How To Clean Cymbals

Ask any five drummers how to clean cymbals and you're likely to get six or seven different answers. Each musician is likely to have developed his own approach to how to clean cymbals, one that keeps the cymbals looking good and that maintains a preferred sound and tone. Some drummers even swear by not cleaning their cymbals at all, preferring the tones produced by a "seasoned" surface. For those who like the brighter sound of a clean cymbal, though, there are several ways to keep your instruments looking and sounding like new.

To clean your cymbals, you will need:

  • Your chosen cleaner
  • Soft rags
  • Wide surface on which to work
  • Newspapers to protect the surface
  1. Remove the cymbals from the cymbal stands before beginning work. This will allow full access to the entire surface of the cymbals.
  2. Place newspapers or drop cloths over the cleaning surface. This will protect the cleaning surface from damage from either contact with the cymbals or from the cleaner. It also makes cleanup easier–cleaning cymbals can be a messy job.
  3. Using soft rags, clean one small area at a time with your chosen cymbal cleaner. If you clean too large an area at once, the cleaner is likely to dry on the cymbal, making it difficult to remove.
  4. After cleaning the entire surface, reapply cleaner to areas that still need work. Particularly stubborn areas may require several applications.
  5. Once the cymbal is clean, buff the full surface again with a clean rag. This last polish removes any remaining cleaner and gives the cymbal a bright shine.

When addressing the question of how to clean cymbals, even experts differ on the best cleaners to use. For a beginner, the safest cleaners to use to clean cymbals are those recommended or produced by the company who manufactured the cymbals themselves. For example, Zildjian makes a cymbal cleaner that is formulated specifically for their cymbals. Other cleaners intended for cymbals in general usually work well, too, such as Groove Juice or Blitz Cymbal Cleaner. Though some musicians swear by products such as Brasso or even Comet, sites such as suggest avoiding such products, as they are often too harsh. Still other drummers use lemon juice and vinegar to preserve their cymbals' like-new shine.

It might take some experimentation before you find the cleaning materials that work best for you to clean your cymbals and maintain the sound you prefer. While you're experimenting, bear in mind that some cymbals, such as Paiste cymbals, are specially treated and overly harsh abrasives can remove this coating. Also be aware that most cleaners used to clean symbols, even those formulated specifically by the manufacturer, will usually remove the brand markings after a few uses.

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