How to Keep Instruments From Tarnishing

Musical instruments tarnish as a result of improper care and the oils on your fingers transferring to the instrument's metal surface. To avoid tarnish, adhere to a proper cleaning routine every time you use your instrument. Avoid touching more of the instrument than necessary to play, and keep a polishing cloth handy to wipe down the instrument after each use. With a few minutes of care after each practice session, you can reduce, and in many cases eliminate, tarnish from appearing on an instrument.

Step 1

Touch the instrument only in the places necessary for playing the instrument. Avoid touching any areas other than the keys and the hand supports.

Step 2

Wipe down the inside of the instrument with a cleaning rod and a cloth after each use. This will remove excess moisture from inside the instrument. Attach the cloth to the cleaning rod by pulling the corner of the cloth through the eye of the cleaning rod. Wrap the cloth around the rod completely and as tightly as possible. Insert the rod into the instrument's main opening and remove moisture. On trumpets and brass instruments, insert the rod into the lead pipe.

Step 3

Polish the outside of the instrument after each use to remove oil and fingerprints. Choose the appropriate polishing cloth. Brass instruments require a brass-polishing cloth while silver-plated instruments require a silver polishing cloth. Polish using a circular motion to prevent smudges on the instrument.

Step 4

Store the instrument in an instrument case. Avoid leaving the instrument in rooms that are not air conditioned or climate controlled. Keep the instrument out of the heat and extreme cold, and when possible, avoid storing it in damp environments.


Remove tarnish by purchasing polish appropriate to the instrument from a music store. Apply a small amount of the liquid to a soft cloth and buff away the tarnish that has accumulated,


Do not use polish on a saxophone body. Wipe down the saxophone with a clean, dry cloth to remove any fingerprints. Avoid touching any part of the saxophone other than the keys.



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