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Cleaning & Refinishing Bronze Cymbals


Q. I am trying to clean bronze cymbals made of 80% copper, 20% tin, and traces of silver. They are heavily tarnished green and black. I have used a cleaner produced by the manufacturer without success. I would like to polish the surface to a brilliant shine. Abrasives may harm the finely lathed tonal grooves, and off-the-shelf brass cleaners will discolor the medal. Is there an acid that could do the trick?

Darin P [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Manhattan, Kansas


A. Darin-

In more than 30 years of cymbal cleaning I have used everything from ketchup to gasoline, but I recently discovered a spray product called Graffiti Remover [affil link] that does an excellent job of cleaning traditional finish B-20 cymbals as well as Brilliant finish models. It sounds like you may have Traditional finish models that you wish to buff into Brilliant finish. If this is the case,please allow me to advise you of a few key points:

First, the tonal grooves will be smoothed over during the process of buffing. This will affect the overall sound of the cymbal.

Second, the heat generated by high-speed buffing will also affect the relative hardness (temper) of the metal,another sound-altering symptom that can wreak havoc if not performed correctly. If heat is allowed to build inconsistently in different areas of the disc, the resulting sound properties will be less than desirable.

Third, the process of buffing removes surface metal and all printed logos ... this may be undesirable in the case of valuable vintage instruments, which lose resale value if altered in this manner.

All things considered, it's probably best to just clean them well with Graffiti Remover (RINSE, RINSE, RINSE) and look for other Brilliant finish models to use with them. I buff cymbals all the time.

Mike Skiba
- Brick, New Jersey


Q. After the Graffiti Remover do you rinse with water?

TEE Bone
- Morgan Hill, California


Q. I have been a drummer for a couple years now and am wondering if just soaking my cymbals in that bath tub and scrubbing them with soap would work. Or would it be harmful to my cymbals.

Philip Jay Walter
student - Saskatoon, Sask, Canada


A. I use bronze/copper Twinkle Brass & Copper [affil link], rinse well, dry totally with a soft cloth and then wax with car wax or Teflon car wax. Shine lasts longer if waxed.

Juan Lopez
- Cali, Colombia

July 4, 2010

A. I use a product called Twinkle that's super easy to use and non abrasive (won't remove logos). I have old Zildjians that look brand new. Just wet 'em with warm water, rub on cymbal, rinse and dry. No hard rubbing or buffing, the stuff is magic and only about 4 bucks per container which will clean about 10 cymbals depending on size. Try it you'll like it.

Tony Sivadge
- Reseda, California, USA

To minimize searching & thrashing, multiple threads were merged; please forgive repetition, chronology errors, or disrespect of other responses (they probably weren't there) :-)


Q. Can anyone tell me if you can refinish cymbals (Brass)? I have some cymbals that are starting to turn dark and they have small green and dark spots on them. I tried some brass cleaning solutions that cleaned them a little, but I want them to shine like the day I bought them. Also, is there way to color cymbals? Paiste had cymbals that were colored and I wanted to know how they did it or can it be done on existing cymbals. So if anyone can help me out, it would be appreciate it.


David P [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Dearborn, Michigan


A. As a long time drummer, I have some answers for you. You can clean your cymbals with Brasso [affil link] or a similar product, but it will take a lot of work, and you should go with the grain of the cymbal. But before you do, consider this - cleaning your cymbals will change the sound (pitch) of them -- is this what you want? I had a jazz instructor who only bought used cymbals from pawn shops because he thought they had the best sound. I found that he was right and I haven't cleaned my cymbals since (20 years).

As far as the coloring goes I remember Paiste offering colored cymbals, but never heard of anyone doing it to old cymbals.

Hopes this helps.

Alan K [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Crete, Illinois

Bronze Cymbal Cleaner/Polish

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Cymbal Cleaner

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A. Cleaning won't change the sound of the cymbal in the way that you might think. Cleaning cymbals only brightens them, back to the sound at which you bought them. The gunk is oxidized metal and dirt. It causes the cymbal to vibrate or resonate differently. I like my cymbals clean. I bought them because I liked the sound that came from them off the shelf.

John C [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Riverside, California


A. Do not clean your cymbals with that brass stuff; it costs money. Just clean your cymbals with a simple cotton rag (non-abrasive) and some dish soap. it does wonders. I've been doing it for 25 years and my cymbals look brand new and sound the same too.

Miguel H [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Burbank, California


A. I think cymbals should be shiny and clean that's why I clean mine ... I've been doing it for 37 years.. Hi Miguel I know you. How are you?

Tim N [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Burbank, California


A. I just wanted to say that I used just about everything out there until I found Countertop Magic. This stuff works great. I tested it out on the mud guards on my jeep and it lasts ten times longer than Armor All. Try it once and you will get hooked.

Seth W [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Michigan

Ed. note: It's not at all clear to me how being 10x as long lasting on mud flaps as Armor All (if true) translates into being a better cleaner for cymbals, Seth, but here your is your posting :-) Thanks.


A. I'm an American sittin down here in Malaysia for 25 years, got a rock and roll bar and grill, I own 4 drum sets but really play guitar. Got all sorts wackin' my drums and I'm the one who maintains them and cleans them. Sittin in the tropics and outdoor gigs really git the cymbals funky. Sweaty hands take'n them down take their toll. I've worked my butt off tryin to clean them with all the name brand polishes and cleaners.I always let them go too long between cleans too! A local Malaysian drummer gave me this little recipe: tamarind paste! ? huh? Tamarind tree nuts is like a date palm and this is the paste from it's date-like nuts. It's used in cooking a lot of Asian dishes.

Take a basin with enough water to cover your cymbal and put a handful of this tamarind paste in and mix it around.Put your cymbal in for about 10-15 minutes and it comes out shining!It must be an acidic reaction. Don't do too long cause they'll turn pink! Locals use it for cleaning brass bits and it really works! If ya can find the stuff. I git it by the pound for next to nothin down here. No scrubbin or nothin; just rinse off with water after.

mark ruffin
Mark Ruffin
- Melaka Malaysia

"Zildjian: A History of the Legendary Cymbal Makers"
by Jon Cohan
from Abe Books

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Q. Hello, my name is Alex.

I would like to know how to clean my cymbals properly!

I have new cymbals from Zildjian and I got Zildjian cymbal cleaners too. I've done it once but it seems to remove a green kind of dust?

I would like to know how to clean it properly if that's alright.


Alex I [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
drummer - Sunshine Coast, Qld, Australia


A. Ultrabrite toothpaste [affil link] works really on brass cymbals and gives them that shimmering look.

Billy M [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Beverly Hills, California


Q. This shop I know of has a "hot tank" they use to boil out radiators, gas tanks, etc. I was thinking about taking an old cast off cymbal to them for a dip and see what happens. I believe the solution would be caustic, but the question would be how aggressive it is, and then possible after-effects, like turning black or something. Obviously I have been too chicken to seriously look into this at least so far.

Mike F [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- St. Joseph, Missouri


A. It's not a good idea, Mike. Hot strong caustic will "dezincify" brass.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


!! Building cymbal cleaning machine out of Sears grinding machine! Hello there! I been looking forever trying to get the right stuff to take off the bad sludge that attacks my grooves. I took apart a grinder from sears, but the cymbal will not lock down tight enough to hold from spinning. It was a good idea, but still needs more work as somebody in the world could make this tool for all the non-shiny cymbals out there. Perhaps putting hole in the top will do it , but don't know about losing the pitch or the sound? somebody please come up with product other than elbow grease! Maybe the cymbal co.'s would not like the machine but we will still require polishing paste so all will benefit. Maybe there's a company out there that cleans them for a price! I once took them to car wash to get detailed, but was not as good as the work I done on them. So, still waiting for some better ideas! Thanks


March 13, 2008

Q. I have a pair of Zildijan ZHT hi-hat cymbals that are only a few months old. I used to use Brasso which worked well, but I couldn't find it and think I just made a big mistake. I used Tarn-x and it is completely removing the gold finish and turning it to more of a silver-looking finish. I have to use it to finish it now as the color is too different to stop. Has anyone used this before, and am I right that I really screwed up? Thanks.

Spencer Gary
- San Antonio, Texas


A. I have searched high and low for a cleaning solution for my husband's cymbals. I checked around and found Barkeepers Friend (sort of the consistency of Comet) but made for brass, etc. I cleaned a heavily oxidized cymbal to a bright shine in about 20 minutes. When I say heavy oxidization I mean it! I am a glass artist and I regularly polish zinc, brass and copper but I have never cleaned anything this bad. For the really bad stuff on the first polish, I made a slightly liquid paste and put it on, waited about 5 minutes then rinsed it off, then I diluted it more and scrubbed with the grain of the cymbal, I kept watering it down with a spray bottle until it was shiny! both sides too. Then I followed it up with my stained glass finishing compound which took off the really fine corrosion and will protect the finish for months! He liked it a lot and now he wants me to do the rest! Great :-(

Michelle St. Denis
- Tulsa, Oklahoma

April 3, 2008

A. I've played for over 25 years, and have tried many different compounds, polishes, cleaners, etc., ad nauseam. The best thing I've found (and it works on both the natural finish, and brilliant finish cymbals) is a two part system. First clean the cymbal with Barkeepers Friend [affil link] (real cheap). I spray the cymbal with water, then lightly sprinkle the powder on the cymbal. Using a damp sponge clean with the lathing grain, then rinse with water and towel try. If it is really dirty, repeat the first step. Now use a cymbal specific polish, and follow the directions on the polish. The one thing I found out is that once you clean the cymbal, it is much easier to polish, and it uses less polish (more economical :o)). I recently bought a cymbal from a guy who never cleaned his for sonic reasons. It was that dark bronze (almost brown) color, and after about an hour it looked like I just bought it. The only downside to this process is that the printing will probably come off. This doesn't really bother me, but it might to others. I hope this helps. Keep slammin!

James McDonald
- St. Charles, Missouri

May 7, 2008

A. Just so everyone knows, Cymbals are made of bronze, not brass. Nice professional cymbals are of "bell bronze", an 80% copper, 20% tin alloy, while most beginner cymbals (even the Sabian B8 "pro" series) are 92% copper, 8% tin. Brass is copper and zinc.

The green oxidation is called patina, and it makes the cymbals sound warmer. Some people like this. Personally, I don't clean my cymbals unless I plan to sell them. And even then, I am careful with abrasive cleaners such as Brasso, because they will take the logos off very quickly.

Paiste cymbals should only be cleaned with dish soap and water, because they come from the factory with a clear protective coating. FYI, the copper/tin ratios in some Paiste cymbals differ from other brands, but it's still bronze.

Having said all that, there are some extremely cheap cymbals which I believe are made of brass.

Ryan Shelledy
- Kansas City, Missouri

September 14, 2008

A. I've been using Brite Boy polish [affil link] for a few years now and it is by far the best cleaner around.

Here's a link to where I buy it: www.cjms.com/britboymetpo.html [ed.note: sorry, link is now broken]

A clean cymbal is a happy cymbal. I'm not one for logos on my cymbals and I actually try to remove them. Zildjian doesn't sponsor me so, why should I promote them? Just my two cents.

Damien Stewart
- Fort Worth, Texas

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