No announcement yet.

THE great epic cymbal cleaning thread: a meta-analysis of posts

This is a sticky topic.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • THE great epic cymbal cleaning thread: a meta-analysis of posts

    Yes, yes, I know cleaning threads are annoying, too many, slag off, blah blah blah. However, judging from the number of threads started regarding cymbal cleaning, I have decided that I'm going to bring all of the best posts on cleaning together into one instructional post. There are some excellent posts out there, but sometimes they're hard to find buried in threads, and you need to search through a lot of threads before you find something of use. This is not a thread of whether cleaning cymbals is good or bad, it is simply how to do it safely and effectively.

    Here is a summary of what I have learned (thanks to PYRRHO, whose posts were the primary source for this particular method of cleaning):


    There are three different stages of cleaning cymbals. The first occurs after you come home from the store, or after every practice, gig or usage of your cymbals. This cleaning is necessary to remove fingerprints, oils, and preliminary “attack” stickmarks. Prolonged build-up of fingerprints (which are acidic), may lead to tarnishing.

    The second stage of cleaning cymbals occurs every few weeks. Usage-based cleaning is great preventatively, but it doesn’t necessarily clean as thoroughly as possible.

    Finally, the last and most in-depth stage of cleaning occurs every few months. Time makes fools of us all, and cymbals fade over time (that made no sense, but whatever). There’s no amount of preventative measure in the world that would change that. So, every few months, a deep-cleaning is in order to return your pies to their original sparkle.


    Some people love their logos, some people don’t. The stronger retail cymbal cleaners (e.g., groove juice) will remove logos over time, perhaps not even a long time. However, proper and gentle cleaning will generally preserve the logos well enough; if you’re truly worried, just make sure to rinse your logos off right away if you get any cleaning product on them, and avoid them when you clean.


    Everyone inevitably asks about Sabian, Zildjian, Paiste, Promark cymbal cleaners. Promark’s groove juice is a strong acid, and its “addictive”, in that once you start cleaning with groove juice, you will continue to need to use groove juice. The other cymbal cleaners are all mild enough and fairly effective. They will all fade logos with time, but there’s nothing wrong with using them.


    For the methodology that I believe to be most safe (from previous posts) you’ll need the following:

    1. cymbals, pies, discs, plates, etc.
    2. rubbing (or isopropyl) alcohol, at the highest concentration possible, preferably 100% - this is used as preventative of stuff that causes tarnishing
    3. a number of soft cotton cloths/towels – NO PAPER TOWELS! Paper towels cause micro-abrasions which equals dulling
    4. soft sponges
    5. mild dish soap – acidic or basic soaps can damage cymbals; blue Dawn dish soap is often recommended; I’d imagine that dish soap for sensitive skin would also work well
    6. wright’s copper cream – this removes tarnish that has already occurred
    7. carnauba-based car wax; Turtle Wax “Super hard shell” formula works well


    1: Coming home from the shop.

    People touch cymbals when they’re walking around the store. Little kids do it. Old people do it. *I* do it. When you come home, you need to clean all those fingerprints off, because the acid can tarnish.

    Into the bathroom you go. Turn on the hot water, wet your cymbals, put a couple of drops of dish-soap on a wet sponge, and clean away. A lot of times, quite a bit of elbow grease will be needed. Make sure to glove your hands, and use the hottest water you can handle; that way, the water will dry off quickly. Washing should not take long; PYRRHO estimates 20 seconds for a splash, and well under a minute for a big ride.

    2: Preventative clean-up after playing/gigging/feeling beautiful cymbals.

    Use a spray bottle full of rubbing alcohol to spray a cotton cloth. Use that cloth to quickly wipe down your cymbals, removing fingerprints, sweat, blood, other bodily fluids, etc. Once again, quick is key: a few seconds per cymbal. Using cotton gloves to put cymbals away doesn’t introduce anymore human grossness.

    3: The 3-week clean.

    Cymbals fade with time, often starting with the edges. Time for another cymbal bath! Same as in step 1. Mild dish soap, soft sponge, hot water, quick cleanings, dry with cotton towel.

    4: The 4 month deep clean.

    Bathtub again. Instead of using soap, use Wright’s copper cream (I’m sure there are others that work, I just know that Wright’s is always recommended). Put the cream on a sponge, and rub away, a little longer (and harder) than the bath stage. PYRRHO recommends 1 minute for a splash, and 2 minutes for a ride, start to finish. Cover the surface evenly and quickly, so as to avoid splotchiness. Start at the bell and work towards the edge, rubbing parallel to the grooves. Keep the sponge damp with warm water; its not necessary to add more cream. The cymbal will turn dark grey to black, so don’t panic… it’s a good sign. Once you’ve rubbed the entire cymbal, rinse in hot water, using the same sponge to remove the residue from both the sponge and the cymbal. Dry with a cotton towel.

    5: The every few years uber-ultra-super-deep-clean.

    Use Wright’s copper cream, same as before, but use lots of cream and rub extremely hard, and repeat. Do this *before* heading to the tub. After doing so, into the bathroom you go, and rinse all the gunk off. Repeat the process, but as was done for the 4 month deep clean, with the sponge, and rinse with hot water.


    You can add a protective layer to your cymbal after every cleaning by using a carnauba based-wax, because it is organic. It doesn’t really affect the sound, and its sort of analogous to the coatings that some cymbals come with from the factory. It also cleans off easily using cymbal cleaners.

    If you’re going to wax your cymbal, leave it wet after a 4-month deep-cleaning. With the damp sponge supplied with the Turtle wax, put on a very thin, even layer on the cymbal. Spread the wax in a *circular* motion. Spend no time rubbing; get the wax on there and dry completely. 15-20 minutes later, the wax will have dried to a sort of dull haze. Use a different clean dry cloth, and buff the wax parallel to the grooves. Repeat once more for two layers. A source suggests that two very thin layers are better than one heavy coat. A good wax job will maintain the cymbal’s shine for 3-6 months!


    Paiste cymbals utilize a thicker-than-most protective finish on their cymbals. When you clean a Paiste cymbal, you clean the lacquer coating, not the metal itself. The rubbing alcohol and soap-and-water stages are perfectly safe for Paiste cymbals. If your Paistes are tarnishing, its an indication that the coating has worn off, and you can go ahead and use all the cleaning methods mentioned here. For coating-intact Paistes, stick to the company’s proprietary cleaner, or alcohol & soap-and-water.

  • #2
    Thank you for the time and effort. I'm sure this will be appreciated by many!

    I've stickied it for maximum effect.


    • #3
      Thanks for the thread man, I bet it will help us all a lot!
      My drum kit! | Four Piece Set-up :) | My Doumbek

      Chelsea FC <3
      Montreal Canadiens <3


      • #4
        Dang, I followed this technique and it works so well! Thanks.
        The baits' right there, my brews right here.....


        • #5
          My Espacia.


          • #6
            Originally posted by fat_cow_2000
            Excuse me?
            The baits' right there, my brews right here.....


            • #7
              Thanks for that. That's a great post.
              Just curious about no.5.
              You say to rinse with hot water?
              I have heard that that is bad for the cymbal and can mess up the tempering, structure and the sound of the cymbal.


              Actually, in all of them
              Last edited by Tre Cool The 2nd; 08-11-2006, 02:55 AM.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Tre Cool The 2nd
                Thanks for that. That's a great post.
                Just curious about no.5.
                You say to rinse with hot water?
                I have heard that that is bad for the cymbal and can mess up the tempering, structure and the sound of the cymbal.

                can you get your bathwater to over 1500 degrees?

                Because I can't.
                Originally posted by Sushi-Inspector
                Kids, always wear protection!


                • #9
                  Fair enough
                  I just heard that hot water is bad for the cymbal. And I dont want to risk it with out making sure.



                  • #10
                    THANK YOU! Rep+++


                    • #11
                      I doubt hot water would do anything negative; in fact, it would be more recommended because the cymbals would dry off much quicker, and without as much effort. If you wash your more fragile dishes, china, etc, in hot water, they're fine... so I doubt cymbals with coating would have too much trouble.

                      I know that cymbals are often seen as delicate and fragile - and they are to an extent - but remember they're just flat discs of metal.



                      • #12
                        I need to clean my cymbals... I'll try this out!


                        • #13
                          Good thread...glad I could help.
                          Tre - don't worry about the water being too hot.
                          Remember your hands, even gloved, will have a tough time with temps above 70C/150F and water never gets above 100C/212F before turning to steam. Cymbals can handle more than 100C/212F.
                          Last edited by PYRRHO; 08-14-2006, 03:50 PM.


                          • #14
                            why would you use the copper cream instead of a brass cleaner. arent the majority of cymbals brass?


                            • #15
                              great thread.