The flute is a wonderful instrument that has been around for ages. Your flute is an expensive and valuable instrument that needs to be properly cleaned and cared for to remain in good condition. Your instrument deserves the best care it can receive from you and in return, it offers you quality performance. Cleaning and maintaining your flute is important in prolonging its life and keeping it looking beautiful. There are many different categories of flutes around; we will discuss here how to care for the Western transverse flute.
Get in a habit of cleaning after each use now. It doesn’t take long, can be done at home, and you only need a few things to get the job done.
How to care for your flute?
- Good practices
To take good care of your flute, we must ensure to clean it properly. Store it to protect against the elements and aging. And maintain good practices in handling and displaying our flutes.
Cleaning your flute
1. Gently disassemble the flute
The first step of cleaning is taking apart your flute. Slowly unscrew the head-joint and foot-joint from the body of the flute. This should be done carefully! During the cleaning process, be sure to hold the flute by the barrel and avoid touching the keypads. These can be easily punctured and will cause damage to your flute. You can also bend the keys if you are too rough while cleaning. Do not apply pressure on the keys or other delicate parts!
2. Attach a cloth to the cleaning rod
Your flute might have come with a rod that has a long skinny hole at the end of it. This is the flute’s cleaning rod. Thread a soft cloth through the needle-sized hole at the end of your cleaning rod and pull it through the slot so that half of the cloth is on either side of the rod. The cloth should be made from a soft and thin material, such as a microfiber or cotton. The cloth should wrap around the rod so that if the rod touches the flute while cleaning, it will not scratch and damage the inside.
3. Insert the cleaning rod
Inserting the cleaning rod and twisting it remove built-up moisture inside the flute. Clean all three sections of the head-joint, foot-joint, and body from both sides. Remove any moisture with the cleaning cloth. Ensure the entire inside of the flute is cleaned.
4. Wipe the outside of the flute
Next, carefully polish the outside of the flute with a microfiber cleaning cloth. While playing, grease and fingerprints can build up on the outside of the flute. Gently clean all of the keys and the body of the flute, while wiping fingerprints away.
Can you use alcohol to wipe the flute?
Yes, it is safe to use it.
Alcohol is quite useful for removing general grime. However, it does not in itself remove tarnish, as some tarnish is quite superficial, while some are deep in the metal. Just remember to be very careful not to get any on the pads or mechanism. You should dampen a soft cloth with alcohol first, then apply and wipe. The idea of wiping your flute is to prevent tarnish, by removing these things. Most of the time a cotton cloth is sufficient – no alcohol required.
Caring for your silver flute
Use a silver cloth with silver polish on your silver flute if stubborn dark spots appear on the surface of the flute that could not be wiped off with a cloth alone. Discoloration on the flute is oxidized silver: a product of the silver being exposed to oxygen. You can get these cloths easily at music stores or Amazon. However, some flute players discourage such cloths as prolonged use of silver polish will cause signs of wear. Pay particular attention to wiping the ends(or tenons)where the separate pieces attached together. This is where gunk can often build up. Once again, be very gentle to avoid touching the keypads.
If you have recently purchased a used flute, or you have never cleaned the outside of your flute and see that it is really dirty, you might consider having a professional clean it.
5. Use a cotton swab to clean hard to reach places
Lastly, you can use a cotton swab to remove dust and buildup between the keys. Use a cotton swab to clean the embouchure hole on the head-joint.
Storing your flute
The way you store your instrument and where you store it can affect its long-term condition.
It’s a good habit to store your flute in the case. If left outside the case and not placed properly on an instrument stand, the flute is more likely to get damaged. When you store it in a case, keep in mind not to keep the wet cleaning cloth inside the case as well. The moisture could cause damage. Place the cloth in an outer pouch on the case instead.
What we should also look out for are extreme temperature changes. Make sure you store or keep your flute away from radiators or windows with direct sunlight. Variations in the temperatures lead to expansion and contraction of instruments. This affects the mechanics of the flute as well as the pads and the cork inside of the top of the head joint, resulting in bad tone and tuning issues. You should store them in an area where they will be safe from extreme temperatures and moisture or huge fluctuations in temperature and humidity. It is wise to keep them in a climate-controlled storage area, especially if the instruments will be stored long-term. Climate-controlled storage maintains the temperature and humidity levels in the storage area consistently, year round, to help avoid the possibility of damage by changing conditions.
You may like to read for common causes of instrument damage and how to prevent them.
Display your flute on music stands
Alternatively, you can keep your flutes on reliable flute stands. Not only serving as a decorative accessory but also offering convenience. Place them in a secure condition, away from elements and where people are least likely to walk past. Choose a good instrument stand! Pick one that is stable, sturdy, well-designed to ensure the safety of your instruments. Take a look at some music stands collection here!
Good Practises in taking care of our flutes
Adopting a few good practices helps us maintain the condition of our instruments. One of such practices is washing your hands and face before playing. This is a commonly recommended habit for all musicians, to avoid transferring grease and oils from our hands to the instruments. In order to reduce the amount of grease that comes in contact with your flute, wash your hands and face before playing. This will also reduce the number of fingerprints that end up on your flute.
Another good practice is to check that all jewelry is removed before playing the flute. Jewelry, especially rings, can scratch or damage the exterior of your flute while you are playing.
We also recommend cleaning your flute after each use. Do clean the flute interior of all moisture before storing your flute. If left uncleaned, your flute will not only begin to smell, but This moisture can also cause tarnish of the metal inside. This results in poor sound quality, intonation, and articulation. It is also important to remember, under no circumstances should you ever run your flute underwater! This is very damaging to the instrument. The pads on the flute are not meant to get wet. If they do, they will expand and be damaged.
Servicing your flute by professionals
Lastly, get your flute serviced at least once a year. A professional will be able to clean and adjust the keypads without causing damage to the instrument. They can also take apart the smaller pieces of the flute for cleaning, tuning, and repair. Changing and oiling the keys at home is risky business as the oil tends to run on the pads. In addition, there are certain specifications when it comes to oiling the flute and its various parts. It is always safer to take it to a professional who can service and clean it for you.
To properly maintain your instrument, have it serviced at least once per year.
We are musicians who are proud of our craft! =)