Tried cleaning/polishing some cymbals: REALLY disappointing

Old Dog new Cans

Senior Member
So I picked up some Paiste Dark Energy 14" hats. And a 17" Zildjian K thin crash recently. The bottom hat and the K were just funky as heck. Broke out the Zildjian polish. 2nd time I've used this product. First time was this past winter after picking up my vintage Zildjians. I first cleaned the cymbals with lemons and white vinegar in the tub. Got a LOT of funk and gunk gone. But the Zildjian polish had basically NO effect at all. Got rid of some gunk, but added not a bit of shine.

FFWD to today. Did not have lemons, decided to simply use the polish again. HORRID, USELESS.

I notice someone used sandpaper in a different thread started earlier this year. And, I saw some vids. . .


So this guy rigs up a drill press I think. Uses a sanding bar/pad. This was on a cymbal that was DANG old. He said 30 years or more. It was definitely 50 yrs old or more. As you can see, the cymbal looked AMAZING! There is no before and after sound test. Obviously, it removed any "finish", that had been applied.

In cleaning a cymbal with sandpaper or a scratch pad, etc---what are the bad things that can happen? Rust? Sonic differences?

I mean, I worked up a sweat trying to clean these suckers! Not lacking effort at all. Results are definitely disappointing.

I plan on trying different products. Brasso, (suggestions).

Anyone tried Buckaroo Cymbal cleaner???

I have some polishing attachments for my drill, just not too sure about using them on some darn cymbals.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I mean, I worked up a sweat trying to clean these suckers! Not lacking effort at all. Results are definitely disappointing.

I plan on trying different products. Brasso, (suggestions).

Anyone tried Buckaroo Cymbal cleaner???
Every time I see this I sigh.

You don't polish unpolished cymbals. You clean them.

Now that you've ground down the surface of the cymbals, and filled all the pores and cracks with dark schmoo (a mix of the polishing compound and bronze), you find yourself in a place where you're going to have to scrub and bathe the cymbal in something that will cut the schmoo.

If I were in your current position, I'd:

Fill a large rubbermaid container with warm (not hot!) water and few drops of Dawn. Get a soft bristle cleaning brush and a bunch of automotive terrycloth towels. Take a pic of the cymbal. Submerge and commit yourself to ~1h of scrubbing. Dry the cymbal, and take another pic when complete for comparison.
 

Mr Farkle

Well-known member
I tried that drill sandpaper thing just for fun once on an old funky ride. The cymbal became such a centrifugal force that it would rotate faster than the drill at times causing stress on the drill motor. It also felt like it was going to launch at any moment. Of course a ride is going to develop more force than a 14" hi hat. Aside from the possible injuries and drill damage, it left a lot of wavy scratches in the cymbal. I could have probably removed those by using steps of finer grit but I didn't bother to try.

Barkeepers Friend worked wonders for me. I'm not into cleaning cymbals but I bought two used cymbals that looked like someone used them as lunch plates. Actual chunks of I don't know what on them. BKP took that (and the logos) right off. No scratching.
 
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Old Dog new Cans

Senior Member
Every time I see this I sigh.

You don't polish unpolished cymbals. You clean them.

Now that you've ground down the surface of the cymbals, and filled all the pores and cracks with dark schmoo (a mix of the polishing compound and bronze), you find yourself in a place where you're going to have to scrub and bathe the cymbal in something that will cut the schmoo.

If I were in your current position, I'd:

Fill a rubbermaid container with warm (not hot!) water and few drops of Dawn. Get a soft bristle cleaning brush and a bunch of automotive terrycloth towels. Take a pic of the cymbal. Commit yourself to 1h of scrubbing. Dry the cymbal, and take another pic when complete for comparison.


Well, like I said, I cleaned the vintage cymbals prior to polishing. Got a ton of patina/green off of them. The polish did nothing. I'm assuming they were simply still dirty? The effort needed to get them clean and polished is serious.

Please don't sigh! Lol I'm a horrible noob with some of these things.

I'll try the warmish dish soap deal.

I know a ton of people have used Bar Keeper's friend. I may go to that next. Relatively cheap.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
I know a ton of people have used Bar Keeper's friend. I may go to that next. Relatively cheap.
Every chemical solvent, alkaline, acid (including oxalic acid in BkF) should be avoided.

With BKF, it will remove the patina, but you'll need to do the following after cleaning, else it will flash-patina and you'll end up in a worse state...

1: Bathe the cymbal in something PH neutral to get rid of the acidic residue. Water + a tbl spoon of baking soda for example.
2: Water bath, to get the base off.
3: Dry the cymbal with a towel and dry air.

Also note... Patina is fine. It's an oxide layer that protects the cymbal's alloy. Unless there's something between the air and the metal, it's eventually going to happen. These days, Zildjian uses a poly mist, which you're going to have a hard time replicating at home with a rattle can.
 

Old Dog new Cans

Senior Member
Every chemical solvent, alkaline, acid (including oxalic acid in BkF) should be avoided.

With BKF, it will remove the patina, but you'll need to do the following after cleaning, else it will flash-patina and you'll end up in a worse state...

1: Bathe the cymbal in something PH neutral to get rid of the acidic residue. Water + a tbl spoon of baking soda for example.
2: Water bath, to get the base off.
3: Dry the cymbal with a towel and dry air.

Also note... Patina is fine. It's an oxide layer that protects the cymbal's alloy. Unless there's something between the air and the metal, it's eventually going to happen. These days, Zildjian uses a poly mist, which you're going to have a hard time replicating at home with a rattle can.

No no, I get that. But there is just a layer of filth and funk on these used cymbals. I mean, patina is one thing, but you don't really know what else is there. That's my main objective.

So basically, a safe and thorough cleaning PRIOR to any polishing, unless the darn thing is basically new. And I'll keep in mind your advice if I do go BKF.

Thanks man. :cool:(y)
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
So basically, a safe and thorough cleaning PRIOR to any polishing
You misunderstand. Under no circumstances (with very few exceptions) should a raw lathed cymbal be "polished". Otherwise, it's no longer a raw lathed cymbal. If you want a brilliant cymbal... get a brilliant cymbal (A Custom for example).

Note: Even brilliant cymbals shouldn't be polished
 
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Old Dog new Cans

Senior Member
If you like the way they sound, leave them alone. If you really want them to sound brighter and have more bite or cut, then clean them. I've had good luck with Groove Juice.

However, I've pretty much stopped cleaning cymbals at this point. I let them get old with me.
I understand that if they are bright, clean and shiny, they will sound brighter, etc. My problem is, I don't want what's left on them by the previous owner. Because they certainly didn't clean them prior to selling them. I get that too. A lot of drummers don't want the bright shiny look or sound. They want older dryer, darker--me too.

I just don't want nor like, the black crap on the bottom side of my cymbals. The Zildjian K crash I just bought, looks FUNKEE underneath. Patina is one thing. BLACK gunky fingerprints are another. I like clean.


You misunderstand. Under no circumstances (with very few exceptions) should a raw lathed cymbal be "polished". Otherwise, it's no longer a raw lathed cymbal. If you want a brilliant cymbal... get a brilliant cymbal (A Custom for example).
OK. I was certainly missing what you were saying. I'm not after shiny. I just don't like a complete ring of black fingerprints around my cymbals. I'll get to scrubbing.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I'm sure that sandpaper method would work, but I'd bet that you'll have to put something on them immediately if you don't want them to start turning green in a couple of weeks.

Let us know what you decide to do and how it goes!
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
Zildjian cymbal polish is great. But it's a polish, not a cleaner, and it can be very difficult to get a deep, even lustre.
It sounds like you want to clean your cymbals first, and maybe after that, you won't really want to polish them.
Before you start sand papering them, try some bar keepers friend.
It's about the best thing I've found for removing any left over black cymbal polish residue.

If you use groove juice, wet the cymbal and a rag with water, and then apply the juice to the rag,
then use the rag on the cymbal. Don't apply the juice directly to the cymbal.
You'll get more even coverage that way.

I like Wrights copper cream better than groove juice. There's less chance of getting streaks, runs, and spots.
Just be sure to follow the directions and use gloves. It's also got a bit of a smell to it until it's washed clean.

I'd say start with the BKF, then groove juice or copper cream if you feel it's necessary, and see if it gets you any progress.
 
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Morrisman

Platinum Member
Zildjian polish is intended for Brilliant Finish cymbals, not traditional K's or A's.
Mild acids like bar keeper's friend and groove juice will dissolve a lot of grime and oxidisation, and won't affect clean bronze at all.
But still, wash them off and rinse thoroughly after a minute or so.
If you get a dark green/black residue in the grooves, it can be washed away with Windex. Then rinse, etc.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Mild acids like bar keeper's friend and groove juice will dissolve a lot of grime and oxidisation, and won't affect clean bronze at all.
But still, wash them off and rinse thoroughly after a minute or so.
You're not wrong here, but....

You use acid to dissolve the oxide layer / patina. If the acid is not sufficiently removed from the cymbal, the low PH will act as a catalyst to subsequent oxidization... Which dissolves in the acid, which causes oxidization, which dissolves in the acid, which causes more oxidization. You end up with flakey scales of patina falling off the cymbal.

This is why I do a baking-soda/water bath after using weak acids, like vinegar to derust old parts, etc.
 

Old Dog new Cans

Senior Member
First off, The Zildjian Polish actually starts out saying "Cleans, polishes, etc.". . . . .However, even after reading that it's for "brilliant cymbals", I still missed the point that KamaK was ALSO making to me. And Wildbill, I'm not arguing with you a bit. It's simply what the bottle says (cleans). I wasn't using the product in the proper way. I will most likely just go with KamaK's first post. I'm really disappointed with myself on missing the boat with that freakin' polish.

Thanks for the schooling. I'm sure it will save me trouble and/or money in the future.
 

GetAgrippa

Platinum Member
I sanded an old Zildjian A rock cymbal and it produced a gosh awful persistent shrill tone after striking that lasted forever. I'd be wary of sanding it. I used the Zildjian polish once-worked fine but I'll never clean another cymbal I'll let them age. I cleaned my first cymbal ever a 24 in 1960s Zildjian and wish I hadn't cleaned it.
 

Drifter in the Dark

Silver Member
If you like the way they sound, leave them alone. If you really want them to sound brighter and have more bite or cut, then clean them. I've had good luck with Groove Juice.

However, I've pretty much stopped cleaning cymbals at this point. I let them get old with me.
Groove Juice works well for me. At this point I refuse to use any "home remedies" (Bar Keeper's Friend, etc.) to clean my cymbals.
 

Old Dog new Cans

Senior Member
You could also try Mr Clean magic eraser. I used them the last time I cleaned my cymbals (mostly brilliant) with good results. Granted, they didn't have heavy patina on them. Just another option to look into.
It's interesting you mention this. I recently picked up a package of a generic version of these types of sponges. I was planning on giving them a try later. They are non-abrasive and relatively mild for sure.
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
.... And Wildbill, I'm not arguing with you a bit. It's simply what the bottle says (cleans). ....
You're absolutely right. I took a look and they call it a 'cleaning polish'.
I would never call it a cleaner myself though, nor would I use it on a cymbal that needs cleaning.
I only use it to get a deep, 'see into' lustre after a cymbal is properly cleaned.
But it requires a lot of work.

I don't clean new cymbals. I only dust them once in a while with Pledge.
They'll still look new many years from now doing that.

I do clean old, used cymbals that weren't taken care of.
But I wouldn't recommend what I use to anyone else though.
 

AudioWonderland

Silver Member
Well, like I said, I cleaned the vintage cymbals prior to polishing. Got a ton of patina/green off of them. The polish did nothing. I'm assuming they were simply still dirty? The effort needed to get them clean and polished is serious.

Please don't sigh! Lol I'm a horrible noob with some of these things.

I'll try the warmish dish soap deal.

I know a ton of people have used Bar Keeper's friend. I may go to that next. Relatively cheap.
Why did you expect polish to clean?
 
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