These are simple, self-care practices for your flute:
- Wiping it down with an absorbent, non-scratching cloth. There are many options in music stores. I like to use a microfiber cleaning cloth to wipe the outside of the instrument and silk on the inside of the instrument. And when you are finished cleaning the flute, do not leave the cloth inside the body: Keep it outside of the case and allow all moisture to dry.
- Dampening either a cotton-swab or all-cotton pipe cleaner with denatured alcohol and carefully cleaning between the keys and tone holes. Remember to only clean what you can see: There are many pieces of paper, felt, leather, and foam secured to your flute that can be dislodged if you poke too hard. If you have an open hole flute you can also clean inside the open keycup holes where dead skin and perspiration. And don’t forget to clean your embouchure riser.
- Using pointed, wooden toothpicks (either rounded or squared — the type used for picking up food) and cleaning crevices. Rings and tone holes look and feel great after a cleaning.
- Dampening a facial tissue with denatured alcohol and cleaning inside your barrel, your headjoint tenon, your footjoint tenon, and the inside of your footjoint. In other words, clean the connecting points of your flute.
- My new, favorite, tarnish-cleaning method: Goddard’s Silver and Jewelry Polishing Cloth. It removes tarnish, does not leave a slippery coating on the instrument, and unlike red rouge polishing cloths does not shed a dust that clogs the mechanism. It leaves your flute looking terrific. It is a soft cloth impregnated with polishing agents, so you need to keep the cloth in its box or in some kind of bag.
- If you would like to polish your headjoint, then I suggest Hagerty silversmith’s polish or Goddad’s polish. It’s fine to use a liquid polish on the headjoint where it’s safely away from the mechanisms. When you are ready to remove the polish, wipe it off the headjoint. Do not put the headjoint under water. And I do not recommend chemical dips to clean your instrument. If you are VERY, VERY careful, you can use liquid polish on your flute’s body. If you are polishing the body, then I recommend only dampening the cleaning cloth slightly with polish, wiping it on a small area of the flute body, then quickly wiping it off. Do not allow the polish to dry on the instrument and risk getting particles of polish in your mechanisms. If you want to polish your key cups, put even less polish on the cleaning cloth and polish the tops of keys leaving no polish behind. DO NOT go near the mechanism tubing with silver polish. If the polish gets into the mechanisms, then you need to have the flute completely disassembled and cleaned and oiled. The safest way to polish your keycups is to use Goddard’s silver and jewelry polish cloth.
- Keep your pads dry. This can best be accomplished by blotting your pads (NOT dragging) with either a cigarette paper or else a cold-permanent hair wrapper. You want to insert the paper under the pad, press down, release, and then remove the paper. If you have either Straubinger or felt pads, water will break down the pad membranes. When this happens, your pads will no longer seal properly.