To Flush or Not to Flush

Here’s a quick post that I am sure is common sense to some of you but will hopefully save the rest of you some money.  I had a friend ask me the other day where I take my horns to get cleaned.  (The deep chemical flush cleaning.)  I used to get my horns dipped at the local music repair shop but now I do it myself.  You can do this in your bath tub but it is far better to use a wash basin or turkey roasting pan.  You want a pan or sink that your trumpet can lay down flat in and deep enough that the bell can be completely submerged.  (roughly 1’x2’x6”)  I use my basement utility sink.  If your sink is ceramic, porcelain or a stone-like material, you may want to lay a towel on the bottom first.

The Recipe

Go to your grocery store and buy a gallon jug of white vinegar for about $2.  The ratio is approximately 1gal vinegar: 1gal hot water.  I take ALL the slides out and set them in the bottom of my sink along with the bell portion of my horn and mouthpieces.  Everything goes in the sink EXCEPT the valves.  These I clean separately.  The key is letting the horn soak in this warm water/vinegar solution for a few hours.  After soaking 3-4 hours I run my snakes through all the slides and tubing while holding them under water.  I then use my mouthpiece brush to clean the ports in my valves holding the bottom (silver) portion of the valve in the vinegar solution.  Be very careful NOT to get the felts on the top part of your valves wet.  This will compress them and change your valve alignment.  Then I drain the sink and run the tap rinsing all the parts in the running water.  (Otherwise your horn will smell a little like a salad, which I guess isn’t the worst thing…)  At this point it is best to let all the parts air dry.  This helps the oils and grease adhere much better.  Lube everything up, put it back together and Viola!  You have just saved yourself $50 and did a very thorough yet gentle-on-your-finish, cleaning.  One last little tip:  I put a touch of slide grease on the tops and bottom threads of the valve casing.  We tighten and un-tighten those threads so often it’s wise to take care of them.  I know it’s a bit neurotic but that’s the way I roll.

I would be curious to hear your comments and tips for horn care that I may have missed.

9 thoughts on “To Flush or Not to Flush

  1. Tommy T.

    Good advice. I do a full soak just like that using Seventh Generation dish cleaning liquid. It is extremely good at emulsifying grease and oils, is completely non-toxic and bio-degradeable and septic system safe. The advice on letting everything completely dry is very good and everyone can use a reminder about protecting the felts in the valves. I do a weekly flush with warm water and a fully assembled horn (all slides pushed in)in the shower and a monthly, disassembled soak in the tub.

    I just found your site. Jim Stephenson linked to the review of his Chicago piece over on Trumpet Herald. This site deserves some attention from the community. I’ll mention it on TH also.

    1. David Cooper Post author

      Thanks for the support and kind words, Tom.
      We also use that 7th Gen stuff on dishes. I’ll give it a try on my horns. How much do you use? (it’s more costly than vinegar!)
      Also, I completely agree and follow the last sentence of your first paragraph about frequency of baths.

  2. Mike Cegelski

    I just tried this on the Eclipse C Trumpet that I bought from you and it truly does work. The combination of the vinegar and water gave the silver plating a really shine and the horn plays so much easier! This is something I will keep with me for a long time.

  3. Pingback: More reasons to clean your horn | All Things Trumpet

  4. bill Ricker

    Check outn the Quick Horn Rinse ( It provides an easy tool to load soapy water and rinse/flush the horn with minimal effort and time.

    Bill Ricker

  5. Kathleen Ehlinger

    What about the part about soaking the trumpet in hot water? Will this hurt take off some of the lacquer?

    1. David Cooper Post author

      I would say bath temperature, no hotter. It has to get pretty hot to take off lacquer.

  6. Max Bryan

    Hey Dave!

    I just put my horn in a storage tub with the water vinegar mix. Storage totes are a great alternative for those who don’t have a deep sink or a small tub. Thanks for the cleaning tip. I’m always down for saving $50. I have rubber instead of felt tops. Would that be ok to submerge or should I still just dip the valves? It was great to see you up in Shell Lake.

    1. Max Bryan

      I just took a second look at my valves and see what you mean by the felt under the valve cap. I have had these wet before so maybe I’ll replace them. Also, is it ever necessary/worth while to replace the springs unless they’re broken?

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