View Full Version : To clean or not to clean?

08-20-2012, 06:59 AM
Hey All,

I just bought some cymbals from this guy on craigslist and noticed it has some green splotches on it. I know over time, cymbals can actually start to sound better, but should I clear off these green/blue things to prevent the cymbal from decaying too much too fast?

I got a little of it off with a damp paper towel, and I have some Barkeep's Friend in my kitchen I can use but I wanted to see what you guys thought first.


08-20-2012, 07:13 AM
Read this: http://www.drummerworld.com/forums/showthread.php?t=6255

Along with all the "how to" methods, there are equally as many posts detailing whether (and why) you should or shouldn't.

In short, everyone has their own opinion on this and as a result everyone pretty much has to make up their own mind as to which way they'll roll with it.

Bo Eder
08-20-2012, 07:26 AM
I say clean them. And then build up your own grime - then they'll truly be yours.
I don't know if I believe the adage that they sound better over time. Every time I clean mine, I get back that high-end shimmer I thought I lost and was attributing it to my slowly going deaf. It's an affirmation that I'm not losing my hearing ;)

08-20-2012, 04:55 PM
I like a more midrange, dark cymbal sound, so I let all the dirt accumulate :)

Not to mention cleaning some cymbals is just heresy. My K Custom Dry Light ride came from the factory literally with dirt on it. Cleaning that or especially a "real" (old) K would just be... well, don't do it, we'll leave it at that :)

08-20-2012, 06:14 PM
For me, a cymbal that's meant to be bright should be cleaned when dirty, if you like how the cymbal sounds brand new. It's not going to be much good to let a bright cymbal get dirty if you like the bright shimmery sound.

Conversely, a dark cymbal like a K Zildjian mentioned above that comes naturally dark and dirty, shouldn't be cleaned. Unless it becomes too dark for one's taste, not usually the case when buying a cymbal such as a vintage K.

I do like Bo's response though.

What kind of cymbals did you get?

08-20-2012, 08:47 PM
I thoroughly clean off other people's junk when I buy used cymbals.

Once they're squeaky clean, I'll let them go for a while before lightly cleaning them again.
I like them clean, but I'm not fanatical about it.

08-20-2012, 09:40 PM
I clean periodically. it's a fine line cause i like the darker sound that occurs when there is a bit of grime accumulated but too much and i start to not like my cymbals. I would say clean because you obviously have some oxidation going on which if left unchecked can destroy your cymbal but it's up to you.

08-20-2012, 09:59 PM
I thoroughly clean off other people's junk when I buy used cymbals.

Once they're squeaky clean, I'll let them go for a while before lightly cleaning them again.
I like them clean, but I'm not fanatical about it.

I agree with this. However, the local drum shop got a cymbal cleaning machine, and they cleaned my El Sabor 18" for free. It turned out looking brand new, so I was hooked. I recently acquired an old Sabian crash that was filthy. They made it look new and charged me $8. So now my cymbals are all shiny again (the others were already shiny). Peace and goodwill.

08-21-2012, 12:09 AM
If you bought the cymbal unheard, it wouldn't matter if you cleaned it or not because you have nothing to compare how it sounds clean or dirty. I would do what some others have said and give it a good first cleaning. At least later it will be your accumulated dirt on it and no one else's.


08-21-2012, 12:19 AM
New cymbals come with a coating on them to keep them looking newer longer while they're in still in drum shops, and some ways beyond the sale. One exception are the Zildjian Armands where they don't use any coating, which they do so they'll pick up that classic '60s patina faster, but they don't often look new when you see them in stores if they've been there any length of time.

Anyway ... I've recently taken some Zildjian cymbal polish (slightly abrasive cream) to all my natural finish pies to remove that factory coating. Instead of just getting really ugly with the coating on there, which inhibits the patina process, now they can patina naturally. Also, I must say, that a freshly polished cymbal looks much better (IMHO) that a shiny new one with the coating still on it.

08-21-2012, 04:15 AM
Cleaning cymbals would go against my lazy tendencies. They do look great clean though. It just never crosses my mind. I do wax my drums though, why don't I clean my cymbals? It doesn't even cross my mind.

Nothing bad will happen if you don't clean your cymbals.

Back in the early 70's I wiped Tarn-X on my very first 18" Zildjian crash cymbal. (that my dad got new for $36.00) It totally ruined the finish, turned it brown where I wiped. I was horrified and severely emotionally scarred. Ever since then I never really had much motivation to try cleaning them, even though I have done a few.

If I want shiny, I'll buy a new one lol.

08-21-2012, 04:14 PM
I currently have 19 cymbals.

Before I joined this forum about a year ago, and it exerted its powerful influence (ha ha), I only had 4 cymbals.
Those were bought new over 30 years ago, I never cleaned them till recently, and even at that they looked pretty good before cleaning.

Some of the used ones I've bought in the last year have been in horribly nasty shape - worse than filthy. Some of them seem fairly new too. Makes me wonder what people do to their cymbals nowadays. Possibly dogs vomiting on them? ha ha.

08-21-2012, 07:08 PM
Cymbal cleaning will always be a debateable issue.Some say they sound better,some say the opposite,and then there are the anal retentive.

In truth,it's all an opinion.Then you can toss in say,metallurgy and the de crystalization and crystalization of heat treated,tempered and hammered metals,and how than can shift ofer time,due to time,and vibration.Now it becomes a whole different ball of wax.

I haven't seen too many come foward to proove anything concerning all of the above and how it effects the sound of a cymbal.You would have to prove your theory to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty(the legal standard in a court of law).You would have to be a credentialed scientist,and have your work published and reviewed by your peer group for it to be accepted as fact,and not theory.

Baring any of the above in a objective scientific procedure,it's what ever sounds good to you,there is no right and wrong here...........except using steel wool on a cymbal.But sometimes,you can't fix stupid.:)

Steve B

08-22-2012, 06:40 AM
Thanks for your input everybody. I'm less concerned about the sound being effected and more about the potential increased rate of deterioration to the point where cracks or other unwanted occurrences become more likely to occur.

The cymbals I picked up for $125 are:
14" Sabian hhx evolution hihat top
14" A. zildjian Mastersound bottom hi hat
Unknown 14" Sabian China
Unknown 16" A. Zildjian Crash

I plan to look up to see if I can identify the either of the unknown types. I am so freaking stoked to have made these upgrades. I can post pics if anyone is curious about their appearance. I have been playing every free moment I can now because the difference in sound is just so damn nice (from the hi hats; still working on upgrading the crash).

08-22-2012, 06:54 AM
I'm less concerned about the sound being effected and more about the potential increased rate of deterioration to the point where cracks or other unwanted occurrences become more likely to occur.

I've seen many cymbals cracked or broken due to a variety of factors over the years. Luckily for you however, not being cleaned has never been one of them. Fear not on that front.

08-22-2012, 01:50 PM
.... I can post pics if anyone is curious about their appearance....

Of course. Pics would help. You paid that price for the 4 cymbals? - super deal.

09-05-2012, 02:54 PM
Sorry for the long delay in response...my internet went out for about a month.

Actually, I was tired when I made the last post, it was $150 for the 4 cymbals pictured below.

A couple thoughts on each one:

The mix n match 14" hi hats (hhx evolution top, A. Zildjian mastersound bottom):
I REALLY love this combo; granted I had a crappy pair of hi-hats from before...but everything about this pair is just great, from the ridges and studded look on both of them to the feel and the sound.

The Unknown 16" A. Zildjian Crash: Sounds like crap to my ears. I prefer my cheap 16" Headliner Brass crash to this thing. And I can't even find the brand Headliner online anywhere haha (I didn't look very hard but still).

Unknown 14" Sabian China: Loving how this thing sounds. I have never owned a china cymbal before, and since I have more cymbals than cymbal stands at the moment, I actually enjoy using this over my other crash cymbals (Sabian b8, the A. Zildjian, the Headliner - all 16" crashes).

09-06-2012, 02:34 AM
Cleaning and polishing cymbals is way too much work for too little result.

I don't care how funky they get, I ain't cleaning them unless someone's teching for me!

09-06-2012, 06:21 AM
Solid score man, the hats alone are worth that.

My advice would be to not clean those, HH lines are meant to be a darker sound, I think they'd benefit from grime.

China sounds good so that can stay dirty too. If the crash sounds bad, give it a scrub and see what it sounds like. Can't get worse by what you describe.