Cleaning soot off drums


Senior Member
I practice at my bandmates house and they have two drum sets down in their basement, but keep asking me to leave one of my kits there. Their previous apartment caught fire and while I think the drums were okay, they are COVERED in soot. I mean heavy black dirt. I'd like to offer to clean them and put new heads on to avoid leaving a precious drum set there ;)

I know soot is very hard to clean. We tried cleaning soot off my mom's ceiling once and it all kind of just gets wiped around and never comes off.... we ended up repainting.

Back on topic! How does one go about specifically cleaning soot off drums and hardware? (Yes, I've searched on here for how to clean drums, but it seems like it's just people asking how to make their drums more shiny).

They are cheap Pearl exports but I feel I am up to the task of completely taking them apart and cleaning. They have wrap if that matters. I'm thinking just some good ol' windex? Maybe baby wipes?


Gold Member
This whole story is a little weird; if they already have to sets, why do they need another one?! I think you are on the right track just fixing up their kit...

to clean soot:
1. you want to use a vacuum with a brush to get any debris clear
2. Take a dry cleaning sponge and wipe in the same direction to remove as much of the soot/stain as you can. (You may need a couple of sponges as they lose their effectiveness once they turn black)
3. I use vinegar and water, but you can also use dish soap and warm water. Using a sponge, follow the same direction that you used with the dry sponge

after a few passes with the wet sponge, you should be soot free.


Senior Member
It is an easy job - just laborious and not particularly exciting.

Take them outdoors! Remove the hardware and heads.

All the hardware will be easy to clean - use a fairly strong solution of water and regular dishwashing liquid, and a good supply of clean cloths. You will probably have to wash the hardware a few times, and constantly wash out or change the cloth, but reqular dishwashing detergent solution will remove soot fairly easily. After washing down a few times, dry thoroughly and finally clean up the hardware with a metal polish.

If the shells are wrapped then wash the wraps just the same as the hardware, be careful not to soak the wood. for the inside of the shells (if they stink - they may be ok) do the same with a moist cloth and keep repeating the process - again don't soak the wood. Keep drying off the shells after each wipe down. Just keep repeating the process - they will clean up.

If the heads aren't shot you can wash them down same as the hardware. Washing detergent and water won't harm mylar.

Good luck.

Why didn't the owner attempt to clean them?.


Senior Member
They have an e-kit I usually play on when we jam because I often don't feel like dragging over a whole kit every time we play together, but I also prefer to play on the real thing so I go back and forth between that and dragging my set over. (There is no room at my house for rehearsal).

I don't think they are being weird its more of a "we want you to play a real kit but are trying not to be rude and telling you to bring your own everytime". Both kits are covered in soot. I think they just don't know how to go about taking care of it, plus they don't really play drums so they don't care if they sit in the corner. I genuinely don't mind cleaning it for them because if anything it benefits me and saves me time in lugging a real kit to their house. We are all good friends so again... it didn't strike me as odd.

They have lots of random gear lol. I think they are just avid gear collectors? But they know absolutely NOTHING about drums. At a practice they once asked me if I knew how to tune drums as if this was some big phenomenon.

Anyway... good advice on here guys!


Silver Member
...Take a dry cleaning sponge and wipe in the same direction to remove as much of the soot/stain as you can. (You may need a couple of sponges as they lose their effectiveness once they turn black)
We had some smoke damage in our house a few years ago. The insurance company brought in a professional disaster clean-up crew (ours was local, but Servicemaster and ServPro are well known national franchises). They used some type of dry sponge for cleanup. Perhaps you could call one of these firms for advice?


Pioneer Member
After vacuuming as much debris as possible just ensure whatever cleaner you choose emulsifies the dirt. Detergent does it with bubbles, other 'dry washes' used on cars do it was well. That way you're not smearing granules across the wrap and creating scratches and swirls.


Silver Member
If you want to keep the wrap on the drums I'd recommend Windex as a good starting point try scrubbing it off with a sponge and see how that works, you might have to make a few passes at it.
If that doesn't work then try something more abrasive but not too abrasive so you don't destroy the wrap.
MY suggestion would be to take them apart and re-wrap them or paint them.

With the hardware try Bar Keepers Friend powder. Mix it with some water and scrub the hardware with a sponge then rinse it with water and dry it with a towel, after a few passes the hardware should be looking good again.