How To Clean Drums: Detailed Instructions

Drums are expensive and require proper care to perform optimally. This care constitutes cleaning, changing the skin when required, and keeping the set in tune. There is more to cleaning than wiping dirt and grime off the surface using a wet cloth – you must ensure that all its constituent parts are clean.

How to clean a drum is a skill that many existing and aspiring musicians desire to have. Which ways do you follow? What items do you need?

The Right Way to Clean a Drum Set

Knowing the pieces of equipment that make up your drum set is essential. When each of them is clean, it keeps the entire set in a good condition.

Avoid using abrasive solutions when cleaning your drums. These are cleaners that contain ammonia and other strong chemicals. Instead, use non-abrasive products or home-made solutions consisting of equal portions of water and vinegar.

What You Need

Wiping off dust from the drums’ surface is easy, but you need to apply more effort to remove stubborn dirt stuck 8m joints and inner surfaces. Before anything, ensure that you have the following items.

  • Microfiber cloth
  • 0.5″ brush
  • 1″ brush
  • Non-abrasive chrome polish
  • Lemon oil polish or any wood conditioner
  • A light lubricant for moving parts
  • Masking tape
  • Petroleum jelly

The Drum Cleaning Process

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to clean your drums.

Disassemble Your Drums

For a thorough cleaning session, you need to know how to assemble and disassemble your drum kit. Start by loosening every joint and group the equipment accordingly. Separate the metal parts from the wooden parts.

Brush Off The Rims

Next, use your 1″ brush to remove any wood chips and other debris stuck on your drums’ rims. If any bits are stubborn and do not come off easily, use the smaller brush. Repeat this until all drums in the set are clean.

Cleaning the Drum Heads

The two most common types of drums head are coated heads (white) and clear plastic heads Luckily, you can clean the drum heads, regardless of their kind. For the coated head, use a clean and damp cloth.

You are likely to notice a little coating flaking off of the head but this is entirely normal and the head is still in working condition. Avoid spraying water directly on the drum head. For the clear plastic head, use non-ammonia window cleaner to remove any dirt, resin and stains.

Polish the Metal Parts

After brushing the rims, the next step involves polishing the metallic parts of your drum set, namely the rims, cymbals and hardware. Ensure that you cover the wooden parts with masking tape while polishing since non-abrasive chrome polishes can be corrosive.

Once all wooden parts are sealed off, apply a small amount of polish on the microfiber cloth and spread it evenly over the metal parts. After a few minutes, wipe the polished surfaces with a clean cloth to make them shine.

When polishing, pay more attention to tight spaces. This is because polishing creams tend to leave white debris in hard-to-reach areas.

Polish the Wooden Parts

Use a different cloth and cream for polishing the wooden parts. Although there are several options to choose from, lemon oil is better than other wood conditioners because it offers more protection and has a pleasant odor.

Moreover, lemon oil does not leave uneven markings on your wooden surfaces. It is also safer than other options that usually contain strong chemicals.

Reassemble the Drum Set

Reassembly is the last step in the cleaning process. It is more challenging than disassembly, as you have to be careful to ensure that component works as desired once you put them back together.

Use petroleum jelly to prevent cross-threading in screws. Then tighten every joint such that no part is moving or shaking. Once everything is set, use a cloth to wipe off fingerprints.

Tuning Your Drum Set

Despite being a short process, tuning your drums is worth your effort. You will enjoy a better sound and make your practice sessions more enjoyable.

The more you play your drums, the more they need tuning. After extensive use, you might need to replace the drum head. Old heads cannot tune properly, and if forced, they can give in and break.

If you play regularly, it is advisable to change heads every six months. Because it is hit more often, the snare drum might need more frequent replacement. Kick drum heads have the longest lifetime. You do not need to replace resonant heads as frequently as batter heads, but it is a good idea to change them once every two years.

When tuning your drums, be careful to avoid overtightening the heads. Inexperienced people tend to tune their drums too high and makes the drums to produce ‘choking,’ inconsistent tones. Ideally, the drums should produce clear sounds with an even tone.

How to Maintain Your Drum Set

Whenever you change your drum skin, insert dehumidifiers inside the snare, the toms, and the bass drum. This keeps the drum dry and prevents the development of bacteria and mildew.

Some experts recommend using steel wool for cleaning hardware. If you take this approach, use fine polishing grades like #0000 – using coarser options often leave many scratches and throw off a lot of debris.

If you have an old drum set or you have bought a secondhand model, it might take you longer to clean it. Hardware tends to rust if left unattended for extended periods. This is why you need to schedule cleaning sessions to ensure your drum does not experience such issues.


You do not have to wait until when you have an impending gig to clean your drum set. Even if you do not play regularly, cover the kit with a wide blanket and wipe it occasionally.

When cleaning, avoid using car wax and other liquid wax, as they contain harsh chemicals that can damage your drum set irreversibly. Instead, use spray-on furniture polish to shine the metal parts and lemon oil for the wooden components.

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