How to Clean Your Trumpet Without a Snake

Clean Trumpet without snake

Cleaning your trumpet can seem like an inconvenience, and without a wire snake you might as well leave it for next year. But proper maintenance of your instrument is crucial to its longevity and performance, so it is important that you clean it regularly.

How do you clean a trumpet without a snake? The purpose of a wire snake is to reach within the deep valves of a trumpet. Without one, simply taking out all of the components and soaking your trumpet is enough to clean most parts of the instrument, and a toothpick or cotton swab may be used to remove some internal dirt. 

A trumpet should be completely cleaned at least once every two months, and the mouthpiece weekly. This is in addition to regular oiling. Expect to spend about a half hour cleaning your instrument, though with time it may take as little as fifteen minutes. This method is not recommended for cleaning your trumpet every time; to keep your instrument in working condition long-term, you should pick up a cleaning kit.

How Do You Give Your Trumpet a Bath?

Trumpet valvesIt is very easy to give your trumpet a bath, but you must take care as to not ruin the finish or any internal elements. There are three main parts of the trumpet that will be cleaned:

  • Valves: this is how the trumpet changes notes; pressing on one or a combination of them redirects air through longer tubing, lowering the note
  • Slides: attached to each valve; each serves a different purpose in determining what frequency the instrument will produce
  • Body: main part of the trumpet


Begin by removing all the valves and placing them aside in a place where they cannot get damaged or dropped. To do this, unscrew the valve caps at the top of each valve case, then simply pull the valve straight up. Take care to not separate the valves.

After completing this, remove all the slides, starting from the first and finishing with the main tuning slide. If any of your slides are stuck, do not try pulling them out with force, as you can accidentally pull the tubing apart. In this case, clean the rest of your instrument and take it to be fixed by a professional.


Fill a bathtub with warm water at a high enough level so that your trumpet can be completely immersed. Add a small amount (few drops) of dish soap to the water. Make sure to not make the water too hot or use dishwasher detergent, as both can cause damage to your instrument.

Start by submerging the slides for about five minutes, then rinse, dry, and set them on a towel. Next, do the same for the entire trumpet body. Inspect the tubing for any visible dirt, and clean it out with a toothpick if possible. Rinse and let the trumpet air dry on a towel.

When cleaning the valves, you want to take care to not completely submerge them. You may elect to use warm running water for this step. In any case, avoid getting the top part wet at all costs, as the pads located here can compress and cause valve misalignment and a loss of shock absorption. If this happens, you will have to get them changed, so mainly focus on cleaning the bottom area by the ports. Rinse all soap from the valves, but don’t dry them. Towels leave behind lint, and this can impede the movement of the valves.


Begin by adding a small amount of oil to the first slide, third slide, and all three valves. For the second and main tuning slides, use slide grease. Carefully reinsert the slides and each valve in their correct location.

And you’re done!

How Do You Clean a Trumpet Mouthpiece Without a Brush?

Trumpet mouthpieceThe mouthpiece is perhaps the most important part of any brass instrument; without it, the instrument is nothing more than a contorted piece of shiny metal. This is why properly cleaning your mouthpiece is crucial to the overall maintenance of your instrument. It is highly recommended to use a brush for this, as it can be difficult to get the mouthpiece as clean as it needs to be without one. But if you are in a pinch, this method can get the job done.

First, let your mouthpiece sit in a mixture of warm water and dish soap for a couple hours. If it’s been a while since your last cleaning, it is recommended to let it sit overnight.

Next, remove the mouthpiece and use a toothpick or the equivalent to gently scrape the inside of the mouthpiece. You’ll want to do this while running the mouthpiece under warm running water so that all the gunk gets flushed out. Hold the toothpick firmly against the mouthpiece walls, and rotate the mouthpiece a full 360 degrees. Repeat for both ends, several times.

How Do You Maintain a Trumpet?

While deep cleaning can be done every 6-8 weeks, you should take steps to maintain your trumpet on a weekly basis. This includes cleaning the mouthpiece, but also the internals.

The slides should be taken out and given a superficial cleaning by removing loose dirt within them and lubricating appropriately. Use oil for the first and third slides, and grease for the second and main tuning slides. After application, each slide should be moved back and forth a few times to work in the oil or grease.

Oil is used on the slides that require quick and smooth movement, while the grease is used to dampen movement. The first and third slides are used to achieve control over pitch during playing, which is why they need oil. The second and main tuning slides should only be moved when not playing the instrument, which is why grease is used here.

You should also clean out any dirt from the water-key hole using a toothpick. A disinfecting wipe or lint-free cloth can be used to wipe down the outside of your instrument, as the oils from your fingers can collect and damage the finish.

Final Thoughts

Playing the trumpetLearning how to properly maintain an instrument, apart from being an important part of owning it, is a highly rewarding endeavor. In the process, you get to know your instrument intimately. You will begin to understand how it functions, and you’ll gain a deep appreciation and connection with it, as well as an invaluable skill. There’s little more rewarding than actively taking care of objects that you care about and bring you joy.

Taking the time to learn and take care of your instrument is also a smart idea from a financial standpoint. By doing so, you eliminate the need to bring it to professional every time it needs to be cleaned or serviced. In addition, well-maintained instruments tend to have less problems overall, so the amount of times there are issues that only a professional can fix are greatly minimized.

Following the steps and tips outlined in this article will get you well on the way to gaining an active role over the condition of your trumpet. If you don’t at first, in time you’ll learn to enjoy and take pride in maintaining your instrument. And every time, you’ll deepen your bond with it, and it’ll begin to feel more and more like an extension of yourself, and no one else.

With proper care, you can ensure that your trumpet is around for a long time, and a good time.


An ardant fan of acoustic music, I played the clarinet in high school band and even competed in Disneyland. As the son of a music teacher, I know firsthand the importance of keeping instruments clean and maintained. I now enjoy sharing information with others and providing answers where I can.

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