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 Cleaning supplies
Author: Chelsea 
Date:   1999-07-20 17:14

The keys on my clarinet are starting to get grungy-looking. Does anybody know of a good silver polish that won't damage the wood? The only stuff I have is the kind you have to dip the silver in it and leave it for awhile, so that's no good. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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 RE: Cleaning supplies
Author: paul 
Date:   1999-07-20 18:03

The answer depends on how bad the keys look. There are a few paths to take. I'll start with assuming that you don't want to remove the keys from your horn. First, there is a very aggressive tarnish removal technique that comes at a pretty high price in the long run, and an easier one that takes more physical effort but is in the long term less costly. There is another technique that requires removal of the keys. Let me explain.

There are silver tarnish removing chemicals available on the open market that you can buy in pressurized aerosol or pump aerosol spray form. They can also come in liquid form. READ THE LABEL ON THE BACK! These chemicals are mean and nasty chlorinated hydrocarbons (perchloroethylene, trichloroethylene, and some others) that can remove tarnish quickly and relatively easily. No mess, no fuss, right? Wrong! The aerosols and liquids can and will cause fumes that you will end up breathing, unless you use a very highly ventilated area, like a chemical vent hood. The "stuff" is wiped off onto a rag that you just throw away. Wrong again. Treat the rag like an environmental hazard and dispose of it in the same way you would for paint thinners, car batteries, alkaline batteries, NiCd batteries, and other nasty chemicals. Check your local authorities for proper disposal requirements. What happened to your horn's keys? They look pretty shiny, but how much silver plate did you just give up? What kind of silver-chlorine-hydrocarbon molecule did you just make? Don't know? I bet you don't want to find out, either.

I was an environmental engineer for a few years. I know what the nasty chlorinated hydrocarbons can do to water supplies, such as lakes and aquifers (underground lakes). It takes about 250,000 gallons of water to flush one quart of "clean" (fresh from the can) motor oil out of a lake. It could take millions, perhaps billions of gallons of water to flush just a pint or so of these nasty cancer causing chlorinated hydrocarbon pollutants out of your lake. So, please think before you throw.

Now, here is another method that I personally use - prevention. It takes a little more work, but I believe in the long run, it pays for itself many times over. Even Buffet recommends the first step in this process. After every playing session, take a clean, dry swab or similar soft and clean rag and simply wipe down all of the keys as you put the horn away. I add a second step by placing a tarnish prevention strip inside the horn's case with my silver keyed horn. If the tarnish isn't too bad, this prevention technique will keep the tarnish problem away for a long time. I believe that I've seen light tarnish disappear with this two step approach. Further, this approach isn't mean and nasty to my horn, my lungs, or the nearby lakes, rivers, streams, and other public water sources. The tarnish prevention strip is easier to dispose of, too.

There is an aggressive but environmentally safe chemical method for removing tarnish from keys, but you must remove the keys from the horn, then put them back on correctly. This is not a task for the novice or for youngsters. I believe that once you get the keys off, you will need a good sized ceramic lined sink or tub, a few sheets of aluminium foil, very hot boiling water, and baking soda (???). Other posters on this BBS can correct me if I got the ingredients wrong here, so wait for corrections before trying this.

I bet if I did a survey, most folks would vote for the prevention method. You don't have to remove keys, it can be made a part of your normal horn clean-up routine, and it's much cheaper in the long run on your horn, on you, and on your environment.

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 RE: Cleaning supplies
Author: Don Poulsen 
Date:   1999-07-20 18:19


Speaking of prevention, I use a polishing cloth for silver instruments that I bought at my local music store. Do you know what the chemicals in this type of cloth do to the silver plating? Do they remove a portion of it? I was told by a salesperson to avoid contacting the pads with the cloth as this would cause the pads to deteriorate faster.

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 RE: Cleaning supplies
Author: Frank 
Date:   1999-07-20 21:53

I second Paul's environmentally friendly advice.

In addition to the anti-tarnish strips kept in the case, I wipe my clarinet down with a micro-cloth [not sure this is exactly the term] that I got from WW/BW. It has no grit or chemicals, and I can polish the outside wood as well. If you get this, order the larger size.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with a clean well-worn cotton flannel cloth for the wipe-up. However the micro-cloth does remove stains and tarnish in a benevolent way.

Regular cleaning is the key to avoiding a gunky looking mechanism.

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 RE: Cleaning supplies
Author: paul 
Date:   1999-07-20 21:54

Don't use a polishing cloth, either. Not that there are chemicals in most of these. Rather, there is a 000 grade abrasive in those cloths that literally sandpapers off the surface of the metal, silver and all. You could almost use the polishing cloth to sand down your natural cane reeds instead of very fine sandpaper. Not that you should do it, but that's how abrasive the rouge cloths and most polishing cloths are.

That's why I personally go for the least abrasive and least toxic method of tarnish control. I keep the horn stored in its manufacturer supplied case for the tightest fit possible. Since for me the clarinet is just a fun hobby, I never take my expensive wood/silver horn outside in the weather unless it's in its case and then it's covered by a gig bag and even a plastic trash bag when it's raining or snowing. Even then, I try to park as close as I can to my tutor's place, so the horn and its case have a minimum exposure to the weather. I never take the horn outside to play it. I don't have to do it for either marching band or gigs, since I'm way too old for marching band and I'll never be good enough for any gigs. I always swab out the bore, clean up any excess water from anywhere else, clean off any extra cork wax, and wipe my fingerprints off the keys with a clean soft cloth after every session (highly recommended by Buffet as a major tarnish prevention technique), and I use a tarnish prevention strip in the case with the horn. The strip lasts for about 6 months at a time with normal daily access to the horn in and out of the case. I never store any soft rubber items (pencil erasers, rubber bands, etc.) in the case, nor do I put any low grade metals (binder clips, paperclips, etc.) in the case. It's bad enough that I have two different grades of metals for my two ligatures, but I keep them separated from each other and from the horn as much as possible. If my spit rag gets really wet from cleaning the horn, I hang it out on my music stand for a couple of hours under the air conditioning vent to dry it out before I put it back in the case. I use a separate good clean (not used for cleaning the bore) and soft spit rag for wiping off the keys. That's all I do and all I have done for a couple of years now. The keys still sparkle almost like they are brand new. There is no risk of damage to the pads or the keys. No mess, no fuss. Easy and cheap.

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 RE: Cleaning supplies
Author: Don Berger 
Date:   1999-07-20 22:24

I second most of the above. The principal tarnish that silver surfaces collect is black AgS [silver sulfide] coming from exposure of unprotected silver to H2S, SO2, and/or mercaptans R [alkyl] RSH's, present in emissions from manufacturing of many sorts. Beyond "tarnish strips", prob. the best protection is a plastic bag. Ask a housewife how she solves her tarnish problem. Luck, Don

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 RE: Silversmith
Author: Hiroshi 
Date:   1999-07-21 07:18

There is an organization for silversmith in U.S.At their homepage you can read 'silver care' and about 3M's anti-tarnish silver cloth(TM).Just FYI.

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