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How to Clean Your Trumpet or Cornet

Tim teaches musical instruments in schools and colleges. He also plays the trumpet in several bands and arranges and publishes music.

To keep your instrument playing at its best, it is important to clean your trumpet regularly. Not only will your trumpet be more hygienic, it will also play better when it’s clean. Cleaning your trumpet will also help to prevent stuck slides, which could be costly to repair. You should aim to clean your trumpet several times a year. However, this depends on how often you are playing.

To Clean Your Trumpet You Will Need

  • A Mouthpiece brush or pipe cleaner.
  • Some washing-up liquid.
  • Pull through snake brush. Must Have!
  • Cloths.
  • Slide grease and valve oil.

Step 1. Clean Your Mouthpiece

Clean the mouthpiece first. The mouthpiece is the most important part to clean as It comes directly in contact with your mouth. You can use an antiseptic spray or cloth to keep it clean and hygienic. Use a mouthpiece brush to clean the bore removing any debris or blockages. This can make a big difference to how your trumpet plays. If you don't have a mouthpiece brush, you could use a pipe cleaner.

Step 2. Clean the Valves

Remove the valves and clean them separately. I like to soak them in a mug of warm soapy water for 20 minutes, making sure that you don't get the felts wet. A small amount washing liquid in warm water will do the job. Use a brush to clean inside the holes. Wipe with a cloth, don't use anything that could scratch them.

Step 3. Remove the Slides and Soak

Remove all of the slides and caps from the trumpet and soak in a warm bath of soapy water for about 20 minutes. Standard washing-up liquid works well and make sure the water isn’t too hot as this can lead to the lacquer coming off. If any of the slides are stuck, they might come out after a soak.

Step 4. Cleaning the Trumpet With a Brush

Use a special trumpet snake brush/pull through brush to clean the inside of each slide and pipe. Pull the brush through under water as this will help to remove the most dirt and help prevent the brush getting stuck. Most of the dirt will accumulate in the lead pipe and the main tuning slide, so make sure you clean these thoroughly. You can then use a valve brush to clean the inside of the valve casings. If you don’t have a brush, you could pull a cloth through.

Step 5. Rinse and Dry

It is important that the trumpet has completely dried through before you reassemble it. Any moisture inside the trumpet can make the oil and grease less effective and the valves might stick. Grease the slides and then put them back in. Make sure you use a a special slide grease for brass instruments rather than Vaseline.

Then carefully screw on the bottom valve caps being careful not to cross thread them. Once this is done you can then put the valves back in using a few drops of valve oil on each one. You can also apply a bit of valve oil to the greased 1st and 3rd valve slide if you want them to move more freely.

Step 6. Polishing Your Trumpet

To polish your trumpet, you can use a dust cloth. It's always a good idea to wear cotton gloves while you polish so you don't leave finger prints. Don’t use Brasso or metal polish on a laquered or silver-plated instrument as this could harm the finish.

For lacquered instruments, you can use a little bit of furniture polish to add a bit of a shine. For silver-plated instruments, you can use a silver cloth, but make sure you finish off with an untreated cloth to bring them to a shine.

Questions & Answers

Question: I Just purchased a 1960's Olds cornet and I'm unable to remove the 3rd valve slide. It makes contact with the bell. How do I remove the slide on my antique cornet?

Answer: This is because the bell has been ever so slightly bent down. The bell should be up a little higher so it does not obscure the 3rd valve slide. This is an easy job for a brass repairman.