Introduction: How to Clean a Trombone
These instructions leads you through the correct process of cleaning a tenor trombone. Trombones must be cleaned periodically in order to keep the slide running smooth and to maintain potential for good musical tone. A trombone that hasn't been cleaned for a while may have a build up of residue, especially near the spit valve, that can block and reduce good sound. In order to take care of the reside, trombones should be given a bath about twice a year.
A good trombone bath usually takes 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how long you allow the instrument to air dry. This guide is good for young trombonists who are learning to clean a trombone for the first time, as well as for parents trying help their musician keep the instrument in top shape. Giving a trombone a bath is simple for anyone; if you can play it, you can clean it.
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Step 1: Gather Supplies
1. Gather supplies in a room with large bathtub:
- Trombone slide grease
- Flexible cleaning snake
- Water spray bottle
- Mild dish soap (no bleach)
- 2 Bath towels
- Hand towel
2. Close the bathtub drain cover.
3. Place a towel onto the bottom of the bath tub. This towel (or shower floor mat) protects the trombone from any scrapes.
3. Fill bathtub with lukewarm water. Lukewarm (or tepid) water is a little warmer than room temperature. Caution: Too hot of water can damage the trombone by stripping the lacquer. Also be aware that too cold of water will not clean the instrument as well as lukewarm water.
4. Add a small amount of dish soap to running water. Read the dish soap label to make sure that it does not contain bleach. Caution: Bleach is a harsh chemical and will damage the horn.
4. After the lukewarm water reaches a depth of about 4 inches, turn off the water.
Step 2: Separate Pieces of the Trombone
1. Disassemble trombone. The trombone must be separated into it's most simple parts:
- Tuning slide
- Outer position slide
- Inner position slide
2. Carefully place all pieces onto the second bath towel, which is laid out next to bath. Caution: Both position slides are delicate and should be placed and held carefully. If the slides, especially the inner position slide, are not handled carefully, then they may cause the instrument to slide less smoothly.
Step 3: Clean the Trombone
1. Carefully place each Trombone piece onto the bath towel located in the bathtub.
2. Place a small amount of dish soap into open ends of the horn.
3. Carefully push the cleaning snake through the same open ends of the horn mentioned above.
4. Now repeat 2. and 3. for the tuning slide.
5. If there are any smudges on the horn, wipe them off with a wet hand towel.
6. Remove the horn and tuning slide from the bath and place them to dry on the bath towel.
7. Place a small amount of dish soap into the ends of the position slides.
8. Very carefully, push the cleaning snake through the same open ends of the slides mentioned above.
9. Use the wet hand towel to wipe off old slide grease. Note: Not all of the grease may come off, that is alright.
10. Lastly, place soap into the mouthpiece and use the wet hand towel to clean it out.
Step 4: Dry the Trombone
1. Remove the Trombone pieces from the bath one at a time and place them onto the bath towel on the ground.
2. Using the second hand towel, carefully wipe the trombone pieces dry.
3. Leave the Trombone pieces to sit for half an hour. This allows the inside tubing to dry.
Step 5: Assemble the Trombone
1. Apply a small amount of slide cream onto the bottom ends of the inner position slide.
2. Distribute the cream around the end of the slide in a thin and equal layer using your fingers.
2. Place the outer position slide onto the silver inner position slide. Make sure that the slide is on the correct ends of the trombone slide. Caution: Placing the outer slide on incorrectly can damage the sliding mechanism.
3. Distribute the cream evenly by moving the slide from top to bottom multiple times.
4. Spray the slide evenly with a water spray bottle. Each slide should be covered in a fine mist. TIP: If you do not have a spray bottle, simple wet your fingers with tap water and flick it onto the slide.
5. Completely assemble the trombone.
6. Play music
Now your trombone is clean. The best way to keep your trombone operating in top shape is to maintain the slide with plenty of slide cream and water. Slide oil is an easier alternative to use, especially right before practicing. Applying slide cream or oil can be done as often as needed, or a couple times per week, depending on how often it is used.
If your trombone's slide is not running smoothly or if you hear it scraping, odds are you have dent or the inner position slide is out of alignment. In this case, it is best to bring your trombone to the nearest repair shop. For people looking to give their trombone a complete and more advanced bath, please visit: http://trombone.org/jfb/library/jfb-keepitclean.asp.