How to Clean the Trumpet

This article was originally published by Ken Saul of Ultra Pure Oils, it is clear and comprehensive so I have re-published it here! Other brands are of course available to use, but I am yet to find any cleaning and maintenance accessories that are as slick and reliable as Ultra Pure.

Keep your horn clean and you will never have a problem with sticky valves or slides. Keeping it clean inside also removes bacteria that can build up in the tubing.

Daily Wipe Down

You should wipe off your trumpet at the end of each day using the Ultra-Pure microfiber polishing cloth. Gently wipe all the surfaces, especially where you hold the horn. Wipe off any water spots. The microfiber cloth will soak up oils and grease and should be washed once a month. If you have a silver plated trumpet, you can use a silver polishing cloth to remove tarnish about once a week. Use it to wipe the outside of the instrument only.

microfiber cloth and trumpet cleaning
Wipe the outside of the horn every day to remove fingerprints, water spots and oils.

Bath Time

You should give your trumpet a bath about every month or two to keep it in the best condition. It only takes about 30 minutes to do a good job.

Carefully pull out the main tuning slide and the three valve slides. Wipe off any grease on slides with a paper towel. Remove the bottom valve caps. If they are stuck, try using a rubber jar opener, not pliers. Also wipe off the bottom valve caps with the paper towel. Then remove the three valves. They are numbered 1, 2, and 3. When you pull out the valves, check which way the number faces, the mouthpiece or bell end. When you put the valves back, they will face the same way.

Put a rubber mat or a towel in a tub or large sink and fill it with lukewarm water. Add some lemon-scented dishwashing liquid detergent (about a tablespoon is enough). Gently immerse the trumpet, the slides, the bottom valve caps, and your mouthpiece. Put some of the soapy water in a glass and immerse the valves, keeping the felts dry. Let everything soak for 10 minutes or more.

soaking a trumpet for cleaning
Take the trumpet apart and soak it in lukewarm (not hot) soapy water.
Trumpet valves soaking in a glass of soapy water
Soak the valves in soapy water while keeping the felts dry.

Run the snake through the leadpipe and all the trumpet body tubing several times. Run it down the bell and around the back bend. Use the snake to clean the insides of the tuning slide and the valve slides. Don’t force the snake if it does not bend around the tubing easily.

Cleaning a trumpet with a snake brush
Use the flexible snake brush to clean all the inner tubing.

Scrub the valve casings from the top and from the bottom with the valve casing brush. Clean the bottom valve caps carefully to remove all the residues. Finally, clean the mouthpiece with the mouthpiece brush. Drain the tub or sink and rinse all the parts completely. Let them dry on a towel.

scrubbing a trumpet valve casing
Scrub the valve casings with the cylindrical brush.
Cleaning a trumpet mouthpiece
Scrub the mouthpiece with the tapered brush.

Clean the valves

Gently clean the valve ports with soapy water using the snake brush or the valve casing brush. Scrub the valve surface with soapy water using the valve casing brush or an old toothbrush. Be careful not to scratch the valve surface. Wash the valves with plenty of clean water and let them dry on a towel.

Lubricate the slides

Put a small amount of Ultra-Pure Regular Tuning Slide Lube on your finger and rub it onto the slide. Insert the slide all the way and wipe off any excess lube with a paper towel. If you are used to moving the first and third valve slides quickly for more accurate tuning, you should use Ultra-Pure Light Tuning Slide Lube on these slides. Also, rub a little slide lube on the top and bottom valve casing threads. Slides should be lubed about once a week or two.

Grease a trumpet tuning slide
Rub a small amount of tuning slide grease on each slide and put it back into the horn. Wipe off any excess grease with a paper towel.

Oil the valves

Hold the valve over a sink, cloth or newspaper and coat it with plenty of Ultra-Pure Professional Valve Oil.  Carefully put it back into the casing and make sure the valve “clicks” into place, facing the right direction. When putting the valve back in its casing, do not rotate it since this can cause excessive wear. Screw the bottom valve caps back on. After the valves are in, try blowing some air into the leadpipe while moving the pistons. If air stops, you probably have one or more valves in backward.

Valve oil and a trumpet valve
Drip plenty of valve oil onto the valve surface to lubricate it.

Reapply valve oil every day or two

You should oil your valves every day or two. Just unscrew the valve and pull it up and out of the casing. Coat the valve with oil and carefully put it back in the casing. 

Treat your instrument gently

Be gentle with your instrument. It is dented easily and dents make the instrument harder to play or can cause valves or slides to stick. Keep the horn in your hands, on your lap, or in the case. Not on the bed, a chair, or on the floor. If the instrument gets a dent, or if your mouthpiece gets stuck, take it to a music store to be repaired professionally.

You can visit the Ultra Pure website to view the range of fantastic products.

UK readers can contact John Hornby Skewes to find their local stockist.

US and International readers should visit Thompson Music who offer fantastic service and speedy shipping.

You may also be interested to read this article about ‘Bagpipe Lung’ to emphasise the importance of keeping your trumpet clean!

One thought on “How to Clean the Trumpet

  1. Ian Hill says:

    Hi i agree it is a great article the only thing i would say is don’t use washing up liquid/washing soap/dish soap as they all contain large amounts of salt and you shouldn’t mix warm water, metals and salt together. They will damage your instrument, i suggest something like the b# Instrument Soak which doe not contain any salt, is pH neutral and safe on all finishes. It breaks down the biofilm, degreases and add an anti static coating to the instrument.

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