How to Clean a Silver Flute

Written by shanna kelly
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How to Clean a Silver Flute
Silver flutes are delicate instruments and should be handled with care. (flute image by saied shahinkiya from

In order to keep a silver flute functioning at its prime, it is important to clean it frequently. Proper care will work to keep the keys from sticking and the silver from tarnishing. The inside should be swabbed with a non-abrasive cloth after each use, while the outside should be wiped down at least once a week.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Flute cleaning rod (preferably wooden)
  • Silk or cotton cloth (at least the size of a dollar bill)
  • Cigarette paper
  • Microfiber or other non-abrasive cloth
  • Cotton swab
  • Silver polishing cloth

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  1. 1

    Disassemble the flute. Thread the silk or cotton cloth through the eye of the cleaning rod and wrap excess material around the remainder of the rod. Feed the cleaning rod and cloth through the foot joint, body and head joint, in that order, to remove condensation.

  2. 2

    Check for moisture on the pads. The Jan. 1, 2009, issue of Flute Focus recommends placing a sheet of cigarette paper under each pad and lightly pressing down on the key to absorb moisture. Pads closer to the head joint are more likely to accumulate moisture.

  3. 3

    Wipe the outside of the flute with a microfiber or other non-abrasive cloth. The tops of the keys can also be cleaned with this cloth, but always do so gently. The joints of the flute should also be wiped clean to avoid dirt build-up. The cloth used to clean the inside of the flute should not be used to clean the outside.

  4. 4

    Clean the more intricate areas of the flute with dry cotton swabs. If it is an open-holed flute, cotton swabs can be used to remove dirt from the holes, but avoid hitting the pads. Leave hard-to-reach areas, such as behind keys and under rods, for an experienced repair technician.

  5. 5

    Polish the outside of the flute with a musical instrument silver polishing cloth, which you can purchase at most music stores. The cloth should only be used on the outside of the flute. The silver polishing cloth should never touch the pads. According to the Jan. 1, 2009 issue of "Flute Focus," actual silver polish should never be used on a flute, as it could damage the mechanism.

Tips and warnings

  • It is easy to clean the inside of your flute, and you should do so each time you play your instrument. However, cleaning the outside may prove to be a bit more difficult. If you are ever unsure how to do so, or do not wish to harm your flute, your local music store can demonstrate proper maintenance.
  • If the flute appears to be exceptionally dirty, your local repair technician can professionally clean and maintain your instrument.
  • Never use any type of liquid to clean your flute. Liquid can ruin pads and destroy the intricate mechanism.
  • Do not use force in working with a flute, as it can be easily damaged.
  • Cigarette papers or special powder papers are the only materials that should touch the pads. Other materials can easily cause damage.

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