Cleaning a french horn regularly can determine the durability of the
instrument. This article explains a cost effective method of cleaning
In general, your french horn will not just hop into the bath tub when it’s
dirty. I have found that it takes a bit of coercion and some special care to
clean a french horn. The tub really is a great place to clean a french horn,
if you are going for the all-over, in-and-out scrub, but it is your responsibility
as the owner to get the horn in and out of the bath. There are some general
guidelines that I recommend you follow which I have acquired over years of
bathing my horn as well as numerous other horns.
First, draw a bath just as if you were going to lavish yourself in it. Fill
the tub with warm water to avoid shock when your horn initially touches its
bareness to the substance. The catch here is that instead of adding a lilac-scented
bath gel or quick-dissolve relaxation crystals, you add mild hand soap. I generally
like to also lay a towel along the bottom of the tub in the water so that when
my horn gets in it is protected from scratches against the tub’s scaly
Now comes the part where your horn must brave unfamiliar waters. The key point
to remember when encouraging your horn for this task is that just like us,
horns don’t like to take baths with all of their clothes on. You must
remove all slides and place them gently onto the towel in the bottom of the
tub. Then your horn will feel light and carefree as you place it also on the
Everything is soaking now and the horn has adjusted, you may even see iridescent
grease swirls begin to circulate the tub. At this point, while the horn is
beginning to bathe itself, you will need to clean behind its ears, scrub the
back of its neck, and scour all other nooks and crannies that it may miss.
What this means is that you will need a washcloth of your own with which you
will massage the ends of slides where grease is stubborn. Try to also scrub
in between all of the tubing on the horn where dust and grease collect over
time. And for the final bathtub cleaning step it is best to use a “snake” to
clean out the inside of the slides on the horn wherever possible. If you don’t
know what a “snake” is, it is simply a few feet of a metal or rubber
cord with pipe-cleaner type material on the ends. They can be purchased at
most music stores for only a few dollars.
Once you have cleaned and rinsed your horn, you will need to dry it off so
that it doesn’t catch a cold. I usually just lay another large towel
on the bathroom floor and place the pieces of my horn on it after I wipe them.
Horns and their parts are patient, so take your time and dry thoroughly.
And the final step in the process of cleaning your french horn is reassemblage.
This step may sound easy but it involves three actions. One: you must lubricate
all of the slides with a thin layer of grease. Two: oil needs to be applied
to the inside of the horn as well as all bearings and levers. Three: if you
choose to polish your horn, now is the time.
Once you return your horn to its natural body form, it will play more freely,
look more beautiful, and it should operate at its optimum level as soon as
the oil works its way in. Your horn probably only needs a bath once every few
months, but just check behind its ears regularly for dirt and use what you
find as your gauge.