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How To Clean Cymbals

Want to know how to clean cymbals? Well, you've come to the right place! A lot a drummers never, ever clean their cymbals. And there isn't anything wrong with that.

Some people prefer not to because the grime can add warmth to the sound. Others like the darker, used look. And some just can't be botherd to clean them :-)

But, if you like your cymbals looking nice and shiny, and sounding bright too, this guide will teach you how to polish cymbals properly. First, we'll cover a couple of common questions, then we'll start the step-by-step guide.

Common Questions

QUESTION: Can you damage cymbals by cleaning them?


The answer is yes and no. Cymbal polish does take away some metal from the cymbal, but it's only a tiny, microscopic amount. Unless you're planning on cleaning them every day for the next 100 years - they'll be fine.

The metal that gets removed is oxidized and dirty, but the metal underneath is non-oxidized and clean. So, it's actually a good thing that the oxidized metal is removed.

The only other way you can damage your cymbals is if you use a harsh chemical product or wire brush to clean them. Just avoid those and you won't have any problem.

QUESTION: What's the best polish to use?


I'm not sure that there really is a best product to use. I definately reccommend using a proper cymbal polish, not a household cleaner, vingear, or anything else that you might have lying around. These could cause your cymbals to rust.

Cymbal manufacturers, like Zildjian and Paiste etc, often have their own polish that has been developed to work best with their cymbals. But, some good general polishes I've used are Lizard Spit, and Dunlop Cymbal 65.

Ok, with those questions out of the way, let's get cleaning cymbals.

Step By Step Guide

First, here's what you'll need:

  • A Large tub of luke warm water
  • Mild dish washing soap
  • Cymbal polish
  • A towel
  • 2-3 clean rags or cloths

STEP 1 - Fill a tub or bath with some luke warm water, then mix in a little bit of mild dish soap. Take your cymbal off it's stand and put it in the tub of luke warm water. Leave it to soak for a minute or two - this helps to loosen the dirt. Then, take it out and pat it dry with a clean cloth.

STEP 2 - Next, lay out a soft towel or something similar (that you don't mind getting dirty) on the floor. Place your cymbal on it.

STEP 3 - Put a small amount of your cymbal polish on a dry, clean cloth, then clean a small area of the cymbal with it. Don't try to clean a big area in one go as the polish will dry and become difficult to remove. When cleaning, follow the grooves of the cymbal and don't rub too hard.

STEP 4 - Repeat step 3 until you have cleaned the whole cymbal. Remember to use a clean area of cloth for each part of the cymbal.

STEP 5 - Next, give the cymbal a quick rinse in some clean water, and then wipe it down with another clean, dry cloth.

STEP 6 - Make sure all the polish has been removed. If it hasn't, wipe it down again.

That's it. You're done!


1. - To help keep your cymbals clean, wipe them down with a dry cloth after using them or before putting them away.

2. - If your cymbal is really dirty - scrub the grooves with a heavy nylon scrub brush while soaking it in step 1. But, don't use a wire or metallic brush as it will scratch your cymbal.

So, there you have it - now you know how to clean cymbals properly. I'm off to get mine looking great for that gig in a couple of days. Catch you later!

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