Ultrasonic cleaning should be a regular part of maintenance procedures for trumpets, trombones, saxophones and similar instruments in order to remove calcium, grease and other deposits that build up over time but are difficult to remove by regular after-use cleaning. The process is fast, safe and effective, and will not remove lacquer when proper cleaning steps are employed.
The “magic” of ultrasonic cleaning is that the cleaning action is performed by billions of minute bubbles in an ultrasonic cleaner bath through a process called cavitation. The bubbles are produced by ultrasonic transducers affixed to the underside of the cleaning tank that transmit ultrasound from an ultrasonic generator into the bath itself. These tiny bubbles penetrate the smallest of crevices in the instruments, imploding with violent energy upon contact with the musical instrument parts and literally blast away calcium and corrosion deposits as well as hardened lubricants without damaging the parts. The process is faster and much more effective than manual or chemical scrubbing, which may also damage the parts.
Instrument Cleaning Process
Instruments should be disassembled to the extent practical and smaller parts such as valves and keys placed in a mesh basket. The instrument itself should also be placed in a mesh basket so as not to come in direct contact with the ultrasonic cleaner tank walls or bottom. Baskets are immersed in the tank, which contains an ultrasonic cleaning solution such as 1-5% Elma tec clean S1, a mildly acidic cleaning concentrate available from Tovatech. This cleaning solution will brighten the surface finish of brass instruments.
The cleaning cycle is brief, generally less than 10 minutes as cavitation removes buildup from surfaces in an observable action. Since today’s aqueous ultrasonic cleaning solutions are biodegradable there are no disposal issues with spent cleaning solution.
After cleaning, instruments and parts should be rinsed with clean water and dried. Fresh lubricants can be applied to valves and sliding components, and the instrument reassembled.
What process do you use to clean musical instruments? How long does the process take?