than getting a professional.
You can find the slides on the outside of the trumpet, just under the valves. They are the little bends in the pipes and are fairly simple to remove.
If any of them refuse or give too much resistance when you're trying to remove them, don't use your mallet, bang on them, or yank them hard; just get a professional. If the slide is damaged, it will totally throw off the entire instrument and require much more money to fix.
They most likely didn't get enough oil the last time they were maintained, or it's just been a while. So, when you do go to put it back together, make sure that you're putting plenty of grease on the trumpet to prevent it from getting stuck in the future.
- The main tuning slide should pull right out. If the slide does want to come out, don't force it, you'll need to get professional assistance.
- The third valve slide can have a screw that holds it in place. So, if it doesn't slide right off, you'll need to remove the said screw.
- You can find the first and second valve slides at the opposite end of where the third valve slide is located, and both should slide right off.
Remember that these pieces should slide off with very little resistance, and if you find that you're tugging on them all your might, you need someone with experience to help you out. You don't want to damage the trumpet and getting a professional will save you time, money, and effort.
Your valves are the way the instrument is making its notes. They are the piece that you're pushing while playing the instrument at the top of the trumpet, on the top tube just above the slides.
This part can be a little tricky and will require you to pay special attention. Each valve is number one through three, starting at the end closest to the mouthpiece. When you're removing the valves, you need to remember which valve goes where. Some trumpets have valves with the number on them others do not. You can use a non-permanent marker to mark them.
To remove the valve, you need to:
- Unscrew the top of the valve, where the cap screws onto the housing.
- Pull the valve out of the housing.
- Just under the top that screws on the valve is a piece of felt that can't get wet.
- To remove the felt, hold the very top of the valve where you place your fingers to play your trumpet and unscrew the valve cap.
- Then slide the felt off and set it aside where it won't get wet.
You're going to repeat this process for all of your valves. Again, your valves may have their number stamped on the side, but that's not always the case. Remember to set your valves in a way that you know what number they are. If they aren’t marked, you’ll have no visual indicator of which valve is which.
At the bottom of the valve, chambers are a cap that should slide right off. Once again, if they give you any trouble coming off, then you're going to need to get a professional.
If you find that these guys are sticking, you might be able to loosen them by gently tapping on them with your small mallet. Don't get too carried away here. Just like the tuning slide, if a couple of light taps and a twist don't work, call a professional.
When washing your trumpet, you can use any dish soap that you have lying around. Make sure that you are using lukewarm water, not hot. If the water is too hot, it could ruin the finish of the instrument.
If you are washing the smaller parts in the sink or a tub with a larger drain, make sure that you put a stop in the drains.
First, soak the slides and valves:
- Place all of your smaller parts in a container and cover them generously with your dish soap.
- Fill your container with warm water. Make sure that you're not using hot water.
- Let them soak
Getting the trumpets body clean:
- Fill your tub with water and dish soap once again; do not use hot water.
- Place the trumpet's body in the tub and let it soak to release the grease and grime; ten minutes should be long enough.
- Once the trumpet has soaked, take the brush end of the snake and push it through the lead pipe as far as it'll go. Raise your brush and repeat several more times until the brush is coming out clean.
- Once you have your main pipe cleaned out, you can move on to the other pipes and valve stems. When you get to the stems, it's best to use an actual valve brush with softer bristles.
- Once you've thoroughly cleaned each of the valves and pipes, rinse the trumpet off good, making sure to run water through each of the openings.
- Now that the soap's gone, you want to sit the trumpet on a towel to dry off.
Now that you've got the body cleaned and set out to dry, you still have work to do.
Here we are going to use a green scratch pad, not steel wool. While steel wool would do the trick, it may also put many scratches all over the instrument.
- Take your snake and run it through the main slide. If you don't manage to get the snake around the bend of the main slide, then make sure you run it through both ends.
- Once you've run your snake through, make sure to rinse the inside of the slide thoroughly, rinse the outside with your scratchpad, and rinse one more time.
Repeat this process for each of the slides and set them to the side to air dry.
Do not use the scratchpad on the valves; you will need a soft cloth for this part.
- Coat the valve in dish soap and spread it using your hand.
- Now take your soft cloth and scrub the outside of the valve removing all the grease.
- Once Greece is gone, rinse your valves.
- Now cover your valve cap in soap and scrub with a soft cloth.
- Once the grease is off, rinse them and set them out to dry.
Repeat this process for each of the valve covers. Before we begin reassembling, you can take a break until the trumpet parts are dry.
Break’s over! Now that your parts are dry, let's get back to work. We've still got some polishing to do once the trumpet is back together. The reassembling process is the exact opposite of disassembly.
To replace the felts:
- Twist the little caps at the very top of the valve.
- Slide off the twist top.
- Push the felt piece down.
- Replace the twist top.
- Screw the cap back on.
You'll have to repeat this process for each of the valves. To keep the bottom valve caps from getting stuck, you can grease the threads before you screw them back on.
Before we put the slides back on the trumpet, you'll need to grease them first:
- Using your finger, coat each end of the slide.
- Place the end of the slide with the water key into the bottom hole on the trumpet. Twist it around so the inside is greased evenly; Then do the same to the top.
- Once you've grease on both the top and bottom holes, slide the main valve back into its original position.
- Keep in mind that the main slide doesn't go all the way in.
Now you'll need to repeat this process for the rest of the slides.
Make sure that you're putting the valves in the spot that they are supposed to go, like we discussed earlier.
- Oil the sides of the valves that rub against the housing.
- Slip the valve into the housing and push it to the bottom.
- Now twist the cap clockwise until it clicks in.
- Lastly, screw the housing top back on.
Now, all you have to do is slide the mouthpiece back on, and you're ready to go.
It would be best if you cleaned your trumpet at least once a month to keep it looking new. By keeping up with the trumpet and cleaning it regularly, you can avoid issues like piece sticking.
Keep your trumpet stored in a dry, cool area that is sheltered from the elements. Improperly storing your trumpet will lead to it becoming unusable. All in all, if you treat your instrument well, then it'll treat your music well.