Using Paraffin or petrol to clean valves/slides

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by euphsrock, Mar 17, 2010.

  1. euphsrock

    euphsrock Member

    Just writing a "review" of beginner brass books and read one which said to use paraffin or petrol to clean your slides/valves.
    I have never heard of this before, has anyone else?

    Also, anyone brasso/silvo their valves? In the last month I have had someone recommend it and someone else tell me to stay well clear.
  2. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Brasso/silvo are both abrasive - I wouldn't let either of them near my valves. And I don't see any reason to use petrol or paraffin when valve oil is a petroleum distillate anyway. Every now and again I clean my valves with warm soapy water, then re-oil them, and I wipe them down to get the worst of the muck off when oiling them. That's it.

    I would be very suspicious of any book that advised otherwise.
  3. KMJ Recordings

    KMJ Recordings Supporting Member


    Robin, I'll get back to you shortly on your other question.
  4. euphsrock

    euphsrock Member

    Exactly what I thought.

    When I was young I used to use silvo/brasso on my sovereign euph until someone warned me that it would take all the lacquer off!
  5. Aussie Tuba

    Aussie Tuba Member

    I use silvo on my silver plated sovreign EEb but I wouldn't use it if it were lacquered.
    valve cleaning I leave to my technition at Better Sounds Australia. I just use Vlave oil on them.
  6. Andrew Norman

    Andrew Norman Active Member

    If your valves are frequently sticking then a clean with brasso will often help. This shouldn't be done too often but otherwise won't do any harm.
    Brass repairers that I've known have always done/advised this..
    Certainly Brasso and other abrasive cleaners should never be used on the outside of lacquered instruments.
  7. John_D

    John_D Member

    I've know a small amount of petrol or white spirit to be used to take the last remnents of grease off slides (not done it myself). Couldn't imagine doing the same to my valves though.
  8. BigHorn

    BigHorn Active Member

    It always makes me laugh when people are so frightened of putting a bit of solvent or polish on their valves. We are not talking fine watchmaking here we are talking about something quite agricultural in pure engineering terms.
    If your valves / slides are gunked up with old oil or grease then a solvent such as parafin seems a good cleaning option (as long as it doesnt affect laquer finish). Automotive engineers wouldn't think twice about cleaning a carburetter or oil pump with such products and they work to much finer tolerances than a brass instrument.
    Similarly descaling products work wonders on dealing with limescale. Nobody bats an eyelid using such things in their kettle or on their bathtaps. An instrument after all is only a bit of plumbing.

    If some people had seen a brass repairer in action they would be horrified at some of their practices.
  9. WoodenFlugel

    WoodenFlugel Moderator Staff Member

    I'd only ever use Brasso on valves if there were constantly sticky, and only as a 'lets see' before taking it to a repairer to get them sorted out. If you do, for god's sake make sure you thoroughly clean it off afterwards!

    Petrol / paraffin is a decent degreaser, as has been suggested above, but for the life of me I can't figure out why you would want to use it as a degreaser on valves. Warm water and a good wipe over with a soft cloth should get rid of any grease you'll find on them normally - unless you are oiling your valves with treacle!

    That said, it shouldn't cause any adverse effects on stainless steel valves - though I'd keep it well away from the felts and rubbers. Not sure what it would do to monel valves though...

    Anyway - which book was this? It wasn't written by that woman on YouTube's 'expert village' was it? ;)
  10. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    Fine and dandy, but I'm not a brass repairer, or an automotive engineer, I'm a humble player with no particular skills in plumbing/engineering. Same goes for most people on this forum, and most brass players in general. I don't let my valves/slides get "gunked up with old oil or grease", which is why I don't need to use anything other than warm soapy water to clean them. Presumably, by the same thought process, Pledge would be regarded as an excellent cleaning agent for a Stradivarius violin, because it's essentially a piece of furniture?

    I'll continue to treat my cornet like an expensive musical instrument, and you continue to treat your instrument like "something agricultural" or "a bit of plumbing", and I'll lay you 20 quid right here, in front of witnesses, that my instrument will be in significantly better condition than yours in 10 years time.
    Jack E likes this.
  11. floppymute

    floppymute Member

    I once had a young novice trombone pupil turn up to a lesson. As soon as he got his instrument out of the case I noticed a familiar smell - I'd been working on my car the day before.
    He'd tried using WD40 as a slide lubricant!
    It didn't work very well as a lubricant but it had shifted every scrap of dirt and gunge within a 5-mile radius. He had the cleanest trombone slide in christendom! :D
  12. BrianT

    BrianT Member

    Beginner Brass Materials...

    What are you planning on doing with your review once you've finished it? I'm sure there are lots of folk on here who'd appreciate suggestions for new material to use with learners.

    I bought myself a copy of the Big Shiny Brass cornet method and I think it's really excellent!
  13. GJG

    GJG Well-Known Member

    Not sure that's entirely true; Renold Schilke used to boast that his trumpet valves were built to tolerances of .001" - I doubt that automotive tolerances are much finer than that. (Actually, Schilke's factory operatives privately admitted that they built the valves to .002" - it wasn't that they couldn't achieve .001", but they knew from experience that the average trumpet player's grip on the valve casing would cause the valve to bind at the finer tolerance).

    Still, I agree with your basic point. I would happily use any approved engineering solvent to clean a brass instrument valve. (not totally sure about petrol, mind; a lot of brass players still smoke ... )
  14. animal.22

    animal.22 Member

    Please excuse an ignorant tub thumper but why is WD40 not good as a lubricant ?
  15. Anno Draconis

    Anno Draconis Well-Known Member

    As I understand it, the primary purpose of WD40 is not lubrication but Water Dispersal, hence the name, which causes a load of problems once you actually start trying to play (and thereby introduce water into the instrument).
    Jack E likes this.
  16. DannyCollin

    DannyCollin Member

    Either petrol or paraffin should get a decent fire going.
  17. euphsrock

    euphsrock Member

    It's an assignment for my masters course, so I was just going to submit it and hope for a good mark! I may review lots of different ones though after and then I could share my opinions. Would have to be careful not to offend anyone on here though who may have written it!

    We had to do beginner books so I chose at random "A Tune a Day - euphonium or trombone" and it's not getting a very positive review from me.

    I haven't looked at the Big Shiny Brass Cornet Method in detail but I certainly think it is a good way to learn technique in the context of playing a piece of music rather than just exercises. I can recommend The Book for All Occasions, by Big Shiny Brass though. I also personally like the Philip Sparke series, beginner Studies to Super Studies, but this is getting very off the topic of petrol for valve cleaning!
  18. floppymute

    floppymute Member

    Thanks for that. I never worked out why it didn't work - I just knew it caused problems for him.
  19. Mujician

    Mujician Member

    Im very good friends with an instrument repairer. As has been said Brasso, is abrasive. I had a student whos father put a bottle of brasso in his trumpet case to clean it!! He soon got rid of it. It can be used to clean the valves, as long as it is completely cleaned of afterwards. Its good for using after an instrument has been 'accidentally' dropped and the valves are compromised. Its like a liquid sand paper. The dents need to be removed and everything straightened up first.

    I would steer well clear of parrafin etc and also anything that recomends the use thereof.

    When my students valves are felling a little slow, the first thing I do is get my water spray out, this usually fixes it, then i put oil on it.
  20. Aussie Tuba

    Aussie Tuba Member

    try just the valve oil. My repairer took a lot of time removing a large amount of water from my instument before using valve oil saying sometimes the 2 don't mix to well in large quantities. I know that spit contains some water and valve oil needs to cope with that but spray amounts could be counter productive with the valve oil.

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