Knowing how to clean a euphonium and other brass instruments regularly is necessary to keep them looking great but sounding sharp. It is not enough to own a high-grade instrument and just rely on its superior quality material. Euphoniums are similar to cars, no matter how excellent the make is, if they are not washed and polished consistently, they will all not run properly.
Cleaning your Euphonium the right way makes all the difference in the world. These brass instruments require specific types of fabric, oil, and tools to ensure that the cleaning process will not damage the instrument. Instead of focusing only on the aesthetic, there should also be proper care for the instrument’s mechanism. No one wants to end up with a faulty brass instrument.
What You Need – Euphonium Cleaning Kit
Most music stores today offer cleaning kits for Euphonium and other brass instruments, so it would be best to get it from them. You do not need to second guess if you have the right tool if you purchase a cleaning kit specifically made for euphoniums. However, if a kit is not available, this guide will provide you with the essentials needed in cleaning your instrument.
Here are the basic materials that you will need to clean your Euphonium:
1) Cleaning Rag
Specialized clothes such as the Euphonium Cleaning Swab or any microfiber cleaning fabric are readily available from music stores, but they can also be purchased from other stores. These microfiber cloths are the ultimate cleaning rag for their tiny fibers not only efficiently capture every speck of dirt or grease on most surfaces but also absorb water easily. It effectively reduces the amount of cleaning products you use. Old towels or clothing can also be used as cleaning rags, provided they are soft and lint-free. Whatever cleaning cloth you choose, it should not cause any abrasions on the instrument.
2) Polishing Cloth
This is a cloth explicitly used for polishing purposes only and not to be interchanged with the cleaning cloth. It would be best to invest in it because it is chemical and lint-free, washable, non-fraying, and made of microfiber fabric. Make sure to buy a polishing cloth purposely made for silver plated or a lacquered finished instrument.
3) Valve Casing Brush
This soft nylon brush has a non-corroding wire core or spine and sealed tip to avoid scratching the interior of the valves when brushing.
4) Mouthpiece Brush
A brush specifically designed to clean the mouthpiece with soft nylon bristles, wire spine, and sealed tip.
5) Snake Brush
This type of brush is made for brass instruments, and it can easily be inserted into your Euphonium to remove all the dirty particles inside. This snake brush is just like the other mentioned brushes that have soft nylon bristles with plastic-coated spine or cord. Since most brass instruments use this tool, ensure that you get the right size to match the size of the Euphonium.
6) Slide Grease
It is a synthetic slide lube used to move the slides of your Euphonium easily. It is not a cleaning tool per se, but if it is not applied to the slides regularly, you will find it stuck later on, and a costly trip to a repair shop would be your only option.
7) Valve Oil
It is a certain type of oil, or slippery fluid applied to the valves to make the euphonium work well and helps a lot during fast runs. Never confuse this valve oil with slider grease or attempt using other types of oil as it would damage the valves instead of preventing it from corroding.
8) Antibacterial Liquid Soap
Any brand will do.
How to Clean a Euphonium Step by Step
Instead of relying on the repair technician for the care of your Euphonium, it is best to know how to clean it yourself. It is not only cost-efficient, but it would also encourage you to handle it with as much care as you normally would as you know how much gunk goes into your instrument. The following will guide you on how to clean it daily, weekly, monthly, and every six months.
Daily Care and Maintenance
Step 1 – There is no need to remove any part of the Euphonium just yet. Just remember that after using the instrument, make sure that you remove any excess condensation by holding down or pressing the water keys to blow cool air through it.
Step 2 – Wipe down the Euphonium with the cleaning rag to remove all the fingerprints, dust, or any particles that might have stuck to the instrument.
Step 3 – Return it back to the instrument case.
Weekly Care and Maintenance
Step 1 – Blow any excess condensation by holding down or pressing the water keys to blow cool air through the instrument.
Step 2 – Unscrew the valve so you can lift it just halfway out of the casing and apply a few drops of the valve oil. Make sure to put them strategically so that when it slides back, it would be evenly distributed. Screw it back into place. Do it to all the valves of the instrument.
Step 3 – Unscrew the mouthpiece. Brush it gently using the mouthpiece brush with lukewarm water and liquid antibacterial soap. Rinse it properly. Wipe off the water with the cleaning rag.
Step 4 – Wipe down the instrument with a cleaning rag. Polish it next if it has become too dirty or tarnished. You should use a metal polish if it is silver plated, and use any furniture polish if it has a lacquer finish but do not overuse it. Wipe with a clean, soft rag afterward.
Step 5 – Return the instrument back to the case.
Monthly Care and Maintenance
Step 1 – Repeat weekly care from Step 1 to Step 3.
Step 2 – Now, it is time to clean the tuning slides. Take them off one at a time, and if they aren’t moving easily enough, wipe off the old slide grease with a paper towel. Insert the snake brush to the slide to remove any gunk inside and then apply a thin coat of new slide grease on the outside strategically so that when you put it back, the grease would spread out to all sides. Take note of which side of the turning slide goes to what hole as they have different sizes. It is best to do it one slide at a time. Repeat the process for all the other tuning slides.
Step 3 – For the lead pipe, clean the inside by using the snake brush to remove any foreign article inside it.
Step 4 – Wipe the exterior with your polishing cloth to remove any fingerprint, dirt, or any foreign particles. Use a little amount of metal polish for silver-plated Euphonium or furniture polish for lacquered finish euphonium and apply it to the exterior of the instrument to get that shiny look.
Step 5 – Return it back to the case.
Bi-Annually (Every 6 months) Care and Maintenance
If you are not familiar with the parts and where each one goes, use your phone’s camera so you can either take a video or take a photo of each stage of disassembling the instrument. This is where you give your Euphonium a bath to clean it thoroughly.
Step 1 – The first thing to do is to remove all the valves along with the spring inside and line it up on a clear table surface so you will have a guide on which part goes into what part. Remove all the tuning slides as well.
Step 2 – Fill up a bathtub or any huge plastic container with lukewarm water, add some liquid antibacterial soap, and then put your instrument along with the tuning slides into the water. Do not include the valves. Every part of the instrument should be submerged in water, but if it is not possible, you may simply flip the Euphonium so each side will have its chance to be underwater. Let it soak for 30 minutes.
Step 3 – It is time to get all the brushes to clean every single crevice or hole of the instrument, including the mouthpiece. Put liquid soap on the brush before inserting it into the holes, including the tuning slides. Rinse thoroughly to remove all the soap. Next, use a cleaning rag to wash the exterior as well.
Step 4 – Remove the water from the instrument by shaking it gently and putting it upside down. Repeat the process until there is no more water left inside. Wipe the excess water and let it stand dry.
Step 5 – Clean the valves by using paper towels to remove the valve oil and insert the valve brush into each casing to remove any dirt that accumulated in the past six months. Brush the inside of the top screws and wipe gently with the cleaning rag. Put the spring back, apply the valve oil on the exterior, and screw it back to the instrument. Repeat the process for all the valves.
Step 6 – Get the tuning slides, apply a thin coat of slide grease on each of them, and put them back to the instrument.
Step 7 – Polish it up with the appropriate cloth and polishing liquid; metal polish for the silver-plated and furniture polish for the lacquered finish. Put the instrument back to the case.
Never give your Euphonium a bath few weeks before an audition or a performance. For some unknown reason, the instrument needed time to adjust well after a major clean up. You may clean the mouthpiece regularly if you want to remove any bacteria accumulation but never before a major performance.