Many flute players will tell you that the purchase price of your flute is comparable to the cost to have it maintained and cleaned professionally. Just as you wouldn’t take a Ferrari to a junkyard for a mechanic checkup, you likely wouldn’t expect a novice instrument repairman with no experience in flute repair to do your instrument maintenance either. But, what if there was a better solution that was also cost effective and put your instrument’s maintenance entirely in your hands as well? Well, with DIY flute cleaning, you can have just that. However, is cleaning your flute on your own more helpful or harmful and does it truly safe you money?
Typically the cost to professional clean a flute will cost around $50 every few months depending on the frequency of usage. The cost can vary based on location, the state of the flute, and the musical instrument technician but generally will cost around $50. However, to clean a flute yourself, it only costs $30-$40 for supplies once and a little work, saving you significant money over the life of your flute.
Even with the DIY approach, it is still recommended that you have your flute professionally serviced twice a year or so.
For a more thorough view into what the DIY process looks like, what it costs for both professional and DIY flute cleanings, and what cleaning supplies to use at home to save yourself money in the long run, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both options in more detail below.
The overall breakdown of costs for cleaning a flute
The breakdown of flute cleaning costs typically depends on whether or not you also want a maintenance checkup at the time of cleaning but, to put it simply, the average flute cleaning on its own is roughly $35 to $120 depending on the condition of your flute, where you live, and the instrument technician. You can find a pretty on-point cleaning and maintenance averaging chart for flutes specifically at Old World Baton that will give you a better idea of the average cost for every repair and cleaning process imaginable.
For the most basic flute cleaning professional processes, you are looking at roughly $35 to $50 depending on where you go and this includes disassembling the flute, cleaning and disinfecting it, and using a cleaning rod to remove any bacteria or moisture inside the flute as well.
A more in-depth clean and maintenance check could cost anywhere between $75 up to $580 depending on what exactly you want and need done to your flute, and if any problems that require more work are found.
Choosing to opt for a professional may be expensive but you are really paying for their expertise and years of tips and tricks. As it would likely be more expensive to simply purchase another flute when pads are damaged, the flute becomes tarnished, or a leak is found, their price is relatively reasonable for the effort and experience that goes into it.
To better understand what makes this option enticing to some flutists, let’s take a look at what goes into a professional flute cleaning.
Basic cleaning and disinfecting process
Since this is usually the most common reason for paying for a professional cleaning service, this is a given but the difference between doing this process at home versus having it done by a professional is the products used for cleaning, the detail that is put into this process, and the cleaning tricks that truly only come after years of experience.
Checking the keys and pads
This is when the professional will begin to look at your flute from a maintenance perspective and find any damage that may have occurred to your keys or pads since the last time you brought it in.
If your keys won’t push down as easily as when you bought your flute, they may lubricate them to help you and this can be caused by improper cleaning processes that dry out the mechanics of your flute. Similarly, if your pads have been damaged and need to be replaced or must be reseated, this is the time when they will do so. This is especially important as noticing pad damage ahead of time can save you hundreds of dollars in pad replacements, or playing out of key.
Checking the condition of the head joint cork
Another main maintenance checkup that your professional cleaner/repair tech may do is removing the flute crown and checking your cork for damage or repair needs. As the cork is highly integral for the sound of your flute, this process is truly best done by a professional even if it does cost more than simply doing it yourself.
Polishing and removing tarnish
During the cleaning and repair process, your professional tech will also polish and remove tarnish from your flute. Using anti-tarnish silver polish, they will likely take the extra time to ensure that your flute is returned just as shiny as the day you bought it. While this is something you should also be doing at home, it is certainly an added bonus when looking at all that a tech does when cleaning and repairing your flute.
Cleaning the case
Lastly, although this may not pertain to the flute itself, a clean case is a great way to avoid bacterial growth, mold, and tarnishing. To finish a professional cleaning process, the tech will usually end with cleaning and disinfecting the case so that the flutist can rest assured knowing their entire flute setup is clean, disinfected, and ready to go.
Cleaning your flute yourself DIY
Now that you know the full professional cleaning process, it’s time to compare this to a DIY process for reference. To do so, let’s break down the DIY items you would need to buy and their average prices as well as how many uses you could likely get out of them. We’ve included links below so you can easily buy any of these supplies from Amazon, and discuss in greater detail below.
- Windex ($5.93, pack of 2)
- Anti-tarnish silver polish ($9.49)
- Rubbing alcohol ($8.40)
- Microfiber cleaning cloths ($6.95, set of 8)
- Wooden cleaning rod ($8.99)
- Optional: flute cleaning kit ($9.99)
Total cost: around $40!
Windex — 150+ uses
One of the main staples when cleaning your flute, Windex is highly effective for flute cleaning processes and it is also non-abrasive and streak-free likewise. In a bottle such as the one recommended in the link above, you can expect 156 teaspoons worth of product.
Since teaspoon measurements are about the size of product used for each cleaning, this is a good way of measuring the amount of uses per bottle. If you set aside a single bottle of Windex for flute cleanings, you can literally clean your flute once a week for three years.
Anti-tarnish silver polish — 50 uses
For flute players looking for a way to keep their flutes shiny and tarnish-free, anti-tarnish silver polish is the only way to go. Although it may be the most expensive product on this list, you can expect roughly an entire years’ worth of weekly cleanings in this one bottle making it highly effective.
Rubbing alcohol — 95+ uses
Rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are somewhat interchangeable in this particular aspect of the flute cleaning process although many argue that rubbing alcohol is better. With this said, there are 96 teaspoons of rubbing alcohol in this bottle making it the single most cost-effective disinfectant out there. You can also purchase alcohol wipes for cleans before and after every practice as well.
Microfiber cloths pack of 8 — 500+ Uses
For a pack of eight microfiber cloths, this is a great deal and one you should get regardless of whether you choose to go to a professional for instrument cleanings or not. Microfiber cloths are essentially the bread and butter of the instrument cleaning world and with 500 or more uses per cloth, you are looking at over 4,000 cleaning processes for this small pack alone.
Wooden cleaning rod — forever, with care
Lastly, the cleaning rod is one of the staples in every flutists cleaning supply kit. The cleaning rod is the second most expensive item on this list but, because it is made of wood and highly sturdy, as long as you keep it in a safe place and don’t step on it or leave it out in humid weather, you can likely keep this item for decades. If you’d like to go with a pull-through cleaning swab or pad saver instead, check out the links in the sidebar for those products.
Now that we’ve broken down the items needed for a DIY cleaning job, let’s tally them all up. In total, you are looking at around $40 which still is cheaper than the average single flute cleaning process. With this being said, the items pay for themselves on the first cleaning process alone and continue to pay for themselves!
Do flutes need servicing?
According to Wikibooks, “Your flute should be serviced every 6–12 months. In a routine service, the technician should complete tasks such as: removing any dents from the body of the flute, check all pads for wear, and make necessary replacements.”
With all of this in mind, the truth is that the monthly cleanings can absolutely be done by yourself to avoid paying the big bucks every time you need your flute cleaned. The main reason that the flutes servicing process is recommended and usually done by a professional is because your flute pads and cork are highly temperamental and, without biannual checkups, you could very well damage these elements and pay the price in the long run because of it. However, some people feel that having a professional do even this is unnecessary so let’s take a looks at some of the pros and cons below.
Can you service your flute at home and save money?
Although the answer to this question is yes, you can do this at home, the truth is that you should only perform cleaning and general maintenance on your flute, unless you know what you’re doing. Your flute keys, pads, cork, and tenons all are delicate parts of your instrument that can easily be damaged and lead to hundreds of dollars in repairs. For more in-depth work like servicing pads, the cork, and oiling the hinges, it may be in your best interest to simply go to a professional every six months and have a full maintenance checkup performed to keep your flute in perfect condition for years to come.
With this being said, the best thing to do is to rely on professionals for servicing and to clean your instrument at home yourself as detailed in this article How Often You Should Clean Your Flute so as to not over or under-clean your instrument and thus extend its lifespan in doing so.
In the end, a flute is an intricate musical instrument that requires love, respect, and a special attention to its silver composition in order to stay clean and last as long as possible. Without this respect, your best bet is truly to go through a professional for everything, but if you can give your flute that special attention to detail and buy the products listed above, you are sure to save a metric ton of money and have a full functional flute for far longer than you would without this cleaning and maintenance routine in place. For more information regarding flute care and keeping your flute tarnish-free specifically, check out our article Why Is My Flute Turning Brown? (Cleaning A Tarnished Flute) today!