Picture of How to Clean a Trumpet
The following is a set of instructions on how to safely and efficiently clean a trumpet.  The methods described are those I have found to yield the best results.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Before You Begin

Picture of Before You Begin
Before you begin cleaning your trumpet you will need to gather and take stock of your supplies.  You will need a "wire-snake" brush, a mouthpiece brush, petroleum jelly, valve oil, a lacquer polishing cloth or a silver polishing cloth (depending on your trumpet's finish), several towels, and non-bleach dish soap (Bleach can be corrosive to the instrument's finish.).  These supplies are displayed and tagged above.  You will also need to decide on a wash basin, such as a bath-tub (recommended) or large sink.  The wash basin must have running, heated water and room for maneuvering the trumpet safely.  Be prepared to apply only lukewarm water, however, and not water that is too hot.  Very hot water could cause the trumpet's finish to flake.  You will be reminded of this every step.  Finally, acquaint yourself with the following terms if they're unfamiliar:

Bore - the interior chambers of the instrument that define air flow path
Lead pipe - the pipe connecting the mouthpiece and tuning slide; part of the horn
Bell - the final, conical section of the trumpet; part of the horn
Valve casings - the chambers that contain the valve pistons; part of the horn

Other important trumpet parts are depicted in the next step.

Step 2: Disassembling the Trumpet

Picture of Disassembling the Trumpet
Disassemble your trumpet and place the parts on a towel.  The towel will prevent the parts from getting scratched and provide a clean surface.  Make sure to locate the towel in a safe place where the trumpet won't get stepped on or otherwise damaged.  The disassembled parts, tagged above, are the mouthpiece, the 1st valve piston, the 2nd valve piston, the 3rd valve piston, the 1st valve slide, the 2nd valve slide, the 3rd valve slide, the tuning slide, three valve caps, and the horn.  The trumpet may have several screws that hold the 3rd valve slide in place and a "grime gutter."  If so, set these aside in a safe place.
samcro3 months ago
on my horn, the tuning slides are all dark with corrosion, just grimed up from years of smoky clubs, what is your best recommendation to get them back to clean brass? was thinking maybe wet sanding with fine grit sandpaper?
prherr (author)  samcro3 months ago
You sound like more of an authority than me. (My subject is actually economics, and I made this instructable for a college English class.) I remember my slides becoming dark from residue (not corrosion?); particularly the third valve slide which I oiled instead of greased. I tried scrubbing with the brush, but that never worked. I never tried using sandpaper; but I'm not discounting it. I took my instrument to have a chemical clean once a year and that always got the residue off. Perhaps that's what you were hoping to avoid; I know chemical cleans are expensive. But yeah, I'm not really a trumpet authority or chemical engineer lol. Sorry I couldn't help.
jkmarsh73 months ago

for the petroleum jelly can i use cork grease

prherr (author)  jkmarsh73 months ago
Cork grease is probably better than petroleum jelly. I grew up in a small town without a music supplier so petroleum jelly was easier to find. From what I understand both work well and are commonly used.
brody265 months ago

or you can use cork and tuning slide grease

I never thought to use petroleum jelly on the slides, but from what other websites say, it sounds like a good idea. I'll try it after I clean my horn today.