Drum Maintenance 101 (ft Verta, Ridwan Johari)
Drums are all hardware and can last a lifetime. However, even with such durability, there is still maintenance involved. It is especially true when you are in such a humid climate like Singapore. The chrome finishes and the shells build up rust and grime over the years if not stored in optimal conditions. If you do a quick search online, you will find many products on the market to clean up your hardware and polish your shell and cymbals. You would also find DIY solutions all around, from apple cider vinegar, baking soda, or even lemons – however, a word of caution – some of these solutions are harmful to your drums. Today, with the help of Verta Collective, City Music, and our special guest – Ridwan Johari – we explore our options based on our past experiences.
What am I cleaning?
Some of us like a clean drumset, others like it all rugged up. However, for sure that some moving parts of the drums are prone to wear and tear, and without proper maintenance, you will find yourself ending up with hardware that rusts, springs that make a lot of noise, etc. Below are some of the things that you might or might not notice that are building up on your drumsets, take note that with prolonged exposure and buildup, some of these issues might be irreversible or require a more extreme solution.
The buildup in cymbals generally consists of stick marks, oil from your fingers, dust, or whatever was on your hands before holding the cymbals. Some people might say that the buildup on the cymbals helps create a darker and drier sound, and they are not precisely harmful to your cymbals (any more than incorrect techniques). One thing for sure is that with all the buildups going on, you will not be expecting a cymbal that shines under the spotlight.
Often with different kinds of wraps and finishes, you will be surprised that the shell is often more lasting than other hardware – which is prone to rust – if left alone. However, shells can be damaged severely with improper care during playing or transportation/setting up, and these damages are often irreversible. Make sure to handle your shells with care when moving around, and all you need for maintenance will be a simple wipe off the dust and grime and applying a simple polish afterward!
If you think drumsets mainly consist of wood, think again. Hardware is all around the drums. Hardware includes tension rods, hoops, lugs, throw-offs, and of course, stands and pedals. Most hardware consists of chrome platings, and without proper care and storage, they would start to rust. If this rust is not taken care of, it will create what we call pittings. These pittings are almost permanent and are very difficult to remove.
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Word of Caution
There are lots of DIY solutions out there on the market that are said to be effective in cleaning and maintaining chrome hardware; however, always try them at your own risk. We do not recommend products that are too harsh or are acidic, as it might damage your hardware instead.
Always go for products that are made specifically for drum maintenance when in doubt.
Below are the DIY products that we have tried before and that has worked for us. Watch the video above, where we demonstrate the different products. Again, try them at your own risk.
For Drum Hardware:
Autosol or Brasso: You can find them at almost every hardware store or supermarket – these products are for domestic hardware polishing. These can work with aluminum, brass, and a few other metals.
Price: SGD 3.80
Where: Horme Hardware
WD 40: Technically an oil/lubricant, many have used WD40 as a cleaning product on different metals, and have been proven effective. WD 40 also has the additional effect of providing a coating over the hardware and lubricates the tension rods and springs. We have not personally used WD40 as a polishing reagent before, but it is good to have one around to resolve creaking springs or rusty tension rods!
Price: SGD 10.90
For Drum Shells
Turtle Wax: A car wax product, the original use of turtle wax protects and shines for automotive products. Although car finishes are quite different from drum shell finishes, we have found that it does give it a certain amount of shine.
Price: SGD 14.50
Cymbals are generally sensitive, as the logo tends to wear off easily if it comes into contact with harsh chemicals. We have not tried any DIY products personally with cymbals, but people have tried polishing cymbals with vinegar solutions, lemons, etc. However, we have to caution you from trying it at your own risk because of these solutions’ acidic nature.
Products on Market
Drum and cymbal manufacturers have spent years researching products that can give a good shine and protective protection. As you would have realized by now, it is, in fact, a delicate balance between creating a powerful agent vs. protecting the drums and cymbals.
In this episode, we are glad to have an experience with a drum and cymbal cleaning kit from Music Nomad Equipment Care.
Music Nomad has tons of experience with polish and maintenance with different finishes from the automotive care industry before heading full-on into music instrument care. The company, which has been around for more than ten years, is one of the most popular guitar maintenance brands. They also have products for drum and cymbal maintenance and even products to take care of humidity and temperature.
After trying the product (see video for the full process), we have found that the products effectively provide the shine for the shells and hardware, and it works relatively well with no weird smell.
For the cymbal cleaner, the results are insanely striking on a cymbal with a bright finish but not so obvious on a darker finish (obviously). However, we do caution not to use excessive pressure on the cymbals, especially on the logos, just in case.
You can find the link to the cleaning kit we have used below.
Price: SGD 37.80
Where: City Music
There are many different ways to approach drum polishing and maintenance, some are folk tales, and some are tested and proven methods. The safest bet is to always go with something that is for the particular purpose of maintaining drumsets. It will ensure the right balance of effectiveness and protection for your drumkit. You could always take an old or cheap snare (or your friend’s snare – just kidding!) as an experiment if you feel adventurous with DIY methods before trying them on your expensive gears. All the best to your drum maintenance journey!