How to Clean a Drum Set

Not sure how to correctly clean a drum set? Find out the right way to clean a drum set in this guide.

Different drummers can have different opinions regarding the maintenance and cleaning of their drum sets. Some drummers don’t care much for cleaning their drums at all, as it doesn’t jive with their “let it be” rock and roll approach to life. If you have this same punk rock attitude, then you better have plenty of money because not cleaning your drum set can result in its shorter lifespan. You’re going to have to buy a new one much sooner than you ought to.

Of course, some drummers prefer to have their drum sets shiny and gleaming all the time. Others tend to have a more relaxed attitude, and clean their drum sets less frequently. But the point remains—you do need to clean your drums on a regular basis so that it doesn’t wear down too soon.

So how do you do this? Here are the basic steps you need to take:

Disassemble the Drum Kit

Restored-my-drum-kitSome drummers don’t do this for general maintenance. That’s understandable. It takes a lot of time and effort to disassemble the drum kit. It can get fussy too, as you end up with too many parts that you eventually have to put back together again. So some drummers just wipe down their drum set with a clean cloth every now and then. This takes care of the dust that inevitably settles on the drums as time flies.

However, at least once a year you should do a complete and thorough cleaning of your drum kit. This means disassembling your drum kit so you can take a good long look at everything. Here are some tips to help you out:

  • You can watch a video on how to disassemble your drum kit. That should give you an idea of how to get it done.
  • Take lots of pictures of your drum set with your smartphone. This will help you later when you need to put back the drum kit together. You basically want the results to be absolutely the same as the “before” pictures.
  • Place the smaller parts in covered containers. You may want to label them just in case.

At this time, it’s also an opportune moment to inspect every part of your drum kit for any damage that may require repair or replacement. See if you have any missing or loose hardware. Look over the tension lugs and check that they’re not bent. Look also for any sort of damage to the threads.

Clean the Drum

You need to be careful when you clean your drum. They’re somewhat as delicate as elegant furniture, so you will need to be very careful. There are several ways to clean the whole drum, but here are the basic steps and tips:

  • You can use a damp cloth to get rid of any dirt and dust, while a window cleaner or something just as mild will also do. Some use a solution of equal parts of vinegar and water, which can be just as effective as the safe cleaners you buy from a store. Vinegar can clean just about anything.
  • What you don’t want to use are harsher cleaners like ammonia, which can damage your drums. Harsh cleaners can cause the colors of the drums to look dull and flat. They can also fade the colors and even new drums may suddenly look old and forlorn.
  • Don’t use abrasive cleaners These can permanently scratch the finish of the drums.
  • The cleaner you choose to use is for the outside of the drum. But don’t use it for the inside, which doesn’t have any finish. The liquid you use on the inside will just be absorbed by the wood and that will affect the drum.
  • For the inside, just use a clean piece of cloth to get rid of any dust. That’s what you should use for the drum heads too. If you’re not sure how to clean a drum head, just use a clean damp piece of cloth instead of spraying water directly on the drum head if you have a coated drum head. For a clear plastic head, remove any dirt with non-ammonia window cleaner.
  • This is also a good time to check out the drum heads for any sort of damage. If they look worn out, this may be the best time to replace them since your drums are already disassembled.

Polish the Drum

Now that it’s clean, you may as well polish it so it looks fine.

  • You can just get a regular chrome polish as long as it’s non-abrasive.
  • Use a little of the chrome polish to a piece of cloth, and then work it into every nook and cranny.
  • Once you’re done applying the polish, use another clean piece of cloth to wipe the polish away.
  • Get some furniture polish you can spray on the finish of the shells. The furniture polish will get it looking shiny, while it also helps in repelling dust afterwards.

Clean the Cymbals

You will want to clean the cymbals. That’s because the dirt can have a negative effect on the sound of the cymbals. Also, it’s great if the cymbals look shiny, especially if you’re performing on stage.

  • Usually, cymbals are made of bronze and other alloys, so you will need to take care of them properly.
  • You have to get rid of any dirt that has accumulated on its surface, and while you’re at it you can also remove and fingerprints that can mar its looks. To achieve this, any dish soap or similarly gentle cleaner will do just fine. Some cymbals may also require specific brands of cleaners.
  • To really make your cymbals look great, a good polish may also be a nice option. It can make even old cymbals look new again, plus it keeps the cymbals from looking neglected. Just make sure that the polish you get is designed for bronze (or for brass). If it’s not, then your cleaner may end up making your cymbals look worse.

Take Care of The Hardware

Drum kits have plenty of small moving parts, and you will want each one of them to work together properly. So you will need to clean the hardware, and you shouldn’t forget about the bass pedals and the hi-hat stands. Here’s how to clean drum hardware:

  • Disassemble the stands. This gives you the chance to get rid of the grime that’s been gathering where the tubes fit together. This also helps you when you’re using the drums, as it will be easier for you to make adjustments.
  • For your basic general grime, any simple cleaner will do.
  • You can then use the polish you used for the drum on for the chrome of the hardware.
  • To help the moving parts work more effectively, apply just a little lubricant. Use a silicone-based lubricant, as the petroleum-based version may tarnish the finish.
  • What if you find some corrosion? For the rusted spots, use steel wool to get rid of them.

Put the Drum Kit Back Together

This should be easier, as you can just consult your original drum kit manual to assemble it like you did the first time. YouTube is also a nice resource on how to do this. Just don’t forget to make sure that your efforts should match what you have with the “before” pictures you took.

Final Tips

In between the thorough cleanings, here are some basic maintenance tips:

  • If you have spilled liquids on your drums, wipe them away immediately so they don’t eat at your finishes.
  • Always use a damp cloth to clean dirty spots on your drums after each performance.
  • Cover your drum set with a bed sheet or blanket to protect it from dust.

You need to learn how to clean a drum set, so you can take care of it properly. Of course, there’s a better way of keeping the dirt and dust away from your drum set. Keep on playing as often and as long as you can!

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