Brass Instrument Care
Taking care of your instrument keeps it looking sharp, playing well, and lets it last longer. The first step in maintaining the horn is keeping it clean and protected in the first place.
The inside of the horn gathers, well, all that spit and gunk that's played into it. To help keep the inside clean avoid eating before playing the horn. Trail's End Boy Scout Carmel Popcorn, cola drinks, and potato chips will form a goo within the horn which will rot the metal, make valves and slides stick, and deaden the tone.
The outside of the horn picks up acid, oils and sweat from the hands of the player. This can over time damage the surface and cause pitting of the medal. Wiping off the horn after playing with a soft cloth (old t-shirt) will help remove the material.
Protect the horn by placing it away in it's case when not in use. Avoid placing the horn in a place where it will be knocked over, stepped on, sat-on, or "borrowed."
When it's time for cleaning the horn, we suggest the following:
Set up a clean SOFT surface to place the parts of the horn on to avoid any damage (an old thick towel in the bathroom would be ideal. Take the horn apart and remove the valves and slides (if any) and place them on the soft surface. Run warm soapy water through each section. You may use a "snake" through the various sections to clean the tough parts. (Note: one guide book shows boiling water being placed into the horn to clean the inside. This is an excellent idea if you want to help your fellow scouts earn a first aid merit badge for taking care of severe burns! It's a bad idea otherwise). A "water-pick" (usually used to clean teeth) does an excellent job of cleaning small portions of the instrument, especially the valves. The slides can be cleaned with a good brass cleaner. The valve casing can be cleaned with a strip of cloth ran through the casings and used as a polishing cloth.
Dry the instrument after washing using a soft cloth. The inside can be dried by blowing into the various segments to get most of the water out. Oil the valves with a good valve oil. The slides should be lubricated with slide grease or vasoline. Clean the outside of the horn with a good cleaner for the type of surface you have (copper cleaner, brass cleaner, polish for lacquer or silver polish). If the instrument is to be stored for a long time, it can be placed in a plastic bag, AFTER it's dry, to avoid tarnish build up.
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Reference: Music and Bugling Merit Badge Book from the Boy Scouts of America