If you are a drummer, you know just how important your cymbals are. Cymbal care is underestimated in its importance to the sound and life-span of your cymbals. Not cleaning a cymbal is just asking for trouble. Color changing, rust, cracking are all results of poor cymbal care. Its like not brushing your teeth.

When there weren't any specialized products for cleaning cymbals, drummers had to settle for using brass polish. Even though we've come along way since then, people are still using brass polish for cymbal care. There are a lot of products out there for polishing and cleaning cymbals, so lets discuss.

Also check out some of my other drum instructables:
Drum Tuning
Cymbal Repair
Effects Snare Drum

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Step 1: Buff-on Cymbal and Brash Polishing

Picture of Buff-on Cymbal and Brash Polishing
Many Cymbal companies such as Zildjian, Sabian and Paiste make and sell their own brand of cymbal polish. Although they recommend that you use this polish on their cymbals, you can use just about any kind of brass polish on your cymbals. There are some important things to consider here:

  • Abrasive Polishes
-- Depending on the specific ratio of metals that were used to create your cymbal (which is hard info to get your hands on), various brash polishes can have an abrasive reaction with your cymbal. If you're not careful it is possible to remove the black brand labels from your cymbal with just about any polish. However, choosing the wrong polish for your specific cymbal could injure the actual face of the cymbal and damage the tonal grooves (the little ridges of a lathed cymbal) which would disrupt their intended acoustic properties. Most likely, you will be fine when using brash polishes, but keep this in mind.

  • Everyone is an Expert
-- If you just google "cymbal polish" you can find that just about everyone has their own magic polish. Some people swear by Ziff's cymbal cleaner, or Brasso, or Wenol, but the basic problem is the same: you spend forever trying to buff out the polish. Just about every time I have used standard brass polish or products like the ones above I end up getting really streaky looking cymbals, like the one below. I have also heard of people using household cleaners like Windex or dishwashing detergent and water. I haven't ever tried this but I wouldn't recommending experimenting on a $200+ cymbal.

My main problem with most brass and cymbal polishes is that they only account for the brass component of the cymbal. While this is the main metal used to make cymbals, many cymbals (especially the nicer ones) have at least 15% tin and/or bronze, and in some cases it can be higher. In addition the buffing process is no joke, and if you really want your cymbals to shine, you have no choice but to wear your arm off trying to get results. In the end, it usually ends up looking like the cymbal here, which leaves much to be desired. Don't fret though, keep reading.

using brass polish on cymbals is an awful idea. brass polish takes off the top layer of brass to remove corrosion and make the item look new again. this is fine for solid brass objects, but cymbals have brass finish. brass polish will take it right off.

he also over sells the importance of cleaning cymbals. a lot of darker sounding cymbals (like zildjian k's actually develop a darker and more complex sound with time and no polishing. it does not cause problems from the cymbal itself. the main thing is to keep it in an environment where it will not corrode. the tooth brushing analogy is patently false.

When i used groove juice it took the zildjian logo right off the cymbal....any reason why that would happen?

Some logo's are not affected by the Groove Juice because they add a glue to the ink. When the cymbal company fail to do that water along will take them off.

Nearly all cymbal polishes and cleaners that work at all will take the badge (logo) right off unfortunately. As far as I know, there's barely any line between 'utterly useless cleaning product' and 'powerful enough to take off EVERYTHING'. The badge is ultimately just basic ink stamped on like any rubber stamp shape. Also, the ink of the badge isn't very strong anyhow. I have a set of Zildjian hats that are unidentifiable besides the name brand because they're just so old.
Then how did your Paiste keep its logo after you cleaned it? I'm afraid to clean my 20" Avedis medium ride because I want the stamps to stay on, but I'd also like my cymbal to shine again.
drums787 (author)  catman5294 years ago
Well you just have to be careful about where and how hard you scrub your cymbal. If you're worried about preserving the badges on your cymbals, just make extra effort to clean around them.
kevinheit4 months ago

Hi. I'm writing a drum book and I'm doing some research on this field of cleaning cymbals. So, as far as you know, there is no other cleaner better than Groove Juice made by Pro Mark to clean them cymbals? I read here that cymbal cleaners made specifically for them are abrassive. In that page the guy recommends Eze Shine Cymbal Cleaner D'Andrea. Any idea?
Also, cleaning heads? What about it?
Thank you

AntRRmam1 year ago
How to clean Cymbals with acidic fingerprints that wont come off with water.

I acquired a nice set of drums from my nephew. Dixon 5 drums and 5 cymbals. 2 cymbals are Sabian B8 with fingerprints all over. Some cleaned up with water but most are "etched?" in. What is the best cleaner to use without damage.
Jakwiebus2 years ago
I like my cymbals dirty from the use of it.
if you would come to my and tell you have been drumming since you were a little boy (or girl) and your cymbals look untouched I will have a hard time believing it :D

go dirty, go metal \nn/
stelegramma3 years ago
Use Brasso, it works really really well, u wipe it on, polish then wipe it off but GO around the logo, just in case
ddwivedi3 years ago
cleaning cymbals with normal polishes and lime juice works a lot
are there any substitutes that won't strip the cymbal?
my crash is dead T-T I thought cymbals were more durable. ( didn't even finished paying dammit)

now I'll take better care of my others... someway.
greezus4 years ago
 over the last 15 years i've heard more people say that polishing actually makes your cymbal weaker and more prone to crack. 

i bought some brand of cymbal cleaner once- same type- spray on/leave for a minute/rinse off. all of those cymbals cracked within a year or less. 

the cymbals i have now i got in 2002, and haven't cleaned them once. nor have they cracked...and i tend to be a heavy hitter!

nice instructable, but the only thing i clean these days are my drums/stands/hardware. i have wiped my cymbals quickly with a wet rag (water) and wiped dry, but that's it. 

i'd say by using any chemical on them that you're taking a risk- a tough call- especially if you've got $hundreds invested in them. 

i totally agree on using felts & sleeves, and would say they're the most important accessory for cymbals (next to stands of course!) they will add years of life to them!!!

I also like my cymbals a lil tight. not so tight that they don't move when hit, but not so loose that they're flopping all over the place. 

Shut Up Now5 years ago
how only 2 comments?? nice to know info..i am a beginner and turns out my cymbal has a high bronze content.. lol and it only cost me 50 bucks.. its a Sabian B8.
I'll definatly give this a try. Thanks
thebboy6 years ago