Instrument cleanliness is important to any wind instrument, and critical to the proper operation of any brasswind instrument. I would estimate that 60% of trombone slide problems that I encounter involve cleanliness, and dents and alignment are only 40% of the problem. Also, I have witnessed the mangling of too many valve springs on piston and rotary instruments where the player wanted faster action, and all that was needed was a good cleaning. Instrument cleaning is central to my repair operations, and I strive to render each instrument as clean as when it left the factory… or better. To this end, I treat each brasswind instrument I work on to a chemical cleaning of the appropriate level. First, each instrument is disassembled and washed thoroughly with warm (not hot) water, a good degreasing detergent, and appropriate scrub brushes. Once the parts have been thoroughly degreased, then they are immersed for 20-30 seconds in a de-limer/de-scaler solution, to remove calcification. This calcium buildup is the culprit that makes your valves still feel rough and gritty after you’ve washed them at home. Home-cleaning of instruments is good and recommended, but occasionally the instrument should still be professionally cleaned. After immersion in the de-limer/de-scaler, the parts are thoroughly rinsed, then immersed for about 5 seconds in bright dip solution. This acid essentially turns the brass bright yellow again, so that it essentially looks like new. The solution does not react with lacquer, but does make silver-plate turn hazy, so a silver-plated instrument must be completely hand-ragged and silver polished after being chemically-cleaned. This treatment removes any buildup from Monel pistons, making them perform like new or better, and the chemical reaction with the brass not only makes it look better, but gives long-term protection from corrosion.
After being bright-dipped, the parts are carefully rinsed and then thoroughly washed yet again in warm water and detergent, then rinsed again, dried, and inspected. If any green/white deposits remain, these parts are given extra attention and re-cleaned, until the instrument is flawlessly clean. I like to completely dry the inside of the instrument as well as the inside and outside of all parts, so that the lubricants will adhere to the metal better and not be diluted. All slides are checked for proper fit, and alignment adjustments are made as necessary. Valves are precision-aligned with the appropriate felts, corks or rotor bumpers, then the instrument is assembled using the appropriate Hetman lubricants. They are non-toxic, and provide the highest level of performance from your instrument and highest level of protection for the slides and valves. On trombones, I will either lubricate the handslide with Trombotine cream and Hetman HydroSlide, with Slide-O-Mix, or leave the slide dry and let the customer treat it himself. On valved instruments, the springs are evaluated and replaced if necessary, to ensure quiet, fast operation. I carry valve guides for every major make of instrument, and replace them if needed during this operation. The result is an instrument you can play with confidence. This instrument cleaning service is my basic, professional play-condition servicing, which includes removal of minor dents, replacing the water key cork(s) if necessary, and polishing the silver or lacquer.