How to Keep Your Flute From Turning Brown with Tarnish
When you first set sight on your new flute it was shiny shiny shiny, wasn’t it? Take a look at it now. What happened? It’s more common than not that you’ve probably noticed your instrument is turning brown with tarnish.
It’s okay. No panic. I’ll help you.
First, put your flute away in its case each and every single day (including night time). I understand that you may like to keep it out so that you can practice off and on, but leaving it out in the air causes a big problem for the silver.
I recently took a walk-about Europe, and on my travels I met a sweet family who had a flute sitting on their piano. I was curious to how it would sound and they encouraged me to play for them. Wellllll…. I was pretty skeptical since it was brown, brown with tarnish creep all over it. I played it some, and it actually responded about 40% of what a new flute would have.
I just wish someone had spent some time teaching them how to properly care for their flute. They probably would have enjoyed many more years with it. At this rate though, it’ll be dead by Christmas. The tarnish will eventually “rust” the mechanism and it’ll freeze up, and the pads will dry completely up. I took a picture of that flute that day for you so you can see what I’m talking about.
I just wish someone had spent some time teaching them how to properly care for their flute
Our flutes are made of precious metals that change and sort of oxidize while sitting out in the air. Tarnish (the brown stuff) is caused by any number of different chemicals that can react with silver, and the most common one is sulfur, believe it or not. Sulfur is present in the air around us every day. There are different types of sulfurs (Hydrogen Sulfide H2S and Sulfur Dioxide SO2 in the air particles surrounding us all the time. These react with the silver on your flute (and the other metals) to form “silver sulfide” – this is what tarnish is made of.
This is one of the reasons we need to treat our flutes well, and take some extra-special care. We can keep them shiny and new-looking by just following a quick maintenance list daily. It doesn’t take much thought after a couple of habits are formed.
I have some good information here on this article, in the podcasts added, and also in videos. This video will demonstration visually even more about flute tarnish (tips for removal and prevention) if you prefer to watch:
If you live somewhere pretty humid, you’ll have more issues with tarnish than if you live in a dry climate (in general) because the rate of tarnish growing is faster in higher level of humidity. Silver does not tarnish quickly in dry air.
Another reason some flutes will tarnish quicker than others is that some people have acidic skin. Some people just have different PH levels. Not your fault if this seems like you, just know that your flute will need to be cleaned more carefully, and never skip cleaning it on a day after playing it.
So, basically, there are various things in daily life that will cause your silver flute to tarnish, but the speed it will tarnish varies depending on the conditions it lives in (humidity and PH of skin). You can listen to me talk even deeper about the subject of avoiding a brown tarnished flute even more here: https://learnfluteonline.com/lfp-006-how-to-avoid-a-brown-tarnished-flute/.
Did your grandmother have a case of “real silverware”? Mine did, and we still have it. It’s full of shiny, beautiful forks, spoons, and knives. About once or twice a year my mom replaces a “Silver Saver” paper inside the chest. If this hasn’t been done, we lay it all out and clean it together. This is also why we need to keep these “Silver Saver” paper in our flute cases.
Silver Saver papers can literally ‘save’ your instrument.
You may also know these as “anti-tarnish strips”.
Many brand new flutes will actually come with a Silver Saver paper in the case, but so many people don’t know what it’s for so they quickly throw it away as if it’s some sort of wrapping that is meant to be discarded immediately after purchase. Not so!
Here’s a picture of a popular Silver Saver paper you can find on Amazon- easily and painlessly delivered right to your front door this week.
Here’s what you do:
- Order your Anti-Tarnish Strips HERE (or find them somewhere else)
- When they arrive, keep them in an airtight package/ziplock type bag.
- Place one inside your flute case- right on top of the flute itself.
- Replace it every 4 – 9 months.
Voila! It’s that easy.
*You still have to clean and wipe off your flute after playing it because of all the oils and spit etc. But this will help SO SO SO much!
*A quick note about silica gel packets.. It’s NOT recommended you use these in your flute case to help with moisture because they will most likely dry out your pads, which will cause them to crack.
Let me help you with your cleaning technique and helping to keep your flute nice and shiny:
If you acquire or have a flute that is brown, blue, or even green with mold or tarnish, you may want to ask a professional flute technician what they recommend. These extreme conditions can be remedied quickly by them, but for a price. Sometimes if it is a very low-quality flute, you may opt to purchase a new one instead. Here’s more information for you on this and how to know if your flute needs to be seen by a flute technician: https://learnfluteonline.com/what-does-a-flute-technician-do/
Many people ask about these oils and germs, especially on their flutes, and if you’re interested in getting more detailed about cleaning and making sure your flute stays in mint condition (a very good idea), here are more resources from me here at Learn Flute Online.
Winter colds and viruses make you wonder what you can do to keep the germs off of your flute. Here’s a good podcast episode you can listen to today that will help you out with this subject: https://learnfluteonline.com/flute-care-cleaning-germs/
How you store and clean your flute is kind of a big deal also for keeping it in good condition and nice and shiny. I have more information in my easy-to-listen-to podcast here for you: http://learnfluteonline.con/lfp-028-how-to-store-your-flute-in-different-seasons/
I’m so happy you are interested in keeping your flute in great condition. Following my tips and lessons will make you into a flute pro! Learning how to keep your flute from turning brown with tarnish is a great first step in learning all about how to play the flute.