Flutes are unlike other instruments. Most of them are silver plated and require a level of care you may not have considered before. Let’s explore the inside and out of how to clean a flute.
The inside of your flute starts out dry and cold, but then once you begin blowing your warm breath into the head joint and barrel, a phenomenon I like to call “rain” happens.
Cold metal mixed with warm breath creates precipitation. This wetness on the inside of your flute isn’t a big deal… for a while. If it’s allowed to sit in there for long enough, a couple of things can happen.
Firstly, the moisture can affect the pads on the underside of the keys. These pads are super delicate and when left with moisture on them they soak it in and poof up. “Poofed” pads are a problem because if they aren’t dried out daily, they begin to flake and crack. The pads are your lifeline to good tone. Because of this you’ll most definitely want to keep them in impeccable condition.
Cold metal mixed with warm breath creates precipitation.
When you are actually playing the flute you can’t help but allow the precipitation run through your flute. All done? Now it’s time to clean it out. Learning how to clean a flute safely, easily and effectively is the goal.
The tools needed to clean a flute are:
The cleaning rod (which is also referred to as a tuning rod)
The cleaning cloth (there are several different types. My favorite right now is a silk swab)
You’ll want to watch this video so you can see how to carefully thread the cloth through the eye of the rod (like threading a needle) and pull it through your flute.
The most important part of the cleaning process is to wrap it so the rod won’t scratch your silver flute, then push the cloth through and out the other end of each piece (except the head joint).
Warning! Pushing the cloth through the body and then pulling it out again can cause it to get stuck. Consequently, then you will need to go to a professional flute technician. It’s a pain and kind of a bad deal. They will have to remove and reseat the keys. ($!) Push it through and all the way out the other end.
There’s a bit of wetness that stays inside the upper area of the head joint (on the underside of the cork plate). Don’t worry about this too much. It’s kind of impossible to remove, but will dry by itself. Furthermore, it’s far enough away from the pads so you don’t need to worry too much about it.
Swab out the inside of your flute after every single playing session.
Place each flute piece back in the case safely after swabbing it out.
Lastly, you’ll want to make sure and swab out the inside of your flute after every single playing session. This will keep your pads in good condition which helps your tone.
The outside of the flute starts out so shiny and pretty, but within time it becomes kind of dull and tarnished. This is due to the fact that the silver-nickel metals, combined with time and air, oxidize and create a chemical reaction. If your flute looks kind of brown instead of nice and shiny silver, check out this article to help you with a home-remedy fix.
The most important thing to remember when polishing the outside of your flute is to be very careful around the mechanism. It’s so easy to damage the intricate rods and springs. Ask me how I know? Haha, yes I did this to my flute once. I got a little aggressive with rubbing the barrel of the flute and accidentally rubbed one of the little felt pads off of an arm. It caused all sorts of problems!
Check out this video where I show you how to polish carefully and what I like to use for a polisher / cleaning agent.
Use a nice soft cloth that has been designated for polishing an instrument like this.
Finally, take care of your flute and as a result it will take care of you. Learning how to clean a flute is just one step to great playing abilities.