Keeping your xylophone in top condition will help maintain its longevity, appearance, and sound quality. Managed correctly, you can get a lifetime’s worth of enjoyment from your instrument. However, using the incorrect cleaning products or methods could damage or even ruin your xylophone. That’s why we’ve put together some best practices for cleaning xylophone bars.
What’s the best way to clean xylophone bars without ruining them? The best way to clean wood xylophone bars without ruining them is by using a wood cleaner followed by a furniture polish. Before you begin, make sure you know what material your xylophone bars are made from.
In most cases, the preferred material is rosewood, and that’s what we’ll mainly address in this article. Less commonly, xylophone bars can be made from synthetic composite or a less expensive type of wood called padauk.
Note: xylophones have wooden bars while glockenspiels have metal bars, which require a different cleaning approach. See our article on cleaning glockenspiel bars.
Best Practices for Cleaning Xylophone Bars
Keeping your xylophone in good condition involves both regular maintenance and periodic deep cleaning of all the parts. For routine maintenance, you’ll want to wipe your xylophone frequently to prevent dust from building up, and use a cover when you’re not playing it.
Schedule a deep cleaning at least once a year, or more often if your instrument is stored in a particularly dusty location, or if you otherwise tend to get dust and fingerprints on your xylophone. Luckily, you don’t need any specialized products or a lot of time to keep a xylophone clean and in top condition.
Cleaning Rosewood and Padauk Xylophone Bars
Rosewood is a rare wood known for its resonance and beauty. It’s often used for high-quality instruments because of its superior acoustic properties. While it is a hard, durable wood, regular care is necessary to keep it looking and sounding its best.
Padauk is a less expensive wood option that mimics the sound of rosewood. Care is the same for either type of wood, but be sure you get a furniture polish that matches your wood color; most come in light or dark options for padauk and rosewood, respectively.
Both padauk and rosewood are vulnerable to moisture, temperature fluctuations, and sunlight. Their sound and materials are better suited to indoor performances, which is where you’ll generally find them.
To clean your wood xylophone bars, which we recommend doing at least once per year, first collect all your supplies. You will need:
- Rubber gloves
- Scott’s Liquid Gold, Lemon Oil, or another high-quality wood cleaner
- Soft, clean rags
- Old English Furniture Polish and Scratch Cover or another wood polish
- A clean bath towel
- First, remove the bars from the frame by detaching the bar cord (if applicable) and then lifting each bar straight up using both hands. Place the bars on your bath towel or a similarly sized piece of soft cloth, leaving space between them. Don’t stack bars on top of one another as this can cause damage.
- Wearing your gloves, use the wood cleaner and a rag to gently clean any dirt, oil, or other debris from the bars.
- After all the wood bars are cleaned, use a fresh rag to polish each one with your furniture polish. Give each one a final wipe to remove any excess polish.
- If you’re storing them because you won’t be using the xylophone for a while, roll the bars up in the towel (with a layer of cloth between each bar) or a bar bag.
After you’ve cleaned the xylophone bars, you’ll want to clean the box and/or frame before storing your xylophone or reassembling it. Vacuum inside the box if needed, then wipe down all wood frame parts with your wood cleaner. Finish by polishing the frame with furniture polish.
You can also use this time to check for any damage to the xylophone or issues that need to be addressed. The whole process shouldn’t take long, and many people find it satisfying to return their xylophones to like-new condition.
Cleaning Synthetic Xylophone Bars
Synthetic xylophone bars are made from composite materials that have the advantage of being basically impervious to things that can damage wood, such as sunlight and humidity.
They’re most often used for outdoor performances. For that reason, they are usually mounted on metal field frames that can stand up to similar conditions, and come with wheels or a harness for easy portability. The sound of synthetic bars is different from wood xylophone bars, with a clear, ringing tone that carries better than rosewood outdoors.
Cleaning synthetic bars is simple. Although they are much more durable than wood xylophone bars, you should still remove them carefully to avoid physical damage. You can use soap and warm water on a damp rag to wipe down each bar. Be sure to dry them thoroughly before reassembling the xylophone.
Likewise, warm soapy water can be used to wipe down the frame components. Use Goo Gone or a similar product if there are any sticky areas or adhesive residue on the frame. Make sure all soap is rinsed away, then dry the frame with a clean towel. You can use a lubricant on metal joints if any of them are getting rusty or not moving freely.
Just because synthetic microphone bars are much less delicate than wood ones, don’t be fooled into thinking they don’t require regular care. In fact, you may want to clean synthetic xylophone bars even more often if they’re being used outside or in any conditions that would get them dirty. Keeping your synthetic bars free from dust and dirt will help you get the best sound from them and help them last longer.
Final Xylophone Bar Maintenance Tips
The following are a few final care tips for maintaining your xylophone bars, so they last as long as possible.
- Try not to touch a xylophone’s wood components directly with your hands, since you can inadvertently transfer oil onto them.
- Never place anything on top of your xylophone bars.
- Avoid using petroleum-based cleaning products or other chemicals on any part of a xylophone.
- Be sure you keep wood xylophones away from humidity and sunlight, both of which can damage the wood.
- Keep your xylophone away from drafty areas, including air conditioning vents, to reduce temperature fluctuations as much as possible.
- Examine and replace bar cords as needed. You can buy a replacement bar cord from percussion or music stores.
- Never use water to clean wood xylophone bars; choose gentle, reputable wood cleaners.
- Don’t use a mallet type that is harder than yarn mallets on wood xylophones, as they can damage the xylophone bars.
- Have your wood xylophone professionally re-tuned regularly (every two to four years) even if you don’t notice that it’s out of tune. Padauk xylophones will need tuning more often than rosewood. Synthetic bars should not need tuning unless they are damaged in some way.
Keeping your xylophone in excellent condition with regular maintenance will help you avoid problems in the future. Like any instrument, your xylophone is a significant investment, and it deserves to get the necessary attention to keep it looking and sounding its best.
A neglected xylophone can lead to poor sound quality or damaged parts, which will likely require expensive repairs from a professional or even replacement. Since maintaining a xylophone, regardless of the material the bars are made from, is easy and inexpensive, we recommend setting up a regular cleaning schedule for yourself. Once you get into the habit of cleaning your instrument, you will likely find it an enjoyable and rewarding process.