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How to Clean Cymbals (Pro Drummer Shares His Method)

Some drummers may be disappointed in the fact that your cymbals will never be as shiny as the day you got them. As cymbals get older, dirt and grime start to build up, and they lose their shine after a while. 

There are a few methods to try out to get your cymbals back to their former glory. However, you should understand that cleaning cymbals is a complicated process with results that don’t suit everyone

In this guide, we’ll show you a few different methods of cleaning your cymbals. We’ll also explain how they affect the tone and answer whether cleaning your cymbals is even a necessary thing to do.

Different Options for Cleaning Cymbals

Damp Cloth

The first thing you should always do when cleaning your cymbals is wiping them down with a damp microfiber cloth. This is the most unobtrusive method that won’t affect the sound or potentially damage any of your cymbals

When cymbals sit in one spot for long, they start to gather dust. The dust forms even if you regularly play the cymbals. So, the damp cloth will get rid of that dust, and it may just make your cymbals look a bit sparkier than they did before. 

We’d suggest always doing this first before moving on to the other methods. With it not affecting the tones of your cymbals, it’s a method that everyone can do, no matter what kind of cymbals you have. 

You should wipe down the rest of the kit with the damp cloth while you’re at it. 

Household Items

If you want to make your cymbals look a lot shinier, there are certain household items that you can use to clean them. Just note that these won’t work as effectively as strong formulas that are designed for cymbal cleaning. The only benefit of them is that they’re free, so it’s good to try them first. 

The household items that you can use are dish soap, vinegar, lemons, and ketchup. Dish soap and vinegar are the most effective of these. 

You can clean your cymbals by mixing them with warm water and wiping them down with a damp cloth

With lemons and ketchup, you’ll need to need to rub their contents across the cymbals and leave them to sit for a while. Once you’ve done that, you can then rub the cymbals down with a damp cloth. 

Again, these methods aren’t as effective as proper cleaners, but they will make a slight difference, and that’s sometimes all you need.

Professional Cymbal Cleaners

If you want to get the best results possible, you need to get professional cymbal cleaners that are sold by reputable brands. These cleaners have very strong contents, so they do an excellent job of removing all the grime from your cymbals. 

However, you also need to be careful with them, as applying too much may damage your cymbals.

Every cymbal cleaner has its own set of instructions, but the general method is to rub the cleaner over the cymbals using a provided microfiber cloth and then rub the cleaner off with another dry cloth. 

While you do this, you should put tape over the cymbal logos so that the cleaner doesn’t touch them. Cleaners typically rip logos off cymbals very easily, so you have to cover them if you still want them to be there after the cleaning process. 

Here are a few reputable cymbal cleaning products: 

Professional Cymbal Polishers

You also get cymbal polishers that are meant to make your cymbals as shiny as possible. Just be aware that these polishers are only meant to be used on cymbals with brilliant finishes. These are the shiniest cymbals you get, so polishing them is meant to refresh their shininess. 

If you use a cymbal polish on cymbals that don’t have brilliant finishes, you’ll end up damaging their surfaces, and they’ll often look worse than they did beforehand.

To use a cymbal polish, you need to apply it to your cymbals and then leave them to sit for a while. You’ll then need to wipe the polish off with a cloth, and you typically need to rub quite hard to get it off.

Does Cleaning Cymbals Make Them Sound Better?

How does cymbal cleaning affect the sound?

Cleaning your cymbals makes them sound brighter. It depends on the drummer whether that means the sounds are better or not. Some drummers love bright cymbals, while others prefer cymbals that are darker and more complex. 

If you love the sounds of dark cymbals, then you’ll think that cleaning cymbals makes them sound worse. Dark and dry cymbals tend to mature with age, and cleaning them will halt that progress. 

If you love bright cymbals, then cleaning them will make them sound a lot better to you.

Is it Necessary to Clean Cymbals?

No, it’s not necessary to clean your cymbals. You should only do it if you have bright cymbals that you want to make shinier. If you have dark or dry cymbals, cleaning them will only make them sound worse, and the shiny look won’t be as effective as it will with bright cymbals. 

Since most professional drummers use dark cymbals, it’s actually not very common for cymbals to be cleaned. There are more drummers in the world that don’t clean their cymbals than there are that do. 

That’s why you won’t find hundreds of different cymbal cleaners being sold.

What Can You Use to Clean Electronic Cymbals?

Cleaning Electronic Cymbals (303 Aerospace Protectant)

While the above methods work for pretty much all types of cymbals, electronic cymbal pads are made from completely different materials.

The best way to clean your electronic cymbal pads is by using a damp cloth to wipe them down. They’re made of rubber, so they’ll just gather dust over time. Wiping them down will get rid of that dust. 

You should also wipe them down regularly to get rid of the drumstick marks. If you don’t do this, those drumstick marks will be a lot harder to clean off in the future.

Final Thoughts on How to Clean Cymbals

Cleaning your cymbals is a very simple process. You just need to get a cymbal cleaner for the best results, and make sure not to rub it over any of your logos.

If you don’t want to buy a cymbal cleaner, you can try using household items like dish soap or vinegar. Just note that they won’t be effective. 

Also, forget about cleaning your cymbals if you have dark or dry ones. They’ll sound much better when you keep the dirt and grime on them. 

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