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How to Clean and Polish a Flute

How to Clean and Polish a Flute
A flute has a very melodious existence in the world of music. Those who are learning to play or are flute artists, know how important it is to maintain the instrument to get the best sound. With a few tips in mind one can clean and polish a flute at home as well. A simple procedure is given below...
Dhanashree Patane
Last Updated: May 31, 2018
The flute is a delicate music instrument which apart from the basic ones, are complex, with keys, tone holes, and some which are made up of soft metal. Most of these make the flute a fragile instrument, so handling it with care is important, more so when you are cleaning, assembling or disassembling the flute. Just like learning the right notes, playing the flute is important, and so is maintaining it.

Most artists have basic flutes in their learning stages and later get playing with the more advanced ones. During this whole process, the instrument needs to be at its best settings, which is why the need to keep the flute clean and maintained. Dust and moisture can give poor quality of music from the flute. It needs to be kept dry and clean from time to time.

Regular maintenance includes keeping the flute dry, but most flutes need a yearly servicing which involves disassembling the flute.
If the flute is not cleaned well, it may cause the pads to swell due to the absorption of moisture. Moisture gets trapped in the flute whenever it is played. Hence, they will not cover the tone holes properly. This moisture can also cause corrosion of the metal inside. This will give poor sound quality, intonation and articulation. A few tips and procedures on how to clean and maintain the flute are mentioned below.
How to Clean a Flute at Home
We will first understand the basics of cleaning a flute. Remember, it is spoiled every time it is played. So cleaning it with a dry cloth every time it is played is recommended. To clean a flute well, it is important to disassemble it first. You will get three parts of the flute:
flute head joint
  • The head joint - this is the part of the flute with no keys, it has the lip plate, which is also called the embouchure plate, (segment where the musician rests his lip) and a mouth hole (the musician blows air in the flute).
flute main body and foot joint
  • The main body - this is where the keys, tuning slide, and tenons are located, and this part is in the middle, it connects the head joint with the foot joint (explained below).
  • The foot joint - the foot joint is the shortest of the three parts, and has some keys.
Let us now understand how to clean the instrument in the following.
  • To clean the flute you will need a soft cloth, and a rod. The rod will come with your flute, for the soft cloth you can use any spare cloth like a handkerchief, a scarf, etc., (use a cloth that is absorbent) at home or you can also buy a cloth specially made to clean flutes from any music store.
  • To clean the inside of the body joint and the foot joint, you can simply thread this cloth in the cleaning rod. Next, wrap the cloth around the rod completely. This will prevent the inside surface from getting scratches from the rod. Now slowly insert the rod in the head joint, clean with a slight twisting motion. Do not do this vigorously, it may damage the key pads. Clean the main body and the foot joint of the flute similarly.
  • To clean the outer surface, you may simply clean it with a soft cloth, if it has not tarnished too much. Never use liquid silver polish or other polishing compounds on the flute. Never use water to clean the flute. You can use a micro fiber polishing cloth to clean the surface. This should get rid of the fingerprints and oily surfaces.
  • One can use rubbing alcohol too, this will also sterilize the lip plate. You may try to use silver polishing cloth which is easily available in stores. You can also use a slightly damp cloth to clean the outer surface. Use these cloths away from the keypads.
  • Never clean very harshly and do not apply pressure on the keys or other delicate parts. Also when cleaning the keys a little sound from opening and closing key pads is normal, do not panic.
If you feel there is a need for oiling the keys, if the flute has not been serviced for a long time, you should take it to a professional to get it oiled and serviced. Changing and oiling the keys at home is risky as the oil tends to run on the pads.

Moreover, there is a special lubrication on the keys to support smooth functioning. So if this lubrication gets wiped off or spoiled, there can be further damage. There are certain specifications when it comes to oiling the flute and its various parts.

It is always better to take it to a professional who should service and clean it for you.
For beginners, it is advisable to take help to clean the flute. Because any manhandling can create damages. Take care when handling, assembling and disassembling the parts of the flute. Cleaning a flute at home is a simple procedure, with apt care and patience, it's worth a try!
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