Did the sound of your cymbals suddenly get darker? Did they start to have a greenish color?

If the answer is yes, it’s time for you to learn how to clean cymbals.

There are different ways to upkeep your cymbals, from using household items like ketchup and vinegar to polishing with cymbal cleaners.

Some people often confuse cleaning and polishing, but they are different things. 

Cleaning gets rid of the dirt and grime, but polishing goes deeper and usually requires a special cymbal cleaner.

We will explain how you can upkeep your cymbals in both ways: basic cleaning and polishing.

Clean cymbals will give you a bright sound and look shiny, while dirty cymbals will have darker sounds and may even cause cracks in the metal.

Let’s see how to protect cymbals and keep them clean so they can stay shiny and beautiful as long as possible.

Basic cleaning

It is a routine activity that can be done after playing the drums.

You can do it in a few ways:

  1. To eliminate dust and moisture from your cymbals, simply wipe them clean with a microfiber cloth. 
  2. If there is more dirt left after wiping, you can wash them with a light detergent and water, but remember to dry the cymbal right away.


  • Dismantle the cymbal from the stand before you start cleaning.
  • Make sure to wipe down the edge with a soft cloth carefully because drumstick chippings can stick to the edge of the cymbal.
  • When wiping a cymbal, avoid bending it or exerting too much pressure.
  • When carrying your cymbals around, remember to hold them by the edges, and you can wipe the fingerprints with the dry microfiber cloth afterward.


For polishing your cymbal, you can use a special cymbal cleaner.

Here is how you should do it:

  1. Employ a delicate, circular motion with a non-abrasive cloth when applying the polish.
  2. Ensure each area is covered, and leave the cymbal for a half minute until the polish soaks in.
  3. Rinse the cymbal under running water to remove all polish, and dry it entirely afterward.


  • Cymbal polish should be used only on brilliant finish cymbals, so for the traditional finish cymbals, use only a microfiber cloth.
  • You can use a toothbrush or something similar to get into the grooves and make a detailed cleaning.
  • Use gloves to protect your hands from the chemicals.

Cleaning the cymbals with household items

The household items you can use to clean cymbals are: 

  • Toothpaste
  • Ketchup
  • Vinegar & lemon juice

Yes, you read it right!

You can clean cymbals even with ketchup. 

Keep in mind household items don’t do a perfect job, but you can be reasonably satisfied with them.

Let’s see how to use them to clean cymbals.

Cleaning cymbals with toothpaste

  1. Spread the toothpaste over the cymbal until no metal is visible.
  2. Leave the toothpaste for a few hours (three is optimal).
  3. Clean the cymbal with a cloth and enjoy the new shine!


Toothpaste is not aggressive, and it will give the cymbal a new shine.


You will need a lot of toothpaste to cover the whole surface of the cymbal, so this method can be expensive.

Cleaning cymbals with ketchup

  1. Spread the ketchup around the cymbal, covering every surface.
  2. Leave it for a few hours to soak, but not too long since ketchup is acidic.
  3. Clean up the cymbal.


This longtime cymbal cleaning trick works surprisingly well, and it’s arguably the best household item to use for cleaning cymbals.


The smell of ketchup can stay for a while if you don’t clean up your cymbal enough, so it might be unpleasant if you are not a fan of it.

Cleaning cymbals with vinegar & lemon juice

  1. Spread a little bit of lemon juice around the cymbal, and then pour some vinegar.
  2. Rub it around the cymbal, avoiding the logos, and leave it for a few hours.
  3. Rub-down the surface with a damp cloth.


It’s a cheap method because you don’t need to use a lot of vinegar or lemon juice to cover the cymbal’s surface.


Vinegar is a stronger substance than toothpaste or ketchup, so using too much could harm the logos.

The reasons to keep your cymbals clean

There are a few reasons to keep your cymbals clean:

  • You will keep the bright sound and high frequencies.
  • You will extend their lifespan.
  • You will have shiny and nice-looking equipment.

When they are first manufactured, the coating applied to cymbals will naturally wear off the more they are played, and the cymbals begin to oxidize. 

This oxidation will make them appear darker, and you’ll lose some of the higher frequencies.

Some drummers prefer this “darker” sound, so they stick with it.

Cymbals are stunning instruments that demand respect and proper care, so carry them carefully and learn how to maintain them properly.

Even if you don’t want to clean them thoroughly, you should at least keep them safe from dust and wipe them up from time to time.

Remember to place your cymbals on a soft surface to avoid damaging them.

With a little bit of effort, you can ensure that your cymbals shine for years to come.

Overall, cleaning your cymbals will ensure them lasting for a long time and look fine for your playing. 

This can go a long way towards ensuring you make the most out of your cymbals, so don’t neglect this maintenance practice!


Clean cymbals will give you a bright sound and look shiny, while dirty cymbals will have a darker sound.

If you decide to clean your cymbals, you can do it with a basic cleaning method by using water and detergent, or even with some household items such as toothpaste, lemon, vinegar, or even ketchup. 

You can give your equipment a deep polishing with cymbal cleaner, but it should be used only on brilliant finish cymbals.

With proper care, your cymbals will last a long time and will be able to bring you years of enjoyment.