Untitled Document
Advertisement Click to advertise with us!

Cleaning out the gunk between the keys

I've been considering cleaning of of the flutes that I have, but since it's silverplated, I didn't know what I can/should use to clean out the gunk after disassembling the flute. And I know how to take the flute apart and put it back together the right way, so thats not my biggest concern for now, but just can't figure out the cleaning part. Sorry this is so long!


Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
for SILVER PLATED or SOLID SILVER flutes only. NOT nickel flutes.

Since you take the keywork off of your flute the body & foot will be much easier to clean (lets exclude the headjoint & keywork for now)

First, there should be no cork or felt on the body. It should all be on the keywork.
If this is the case then it is much more simplier than you can imagine.

make note of the type of springs being used. are they SHARP to the touch - basically will they jab you if you inadvertantly move your finger(s)/hand towards them. This is something to keep in mind as you start cleaning it and start thinking nice and shiny thoughts and them blammo .. you're dripping blood and screeching out pain ... but i degress .....

To clean the body I like to use one of those foaming silver cleaners that you can buy really anywhere. Such as Hagerty silver foam cleaner that comes in a white cannister. I then use a stainless steel elongated tray that i use (it's actually a catering food serving tray) with water and a sponge - a plastic tray will work just fine. if you are doing this in a sink please be aware of the drain and properly cover it (you don't want a loose spring or pivot screw to fall out and go down the drain).

Then i dab some silver cleaner and water on the sponge and start mildly rubbing against the body. It will start foaming up and you will be able to clean the open areas quite quickly. I also use some ragging tape (strips of cloth) in the same fashion to get under the springs and around the posts. but just using the sponge will do wonders to 99.9% of the surface area.

then use some water and wash the foam agent off. You may also want to do this to the inside of the flute and each tonehole with a swab too. After washing everything off towel dry but you may want to use a hair dryer as it will will dry things quicker and prevent any rust on the spring areas. make sure you dry up where the spring goes into the post too (if you happen to have a flame around that is a good way of ridding water in the spring/post area).

Normally headjoints use a "cork" .. like a winebottle cork in there to adjust for intonation. You really dont want to get this wet.

The original flute cleaning wand has a mark (or they should) on it. This mark is used to properly position the cork in the headjoint. The "mark" should be in the center of the embouchure hole when you stick it in the headjoint. keep this in mind as we work on getting the cork out.

keep this in mind - most headjoints are conical - shaped like a cone. We will be pushing the cork out the part that goes into the body. You may not visually see it and think it, but it is ever so slightly tapered.

take the cap off. It may screw off or simply pull off. there may or may not be a rod that gets screwed into the cork.
so you may have to unscrew it completely or just pull the cap off.

next - use the cleaning rod to push the cork out from the cap end out the body end. be careful once again as there may be a metal plate on top of the cork which may fall out.

It will have to be installed in the same manner, in the same direction back into the headjoint using that cleaning wand

Just remember that the cork is kinda conical too. So be aware which end is which.

When you install the cork you use the wand to adjust how far it goes in. if you tune to 440 and you have a 440 flute, the wand mark should be right in the middle of the embouchure hole. otherwise, it varies after that depending upon your tuning

but then just clean the head in the same method as the body and foot joint.


The best thing here is to get a silver polishing cloth. We do not want to use the method for the body here because the cork and felts may fall off. Plus the pads will get wet and will probably need to be replaced.

With a nice Meguairs (or something) silver polishing cloth just rub the keywork and it should clean up really nice. Just stay away from the cork,felts and pads. You do not want to transfer any grime to them.

NOTE: If the flute is silverplated the the joint parts (headjoint and foot sections that go into the body) may not have silver plating on it. So the color may be different and the silver plated cleaning will not work well on those sections.

TECH NOTE: we also use a nice silver polishing compound to really make it shiny. but i normally use a buffing wheel to handle that stage of everything. but i like it to be super clean and such with the above process before i add any other final touches.
Last edited:
Thanks a lot, Steve! I got my main flute back about two weeks ago from my tech(gemmy KG special), but wanted to clean up my backup(gemmy M2) since the pads are in great shape but the rest looks bad.
Top Bottom