I’ve seen a lot of dirty laundry in my time in the biz, along with a lot of dirty horns. It’s always amazed me that people who presumably wash their underwear rarely think of cleaning their horns. After all, we’re blowing moist, hot air into them on a daily basis, maybe with a taco and a Twinkie in the mix. According to a 2011 Time Magazine article about school band instruments, testing yielded “…442 different bacteria, including 58 molds, 19 yeasts and a generous helping of staphylococcus…” Here is an extreme example of all the above. EEEeeewwwwwww!!!
In the case of this trumpet, whose player will remain nameless, the accumulation of acids, along with a bountiful bacterial infestation, led to dezincification of the brass, commonly know as red rot. It was so serious the crook had to be replaced.
Now, in the case of this trombone, it’s probably all about chemistry. Some of us have a chemical make-up that just doesn’t mix well with brass or other metals. So we’ll give this conscientious player a partial pass. I gave it a good chem clean and removed the oxidation.
Instruments need to be professionally cleaned once a year. In the interim, you should pull your horn apart once or twice a month and wash it inside and out with soap and warm (not hot) water. Any kind of dish soap will do. I also swab my trumpet leadpipe every day. Your slides need to be greased and the valves oiled each time you give it a bath. This will preserve the integrity of your instrument and improve air flow and playability. Just do it!