Cymbals are made of an alloy of copper, tin, brass, bronze, or silver nickel, and they tarnish over time due to an oxidation process. It’s a matter of personal preference and debate whether this tarnish, or the addition of fingerprints, gunk, or dirt, should be removed. Despite the numerous options for cleaning cymbals, most drummers adhere to a few basic guidelines. Cleaning small sections at a time, using products specifically designed the cymbal’s manufacturer, and taking preventative measures to keep the cymbals as clean as possible are among these tips.
When it comes to cleaning cymbals, there are two schools of thought. One school of thought is that cleaning cymbals can have a negative impact on the overall sound of the cymbal, as well as removing the cymbal’s brilliant finish and reducing its overall durability. Some people prefer the darker tones of a dirty cymbal and believe that the cymbal should be left alone. The other school of thought contends that any surface finish removed from the cymbals during cleaning is minimal, and that removing grime and dirt, the cymbals sound brighter and more like they did when they were first manufactured.
The general consensus among those who clean is to go straight to the source. The majority of cymbal manufacturers have their own brand of cymbal polish or cleaner that has been specifically designed for use on their cymbals. It’s best to seek advice from the manufacturer on the best cleaning methods for cymbals first.
It’s best to wipe the cymbal clean with a damp or dry cloth before polishing after consulting the manufacturer and purchasing a recommended product. During the cleaning process, this prevents the surface from being scratched dirt or debris. After wiping the cymbal clean, use a clean, dry cloth to work cymbal polish into a small area of the cymbal. Most cymbal polish dries quickly, similar to car wax, and a smaller area is easier to manage. Polishing the cymbal in small areas reduces the amount of elbow grease required to buff it out later. Many cymbal cleaning products will remove the logos from the cymbals, so it’s important to work around or cover the logos when cleaning.
Cleaning cymbals can sometimes be as simple as using water and gentle dish soap. Rub a lemon over the cymbal’s surface and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it off for a less abrasive method. The most important thing to remember when using either of these methods is to thoroughly dry the cymbal after it has been wet.
To keep cymbals as clean as possible, it is best to take preventative measures. Handle cymbals with care to avoid getting oils on them from fingerprints. Pick up the cymbals their edges, just like you would a CD or DVD. After each use, wipe them down with a clean, dry cloth and store them in cymbal bags or covers to keep them safe. Cleaning cymbals on a regular basis may be all that is required if oil, dirt, and dust are kept off them.