How to Polish a Brass Instrument

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Brass is the basic metal used in the construction of the trumpet, trombone, French horn and tuba. Very often the instrument has a silver-hued metal plating to give it a brilliant shine and, frequently, a lacquer finish over that.

Things You'll Need

  • Flugelhorns
  • French Horns
  • Bugles
  • Cornets
  • Sousaphones
  • Trombones
  • Trumpets
  • Tubas
  • Nonabrasive Silver Polishes
  • Mild Soap
  • soft, clean cloths
  • Use a mild soap on a clean washrag to remove any accumulated residue.

  • Rinse and dry the instrument.

  • Determine if the instrument has a lacquer finish sprayed over silver plating. If it does, do not use a silver cleaner on it!

  • Use silver cleaning paste or cream only if a silver-plated instrument has no lacquer finish! In this case, use very small amounts of the paste or cream on a small portion of the bell.

  • Remove the paste or cream with a damp rag and note the effect on the metal beneath.

  • Be cautious and note if the silver plating is so thin that it is wearing away and the darker metal beneath is being exposed. If so, stop!

  • Continue using in larger areas only if you see a rich and even reflection in the metal.

Tips & Warnings

  • Perspiration or fluid from your hands can cause continuing discoloration on a horn. Many instrumentalists use a small, clean cloth to shield the horn where it touches the skin.
  • A leather grip can be purchased to wrap around the valve casing of the trumpet or cornet to achieve this protection.
  • Hagerty's non-abrasive silver polish is recommended by the repair department of Best Instrument Repair of Oakland, CA.
  • Note that replating is expensive - a complete re-lacquer job on a trumpet can cost $375.
  • Silver polish on lacquer will cause irreversible damage!
  • Keep the silver cleaning cream or paste from penetrating the interior portions of the valves and slides.

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