How to Clean Cymbals I All Myths Busted

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The best to clean cymbals is using cymbal cleaners from well-renowned companies like Paise, Zildjian, etc.
It will make oxidation go away and refresh the cymbals sound.
You can clean cymbals with household items but not as effective.

Because they are alloys of copper and tin, and with time they oxidize. 

If you are like me and you like that fresh-out-of-the-box look, this has probably crossed your mind, and you went on searching for the right way on how to clean them.

Call it a simple chemical reaction. When the cymbals are new, they are mostly layered with the special coating to prevent dirt and rust. 

With time, the coating will naturally wear off the more you play your cymbals. 

Once the coating is gone, dirt and oils which end up on your cymbal and are in touch with the oxygen will make a reaction of oxidation.

Before you start cleaning your cymbals, you should consider which type of sound you like – because yes, the cleaning can affect the sound. 

Clean ones have more of a bright sound, while those with that patina look will have a dark sound. 

So, stay with me while I go through some of the items you could use in your cleaning processes.

Do clean cymbals sound better?

 It depends on which type of sound you like, so there is no wrong or right answer if they sound better when they are clean.

If they are clean, they will have a brighter sound, and if not, they will have more of a dark sound. 

Listen to your feelings on what you think is the best sound for you, and keep your cymbals how you want to. 

You can keep some of those with the patina look and darker sound and use them for playing classic rock or jazz. It all just comes to what you consider the best for yourselves.

All in all, my honest opinion is that you should always take care of your cymbals as the rest of the drum set. 

Keep good maintenance of them, and you will surely avoid specific types of cracks, spending extra money on replacing new ones – as they are not as cheap as they may seem – and most importantly, they will last a lifetime.

cleaning cymbals with household items

How to clean cymbals with household items?

When it comes to cleaning cymbals, several household items will do the trick – but keep in mind that some of them don’t do a perfect job.

You can use 

  • ketchup
  • lemons
  • water
  • dish soap
  • others

and what is necessary is to place your cymbal on a towel to keep other surfaces clean.

Most manufacturers will not agree on using household items to clean the cymbals, but if for some reason you decide to go for this, here are some ideas.

Can you clean cymbals with ketchup?

In case the cymbal cleaner is not at hand, you can do this, but it’s not a 100% perfect way, though. Since ketchup is acidic, you shouldn’t leave it on the surface for too long..

How do you clean cymbals with lemon?

Rub the cymbal with the lemon juice, leave it for about 20 minutes, rinse it with hot water, and dry it. It may not damage the writing, but it will not clean all the parts.

Can you clean cymbals with water and vinegar?

Yes, you can do it by mixing vinegar and water. You just let the mixture sit for around 30 minutes on the surface, rinse it with warm water, and dry it with microfiber tissue. Note that it will not be 100% clean after doing this.

Can you clean cymbals with WD40?

Yes, WD40 can help with cleaning some rust and grime from the cymbals. When you spray it, let it sit for 3 to 5 minutes, and wipe it with a soft tissue.

Can you clean cymbals with Windex?

You can get rid of some stick marks and minor grime, but it can also damage them if you keep it for too long because it’s ammonia-based.

how to clean cymbals

What is the best way to clean cymbals?

The best solution comes with well-manufactured cymbal cleaners. 

They can perfectly clean badly tarnished cymbals and remove oxidation from them.

How do you use cymbal cleaner?

The general way of using the cymbal cleaner is to apply it on a microfiber tissue and apply it along the cymbal grooves – the thin coat will be enough.

You can remove the cymbal cleaner with the dry tissue or rinse it with warm water. You must dry it with the microfiber cloth after it to ensure it works 100%.

What’s the best cymbal cleaner?

Already being said, the best way you can clean your cymbals is if you use a cleaner for cymbals.

The best ones are brand-specific cymbal cleaners.

Mostly cymbal manufacturers will have a cleaner that works the best for that specific cymbal, but if they are too expensive or they somehow don’t offer a cleaner, you can use others that will do the job.

Some of the best cleaners I came across and used for a time are:

Groove juice

This cymbal cleaner works best for premium, professional bronze cymbals

Sabian safe and sound

The fully organic and acid free cymbal cleaner suitable for all cymbals not just Sabian. 

MusicNomad Premium

Works great as a replacement for other cymbal makers, such as Sabian, Zildjian, Paiste, Meinl, etc. It is perfect for cymbals with brilliant finish.

Zildjian cymbal cleaner

Preserves the original coating, and it removes perfectly dirt and marks.

Meinl MCCL cymbal cleaner

Packed in the 250 ml bottle. It’s a spray that removes the oxidation and dirt without rubbing.

Bear in mind that logos on cymbals are inconsistent. 

The number of factors affects them – such as the amount of ink that was applied, the cymbal temperature when the manufacturer applied the link, and others – so it’s easy to remove them while cleaning the cymbals.

It would be best to try not to apply any cleaner to the logo itself and not rub it. 

While you use the cymbal cleaner, you should carefully go around the logo and use cotton swabs, which might help.

How to polish cymbals?

It would be best if you do not polish your cymbals every time you clean them. 

Polish them from time to time, mostly because many products have powerful abrasives which may remove certain layers on your cymbals if you use them too much. 

Many brands manufactured their polishing products, so there are plenty of options out there on the market.

Simple steps on how to polish your cymbals are:

  1. Use a dry tissue to wipe the grooves of the cymbal.

  2. Shake the cymbal polish well and add a small amount to a microfiber tissue. Gently rub it over and into cymbal grooves and make sure that you don’t miss any area on the surface, but try to avoid the logo.

  3. Wait around 30 seconds, and after you apply the polish onto the cymbal and get rid of the excess polish by using another tissue. Or you can rinse it with warm water and then dry it with dry microfiber tissue.

  4. You can repeat the same process for the other side of the cymbal.

The number one cymbal polish that I came across is surely Zildjian finish cymbal polish mentioned above.

It works great when it comes to cleaning, polishing, and protecting the cymbal. You should use this Zildjian polish only on brilliant finish cymbals.

One important piece of information is that if you have non-brilliant finish cymbals, do not polish them. 

It would be best not to clean those types of cymbals with any polishing products as they can discolor the natural finish or even leave some marks on the cymbal. 

If you have that type, you should clean it regularly with dry microfiber tissue. Some soap and water also work fine for them.


You probably know some drummers that, for some reason, don’t clean their gear as often as they should. 

You may have also noticed that some drummers always keep their cymbals clean. 

They do not clean them only for the looks, but also because they like that brighter sound – the sound that after a time of using still sounds as close as when the cymbal was new.

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.

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