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How to Polish Cymbals: A Guide to Keeping Your Cymbals Shining

Cymbals are an essential part of any drum set, providing the rhythmic backbone and adding character to the music. Over time, cymbals can lose their shine and develop tarnish due to regular use and exposure to the elements. To maintain their optimal sound quality and appearance, it’s important to know how to properly polish cymbals. In this article, we will guide you through the step-by-step process of polishing cymbals to keep them looking and sounding their best.

arborea cymbal (50)

Introduction: The Importance of Cymbal Maintenance

Cymbals are subjected to constant striking and exposure to air, sweat, and other contaminants during drumming sessions. Without proper maintenance, they can lose their luster and develop discoloration, affecting their overall appearance and sound quality. Regularly polishing your cymbals not only restores their shine but also removes dirt and grime that may impact their performance.

Cleaning Before Polishing

Thorough cleaning is crucial before you start polishing, as dirt or grime can affect the polishing process. Use a soft, dry cloth to remove surface dust. For more thorough cleaning, mild dish soap and warm water can be used, especially for brilliant finish cymbals, ensuring all soap residue is rinsed off and the cymbal is dried completely to avoid water spots

Gathering the Necessary Materials

Before you begin the cymbal polishing process, make sure you have the following materials ready:

  • Soft cotton cloths
  • Mild dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Polishing compound
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Cymbal cleaner (optional)
  • Protective coating (optional)

Preparing the Cymbals for Polishing

Start by removing the cymbals from the drum set and inspecting them for any cracks or damages. If you notice any issues, it’s essential to address them before proceeding with the polishing. Next, remove any dust or debris from the cymbals by wiping them gently with a soft cotton cloth.

Choosing the Right Polishing Compound

There are various polishing compounds available in the market, specifically formulated for cymbal maintenance. Select a high-quality compound that is suitable for your cymbal material (e.g., bronze, brass, or nickel-silver). Avoid using abrasive compounds or household cleaners, as they can damage the cymbals.

Applying the Polishing Compound

Take a small amount of the chosen polishing compound and apply it evenly on the cymbal’s surface. Use a soft cotton cloth or a dedicated cymbal applicator to spread the compound in circular motions. Ensure that the entire surface is covered with a thin layer of the compound.

Polishing the Cymbals

Using a clean cotton cloth, start polishing the cymbals using firm yet gentle pressure. Work in small sections, focusing on one area at a time. Continue the circular motion until you see the tarnish graduallyfading away and the cymbal surface becoming shiny. Take your time and be patient during this process, as it may require multiple passes to achieve the desired results.

Polishing Technique

  1. Apply Polish: Using a soft, lint-free cloth, apply a small amount of cymbal polish. For cymbals with logos, avoid applying polish directly on the logos to prevent them from fading.
  2. Buff in a Circular Motion: Gently buff the polish into the cymbal with circular motions, aligning with the grooves of the cymbal. This technique helps maintain the cymbal’s tonal grooves and avoids scratching the surface.
  3. Wipe Off Excess Polish: After thoroughly buffing, use a clean part of the cloth to remove any excess polish. This step is crucial to avoid build-up that can dull the cymbal’s appearance.
  4. Final Buffing: With a fresh, clean cloth, give the cymbal one last buff to bring out a high shine. Ensure all residue is removed for the best results

Removing Residual Compound and Buffing the Cymbals

After polishing the cymbals, use a clean microfiber cloth to remove any residual polishing compound. Make sure to wipe the cymbals thoroughly, paying attention to any crevices or edges where the compound might have accumulated. Once you have removed all traces of the compound, lightly buff the cymbals with the microfiber cloth to enhance their shine.

Cleaning and Drying the Cymbals

To ensure the longevity of your polished cymbals, it’s crucial to clean them properly after the polishing process. Mix a small amount of mild dish soap with warm water and use a soft cloth to clean the cymbals gently. Avoid using abrasive materials or scrubbing too vigorously, as this can damage the cymbals’ surface. Rinse the cymbals with clean water and pat them dry with a soft cloth.

Final Touches and Protective Coating

To further protect your cymbals and maintain their shine, you may consider applying a protective coating. There are specialized cymbal protectants available that create a barrier against tarnish and oxidation. Follow the instructions provided with the coating product to apply it correctly. Allow the coating to dry completely before reassembling and using the cymbals.

Storing the Cymbals

When not in use, it’s essential to store your cymbals properly to prevent unnecessary damage or tarnishing. Place them in a dedicated cymbal bag or case, ensuring they are well-padded and protected from any potential impacts or scratches. Store them in a dry and climate-controlled environment, away from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures.

Maintenance Tips for Extended Lifespan

To keep your cymbals in optimal condition for a longer time, consider the following maintenance tips:

  1. Avoid excessive playing force or hitting the cymbals too hard, as it can cause cracks or structural damage.
  2. Clean the cymbals after each playing session to remove sweat, oils, and debris.
  3. Use cymbal sleeves or felt washers to prevent metal-on-metal contact between cymbals.
  4. Rotate your cymbals periodically during performances to distribute the playing impact evenly.
  5. Regularly inspect your cymbals for any signs of damage or wear and address them promptly.


Properly maintaining and polishing your cymbals is essential for preserving their appearance and sound quality. By following the step-by-step process outlined in this article, you can keep your cymbals shining and performing at their best. Remember to choose the right polishing compound, apply it evenly, and take your time during the polishing process. Regular maintenance and care will ensure that your cymbals continue to enhance your drumming experience for years to come.

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