Your 3-Step Guide to Cleaning a Drum Set at Home

July 28, 2023

So, it’s time to clean a drum set, and now you are wondering where to start?

I know you have a lot of questions, so I will answer the two most important ones right away:

Q: How does cleaning affect the life and sound of a drum set?

A: Regular cleaning extends your drum set’s life by preventing corrosion and damage from dirt and grime. It also ensures optimal sound quality by eliminating obstructions that can alter resonance and pitch.

Q: What damage can accumulate if a drum set is not cleaned regularly?

A: If not cleaned regularly, a drum set can accumulate stick residue, dust, and dirt that can lead to corrosion, particularly on the metal parts like cymbals and hardware. This can eventually cause aesthetic and functional damage, affecting sound quality and the overall life of the drum set.

Ready to move on?

Let’s go into step by step guide on how to clean a drum set, and by the end of it, I promise you’ll get all of your questions answered.

how to clean a drum set

Step 1 – Cleaning the Drum Shells (Wooden Components)

As the main body of your drum set, drum shells are crucial for sound resonance and quality. Cleaning your drum shells every three to six months is usually good practice. However, factors like usage frequency, environmental conditions, and personal preference can affect this timeline.


Remove the drum heads and hardware from the shells. This will give you full access to the shell surfaces and protect other components from potential water damage. Be sure to place all small parts safely so they won’t get lost.


Wipe the shell surface with a soft cloth dipped in your chosen cleaning solution. Always follow the grain of the wood to avoid scratching the shell. Be careful not to soak the wood, as excessive moisture can damage it.

If you’re dealing with stubborn grime on your drum shells, consider using a non-abrasive plastic scrubbing pad along with your cleaning solution. It can help dislodge tough dirt without scratching the wood.


Once the shell is clean, wipe it down with a dry cloth to remove any remaining moisture. The shells must be completely dry before reassembly to prevent moisture from getting trapped and causing potential damage.


Once the shell is completely dry, you can reinstall the hardware and drum heads. It’s an excellent opportunity to tune your drums, as dismantling and reassembling can slightly alter the tuning.

Household Items for Cleaning Drum Shells

A soft cloth moistened with distilled water works well for minor cleaning jobs. For a homemade solution, try mixing mild dish soap with warm water.

Specific Products for Cleaning Drum Shells

There are drum-specific cleaning products on the market, like:

  • Drum Detailer
  • Cymbal Cleaner

Which are specially formulated to be gentle on the shells while effectively removing dirt and grime.

How Cleaning Affects the Sound of Drum Shells

Clean drum shells resonate better, leading to a richer, fuller sound. Dirt and grime can dampen this resonance, making the drum sound flat or dull.

Pros and Cons of Cleaning Drum Shells

Regular cleaning keeps your drum shells looking and sounding their best, increasing the lifespan of your drum set. The only downside is the time it takes, but this is a small price for a kit that consistently performs at its best.

clean a drum hardware

Step 2 – Cleaning the Drum Hardware (Metal Components)

The hardware of a drum set, including the rims, lugs, stands, pedals, and more, is predominantly made of metal, which brings a particular shine and aesthetic to your kit. These components are prone to tarnishing, corrosion, and dust accumulation.

As with drum shells, cleaning your hardware every three to six months is a good guideline. However, this can vary based on usage, environment, and personal preference.


Remove the hardware from your drum set. Keep track of all screws, lugs, and other small parts to avoid losing anything.

If you’re having trouble disassembling parts of your drum set, try using a drum key or screwdriver. However, always remember to be gentle to avoid causing any damage. Suppose a part takes time to come off. In that case, it may be best to seek professional help rather than forcing it and potentially causing damage.


Soak a soft cloth in your chosen cleaning solution and use it to clean each piece of hardware. Use a soft brush or toothpick for more stubborn dirt or areas hard to reach.

If you notice small rust spots on your drum hardware, try using a mild abrasive like baking soda. Mix it with a bit of water to form a paste, then gently scrub the rust spot with a soft cloth or toothbrush. Always test on an inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t scratch the metal.

Rinsing and Drying

Rinse the hardware with warm water to remove any soap residue. Dry each piece thoroughly with a clean towel. Make sure the hardware is completely dry to avoid rusting.


Once the hardware is dry, reassemble your drum set. This is also an excellent time to lubricate moving parts to ensure smooth operation.

Household Items for Cleaning Drum Hardware

A soft cloth or toothbrush with a solution of warm water and mild dish soap can be a gentle and effective cleaning method for hardware. For more stubborn dirt, a toothpick can help get into those hard-to-reach places.

Specific Products for Cleaning Drum Hardware

There are several products on the market specifically designed for cleaning metal musical instrument parts, such as: 

  • Groove Juice
  • Music Nomad MN110,
  • Brasso. 

They can help you remove tougher stains or built-up grime and bring back the original shine of your hardware.

How Cleaning Affects the Sound and Functionality of Drum Hardware

Regular cleaning ensures that your drum hardware works smoothly, which can impact the drum set’s playability. It won’t directly affect the sound as shells or cymbals do. Still, it contributes to a well-maintained, fully functioning drum kit, indirectly influencing overall sound quality.

Pros and Cons of Cleaning Drum Hardware

Keeping your drum hardware clean extends its lifespan and maintains its appearance and functionality. On the downside, it requires time and effort, and there’s a risk of misplacing small parts during the process. But with careful handling and organization, these risks can be managed effectively.

cleaning cymbals

Step 3 – Cleaning the Cymbals

Cymbals, an integral part of any drum set, bring color and nuance to your sound. Over time, they can accumulate grime, dust, and stick marks, eventually affecting their sound and appearance.

Cleaning your cymbals every three to six months generally keeps them in top condition. However, how often you play and the grime level on your cymbals can require adjustments to this schedule.


Remove the cymbals from their stands. This allows you to clean the entire surface area and prevents any cleaning product from getting on other parts of your drum set.


Apply your chosen cleaning solution to a soft cloth or directly onto the cymbal, covering the entire surface. Let the cleaner sit for a few minutes to break down the grime, then gently scrub the cymbal, constantly rubbing from the center outwards in a circular motion.

For cymbals with heavy stick marks, a non-abrasive scrubbing pad can help. Gently rub the affected areas in the direction of the cymbal’s grain. Avoid scrubbing in a circular motion, as this can lead to visible scratches.

Rinsing and Drying

Rinse the cymbal thoroughly with warm water to remove any cleaning product residue. Dry the cymbal entirely with a clean cloth to prevent water spots or potential rust.


Once your cymbals are completely dry, you can reattach them to their stands. It’s important not to over-tighten the wing nuts as this can choke the cymbal and affect its sound.

Household Items for Cleaning Cymbals

Lemon juice or vinegar mixed with baking soda can make an effective homemade cymbal cleaner. The acid in these substances can help break down grime and restore shine.

Specific Products for Cleaning Cymbals

There are also many cymbal-specific cleaning products available, such as:

  • Zildjian Cymbal Cleaning Polish
  • Sabian Cymbal Cleaner

Designed to restore the shine and luster of your cymbals without causing damage.

How Cleaning Affects the Sound of Cymbals

A clean cymbal is a responsive cymbal. Over time, dirt and grime can build up on your cymbals, dampening their resonance and dulling their sound. Regular cleaning keeps your cymbals sounding bright and clear.

Pros and Cons of Cleaning Cymbals

Cleaning cymbals can restore their visual shine and improve sound quality. However, some drummers prefer the ‘aged’ sound with a patina layer. It’s important to note that once a cymbal is cleaned, this patina can take a long time to reaccumulate. As always, the choice comes down to personal preference.

Maintaining Cleanliness Between Deep Cleans

Maintaining the cleanliness of your drum set between deep cleans can significantly extend the life of your equipment and minimize the need for more intensive cleaning sessions. With some easy habits and spot-cleaning techniques, your drum set can always look and sound fantastic.

  • Regular Wipe Downs: After each use, wipe down your drum set with a dry cloth for a few minutes. This removes dust and prevents the build-up of sticky residue.
  • Hand Washing: Make it a habit to wash your hands before playing. Oils and dirt from your hands can transfer to your drum set and cause grime to build up more quickly.
  • Proper Storage: If you’re not going to use your drum set for an extended period, consider storing it in cases or at least cover it with a cloth to prevent dust accumulation.

Do drum covers help in maintaining cleanliness?

Yes, drum covers can be a great help in maintaining the cleanliness of your drum set. They protect the drums from dust and other environmental contaminants when not in use, reducing the frequency of cleaning required. 

Spot Cleaning Techniques

Sometimes, a complete cleaning isn’t necessary, and a quick spot clean will suffice. Here are some fast and safe methods to deal with minor spots and dirt.

A quick wipe with a damp cloth can often remove minor spots and dirt for the shells and hardware. A little mild soap or a gentle cleaning solution can help if the spot is stubborn.

It’s best to avoid using harsh cleaning solutions for spot cleaning for cymbals, as they can discolor the cymbal. Instead, use a soft cloth dampened with some lemon juice or vinegar. 

Wrap Up

Proper maintenance of your drum set involves regular cleaning and careful handling. Both household items and professional drum cleaning products can be practical, depending on your preference and the drum set’s condition. 

Remember to be gentle during cleaning, paying particular attention to wooden components and ensuring that everything is thoroughly dry before reassembling.

Be mindful that cleaning cymbals might affect their sound due to the removal of the patina. As a rule of thumb, carry out a deep clean every three to six months with regular upkeep. Proper care extends the life and enhances the performance of your drum set.

Denis Loncaric
Denis Loncaric

My name is Denis. I am a drummer, percussionist, music enthusiast, and blogger. Drums have been my passion for 15 years now. My idea is to write about the things I like and I am interested in. I want to share my drum passion with fellow musicians who walk, talk, and breathe drums.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Drum That