Brass Instrument Care

Caring for you brass instrument

A well maintained instrument increases “playability” and enjoyment. The most important thing you can do to make your instrument last a long time is to keep the valves, valve casings, slides, and the entire bore clean.

Quick Tips

Remember to:
• Oil the valves or hand slide everyday.
• Grease the tuning slides once a month.
• Clean your mouthpiece once a week.
• Have the instrument chemically cleaned annually or bi-annually.
• NEVER use Vaseline on the slides.

Never Use Pliers or Force, in any way, on a stuck mouthpiece, slide or valve!

Brass is a very soft metal.

Do not leave your instrument in the car!

Exposing your instrument to extreme temperatures can result in irreparable damage.

Necessary Maintenance Items


You will need a few items to assist you in keeping your instrument clean, well lubricated, and well protected.


They include:


Cleaning your instrument

An important item in the care of brass instruments is keeping the mouthpiece clean. Do this by removing all particles of dirt with the mouthpiece brush in a solution of liquid dishwashing soap and lukewarm water, then rinsing it with clean water.

Piston Valve Instrument Care - Weekly

Piston valve instruments include trumpets, euphoniums, cornets, etc.

Clean the valves once a week (or more if necessary). Very carefully remove the valves and the bottom caps. DO NOT DROP THEM. With the valves out, thoroughly wipe them off with a lint-free cloth. Take care to remove all valve oil and dirt. Clean the casings with the cloth wrapped completely around a casing cleaning rod. Do the same for each casing.

As you replace each valve, put a generous amount of valve oil on it and check to make sure you have the correct valve in the correct casing. The number one valve is always closest to the mouthpiece. Most valves and casings are also marked with numbers. Line up the valve guide with the slot inside the casing, replace the valve, and screw down the cap. Clean out the bottom valve caps and replace them.

Trombone Care – Weekly

Thoroughly clean and re-lubricate the slide once a week (or more if necessary). Both the inner and outer slides should be flushed out with lukewarm water and liquid dishwashing soap, then swabbed out (scrubbed) with the flexible “snake” brush. Rinse them out with clean water and wipe them dry with a clean lint-free cloth. (Always be careful when handling the inner and outer slides not to bend, bow, or dent them in any way. It is costly and time-consuming to repair bent, broken, bowed, or dented slides.)

Re-lubricate the slide before reassembling it. Because of the great variety of finishes used on trombone slides and the variation in the amount of tolerance used in fitting slides, it is always best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding lubrication. If slide cream and water is recommended, have a Summerhays repair technician show you how to apply it. If instructions are not available, it is generally accepted as safe practice to use a few drops of trombone slide oil on the stocking of each inner slide. Work the slide in and out to thoroughly distribute the oil over the entire surface of both inner and outer slides.

French Horn Care – Weekly

Oil the rotors. While holding the levers down, remove the valve slides, then apply rotor oil to the rotors (a few drops per rotor. DO NOT DISASSEMBLE THE ROTORS. Your french horn requires no other special maintenance on a weekly basis.

General Instrument Care – Monthly

Once a month, the tuning slides and valve should be cleaned with a snake brush, lukewarm water, and liquid dishwashing soap. After cleaning the slides, apply a small amount of tuning slide grease to them. NEVER USE VASELINE in place of slide grease. Never force the slides in or out. Use thumb pressure only in the center of the slide.
Once a month you may consider giving the entire instrument a bath (excludes french horns). If you wish to do this, consult a Summerhays repair technician for step-by-step instructions.

Once a year, the bore of your instrument should be chemically cleaned. Consult a Summerhays repair technician for this service.