How To Clean A Trombone [Wind Instruments]

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These are the directions and steps involved in the proper cleaning of a trombone. In order for its slide to work smoothly, a trombone must be cleaned periodically. This must be done properly to preserve the integrity of the instrument and to ensure that its sound is kept clear and true.

Failing to properly clean a trombone frequently enough will result in a build-up of unsanitary residue, particularly around the spit valve. This build-up will alter the sound of the instrument, diminishing the tone and quality. A trombone must be thoroughly cleaned, or bathed, twice per year in order to preserve their quality and performance.


Thoroughly cleaning, or bathing, a trombone takes one-half to one hour. This will depend on the length of time the instrument is permitted to air dry afterward. For new trombone players/owners, these steps will act as a comprehensive guide to the proper care and cleaning of the instrument.

When preparing to clean the trombone, the first step is to make certain that you have all the necessary supplies close at hand. These include:

  • 2 large, clean bath towels and 2 clean hand towels
  • Spray bottle containing water
  • Mild dishwashing detergent (make certain it contains no bleach)
  • A flexible snake cleaning tool
  • Trombone slide grease


Utilizing a large, clean bathtub, prepare the water for cleaning the instrument. Before filling the tub, place one of the large bath towels on the bottom on the bottom of the tub and spread the other one on the floor beside the tub. Plug or close the tub’s drain and fill the tub with tepid (lukewarm) water, just a bit above room temperature.

It is extremely important to make sure that the water is not too hot; otherwise it will damage the trombone’s lacquered finish. Should the water be too cool the trombone will not be thoroughly and properly cleaned.

As the tub fills, add a small amount of the dishwashing detergent to the water. Allow the tub to fill until the water reaches about 4″ in depth.


Before placing the trombone into the water, it must be taken apart. Separate the instrument in the following manner:

  • Mouthpiece
  • Bell
  • Outer position slide
  • Inner position slide
  • Tuning slide

Gently place the disassembled pieces of the trombone on the bath towel beside the tub. Take special care when handling the position slides. If these are handled incorrectly – the inner position slide in particular – the trombone may slide less smoothly when reassembled.

One by one, place each piece into the water, positioning each on the bath towel at the bottom of the tub. Dampen one of the hand towels and keep it close by.

Clean the horn by placing a small amount of the dishwashing detergent into each of its open ends and gently inserting the snake into each of the horn’s open ends. Follow the same steps to clean the tuning slide.

Using the dampened hand towel, wipe the horn to remove any debris or smudges.

Remove the tuning slide and the horn from the water and lay them on the bath towel next to the tub to allow them to air-dry.

Clean the position slides by placing a small amount of the dishwashing detergent into each of its ends. Following the same procedure that was used to clean the horn, clean the position slides using the cleaning snake by inserting it into each of the slide’s open ends.

Remove old slide grease with the dampened hand towel. Some slide grease may remain on the position slides. This is fine; it will not harm the instrument nor affect its sound quality.

Clean the mouthpiece with a small amount of the dishwashing detergent and the dampened hand towel. Make sure all of the soap is removed from the mouthpiece.

One by one, remove the remaining trombone parts from the water and carefully place them on the bath towel next to the tub. Gently dry the trombone parts using the dry hand towel.


Allow the pieces to air-dry for at least one-half hour. This gives the inside tubing sufficient time to dry thoroughly. Place a small amount of the slide grease on each of the bottom ends of the inner position slide.

Using your fingertips, apply the slide grease in a thin, even layer around the ends of the slide. Apply the outer position slide onto the inner position slide, checking to make sure that the slide is situated on the correct end. If this is done incorrectly, the sliding mechanism can be severely damaged. Move the slide top to bottom repeatedly to evenly distribute the slide grease.

Using the spray bottle, coat the slide evenly with water. Make certain that each of the slides is covered by a fine misting of the water. This can be achieved by wetting the fingers and shaking water onto the slide if a spray bottle is not available.

The trombone is now ready to be fully reassembled and played. Maintain the integrity of the instrument by keeping the slide well greased and watered.



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