Thoughts About Cleaning And Maintenance

Summer is almost here and I'm back at my part time summer job, which is working for a local music store that I teach at. They have an huge school rental program and my job is to clean up and repair all the rental snare drum and bell kits that students have used over the past year, and get them ready for both summer music programs, and the fall semester. So I thought this would be a good time to talk about cleaning your gear and taking care of it.

A small pile of kits to be worked on. There will be hundreds more, 
stacked floor to ceiling, within the next 2 weeks.

The glamorous life: cleaning percussion.

The 1st thing is tools: besides a drum key, quality screw drivers (in both flat & phillips) are a necessity. It's also nice to have a pliers, a few wrenches to fit what you are working on, and a hammer, just because you might need a hammer, and maybe an electric drill with a drum key bit if you are changing a lot of heads. I also have a box cutter knife & scissors because I may need to cut things, like snare cord.

The 2nd thing is cleaning supplies: Make your own Magical Spray Cleaner!!! (a spray bottle filled with water + a little dish detergent. This works great on everything, leaves no film, and costs pennies), Flitz (or similar metal polish for stubborn rust spots), micro-fiber rags, scrubbie kitchen sponge pads, furniture polish, and Goo Gone.

Trusty cleaning tools

So, the place to start is using the Magical Spray Cleaner on any and everything. Spray it on a micro-fiber/soft cloth, and wipe off whatever you are working on. It works great on chrome, drum heads, and drum shells (unless you have one of those porous stained finishes - don't use on that). If you've got some dirt/crud that won't come off, use a scrubbie pad. These are great because they won't scratch (I use them on cymbals & Gongs too!). If you have tape residue, or other sticky stuff, use Goo Gone to remove it. If you have rust spots on hardware, Flitz Metal Polish works well on getting the rust off. Wipe/polish everything with a clean micro-fiber/soft cloth. If needed/wanted, apply a coating of furniture polish (like Pledge) to keep the chrome from getting stained/tarnished quickly. I do this to all of my Gong/Drum/Percussion racks (and I have a lot of racks).

The nice thing is, if you have new gear, or recently cleaned gear, all you need to do is clean it off with the Magical Spray Cleaner regularly to keep it looking new. I have stands that are probably older than a lot of blog readers here that look almost out-of-the-box new.

When I change heads (which is every 10-13 years on my drums) I always put a few drops of a light machine oil on the lugs to keep them moving smoothly. I also run a block of paraffin wax around the bearing edge before I seat the heads (yeah, I know, a lot of folks say this is not necessary. I do it. You can do what you want to…). Speaking of heads, if you have white coated heads that are full of stick marks, you can just use the Magical Spray Cleaner and a scrubbie pad to scrub off your heads and they'll look almost new. If you play a lot of brushes, you might just want to leave those heads alone, because this does smooth them out a bit.

OK, that's it for now. I have 100 feet of rack tubing to clean up before my next gig.

What cleaning tips do you have?

~ MB


  1. Would the oil drops on the lugs get in contact with the drum shells (wood) and damage them? What kind of oiling-greasing drum manufacturers used, if any? I dismantled my first drum kit (many years ago in the 70s) and barely recall any oil or grease on the lugs (perhaps something like ear wax, LOL).

    1. Good questions. What I'm talking about here is a drop or 2 of oil on each lug (or you could apply it directly to the lug screw threads), not liberally dousing things in oil. If you touch the tip of the oil bottle to right where the lug screws go into the threads on the lug, a drop or 2 will usually collect there. Then screw in the lug screw and it will be distributed along the threads. You could also use some sort of light grease. I know Ludwig used to use some sort of white grease for lubrication. I use a light machine oil, LP 'Lug Lube,' or even trumpet valve oil.

      Unless you change your heads every day, or douse things with oil, there really shouldn't be anything that will drip inside of the lug casing and get on the finish of the shell. I have drums I bought new in 1972 that I've never had a problem with oil drips or build up.

      And this is just something I usually do, you may not want to, especially on a snare drum where you find the screws back off from heavy rim shots. In that case you'd probably want the threads to bind a bit and grab more, but I've never had that problem.

  2. It's also nice to have a pliers, a few wrenches to fit what you are working on, and a hammer, just because you might need a hammer, and maybe an electric drill with a drum key bit if you are changing a lot of heads


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