How to clean a trumpet expectations:
Time: This should take about 20-40 minutes with your first few times taking a longer.
Trumpet Cleaning Checklist:
- Valve oil (see our guide on the best valve oils )
- Slide grease
- Micro fiber clothes
- Dish soap (the simpler the better, like Dawn)
- Brushes (see the cleaning kit below)
- Brush on the end of coated snake
- Valve brush
- Mouthpiece brush
There are kits out there that will include everything you need except the clothes and dish soap. A favorite and highly recommended trumpet cleaning kit is available from Yamaha who makes excellent trumpets.
Trumpet Cleaning Step By Step
- Lay out a few micro fiber cloths where you put the parts of your trumpet.
- Unscrew (counter clockwise) the top valve cap (where the stem of each valve come up through) for each valve and slowly pull it straight up.
- PRO TIP: Take a picture or two of the valves with your phone like the ones shown below. This way you’ll know exactly how they came out. This will help you to put them back in correctly.
- PRO TIP: Always remove the valves first. The reason is, if you try to remove one of the tubes (for example the first valve tube), the air tight seal of the valve will cause pressure to be put on the valve as you try to remove the tubing which could damage the instrument.
- Gently place the valves in order (1, 2, 3) on a soft cloth. Valves usually have a number on them. Valve “1” is the closest to where the mouthpiece goes.
- To make things easy, keep them in order throughout this cleaning to make reinstallation a breeze.
- Gently remove each slide tube and place them gently on your cloths. The main tuning slide is the big one that has a drain key.
- Unscrew the bottom valve caps.
- Pro tip: If anything takes more than gentle hand pressure to remove, stop and seek the help of a professional instrument repair professional.
- Using a large sink (enough to fit your trumpet) or a bathtub, run warm water into the bell and let it flow out. Put several drops of dish soap like plain Dawn (because it’s a great degreaser) into the water. Let it soak for 10 minutes or longer if it’s been a while since you last cleaned it. Place each piece (except the valves) into the water gently. Don’t forget your mouthpieces.
- Pick up the trumpet, being careful not to hit the other parts. Add a drop or two of dish soap in the inner bell. Using your snake, push it all the way in until you see the brush end appear in the opening of the first valve cluster tube. Gently push and pull it back and forth a few times to clean everything. Run fresh water through the bell to rinse thoroughly a few times. Gently place the trumpet onto the soft cloths.
- Do the same to clean the mouthpiece tube and each tube coming from each valve. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water a few times. Gently place them onto the soft cloths.
- After you wash each piece, dry them gently with your microfiber cloths.
- To wash each valve, put a drop of dish soap in the palm of your hand and rub it all around the valve. If you see any buildup in the holes, use a brush to gentle remove it. Rinse thoroughly with fresh water a few times. Gently place them onto the soft cloths back in the order and the alignment they were in. Refer back to the pictures you took on your phone.
- Pro tip: Each valve has a felt cushion just under the top cap. Don’t get them wet when you wash and rinse the valve. They cushion the valve when you release them and they just don’t do well when wet.
- Lastly, clean your mouthpiece(s) in the same fashion as everything else using your mouthpiece brush.
- The flugelhorn as you can see doesn’t have a main tuning slide like the trumpet. This is where using your cleaning snake with the brush on the end comes in handy.
- You’ll want to install the valves as one of the last steps of reassembly.
- Put some slide oil or grease on each slide (the unfinished brass part) and gently slide them in to place. For valve tubing slides (ones that move-usually the third and often the first) use slide oil. For ones that don’t move a lot (like the second valve tubing and the main tuning slide) use slide grease.
- Put a little slide grease on the bottom and top screw threads of the valve cluster.
- Apply some valve oil on the first valve. One trick is to put the valve in the palm of your hand and coat the valve with oil. Gently slide it in, screw the top cap down (clockwise), and depress the valve a few times to ensure it moves smoothly.
- PRO TIP: Each valve has a “key” or “guide” that ensures it is installed correctly. Rotating it will allow the it to catch and not spin anymore. Make sure you do that before screwing on the cap. See the nylon guides on the flugelhorn valves above.
- Screw on the bottom caps.
- Wipe down the whole instrument of excess valve oil and slide grease (like the greasy fingerprints on the first slide below.)
- If you have a silver-plated trumpet, use a silver polish or polishing cloth to remove tarnish and protect the finish. Here’s an example using 3M Scotchgard Tarni-Sheild on a tarnished mouthpiece.
- Test your trumpet/flugelhorn. Make sure air goes through the horn with no valves pressed. Then try each valve to ensure they are working properly. If you can’t blow air through the trumpet/flugelhorn, it’s likely a valve is not installed correctly. Unscrew the top valve cap, ensure it is oriented the correct way. Refer to the picture you took when you removed them if you aren’t sure.
After playing your trumpet, cornet, or flugelhorn there are a few things you can do to keep it performing great.
After playing: blow out all the moisture (okay, spit) out of the main tuning slide spit valve. Also, hold down all three valves and blow out with the 3rd valve spit valve open. If you don’t have a 3rd spit valve, remove the end tubing.
Here’s some instructions by Yamaha:
Trumpet Maintenance Hack
I use some heavy fishing line (80 pound test) tied to a small microfiber cloth to dry the leadpipe after every session. The reason is mine rotted out after many decades of being put away damp.