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How to clean and protect your steel tongue drum?

Are you the proud owner of a steel tongue drum, and wondering how to properly care for your instrument?
The tongue drum is by nature a resistant instrument, much more so than its cousin the handpan! This is due to the greater thickness of the metal used to make it, but also to the way it is constructed and tuned. Like the Zenko from Metal Sounds, all steel tongue drums are tuned by cutting out the tongues that produce the sound. This means that there is less risk of your instrument going out of tune because a small impact on a tongue will not affect the tuning. Nevertheless, the tongue drum is an instrument that needs to be cared for to ensure its longevity, so here are our recommendations for the right maintenance routine for your instrument!

In order to preserve the quality and condition of your tongue drum, as with any other musical instrument, it is important to follow proper care instructions. Here are the most important things to remember to maintain your tongue drum properly.

Wiping your steel tongue drum

To prolong the life of a tongue drum, a caring musician will make sure to wipe it down immediately after use, especially for unpainted mild steel models.

Ideally, use a strong microfibre cloth that does not lint when wiped over the cut-outs in the slats, which can sometimes be slightly abrasive. To achieve a good cleaning, we recommend that you use two microfibre cloths: one for "daily" cleaning, when you wipe your tongue drum after playing it, and a second cloth for applying your protective oil.

This will remove fingerprints and dirt that can damage your tongue drum over time. This is certainly the best habit to adopt to ensure the longevity of your tongue drum.

Cleaning your steel tongue drum with alcohol

From time to time (twice a year), you can wipe the entire surface of your tongue drum with a cloth soaked in alcohol. Take the time to rub the two outer sides of the shell well, as well as the edges. Ideally, use rubbing alcohol or surgical spirit, which will be gentler on your instrument. The alcohol will remove the existing protection on your instrument, so after cleaning, remember to reapply a layer of protective oil.

This care tip is particularly relevant to quality, unpainted, handcrafted tongues.

Protecting your steel tongue drum with oil

First of all, ask your manufacturer for his maintenance advice.
We do not recommend using a wax paste to protect your steel tongue drums. The wax may leave deposits in the tongues of your instrument, which would be difficult to remove, and could alter the sound of your instrument. The frequency of application of protective oil will vary according to the environment in which you live: in a humid climate, near the sea, apply protection at least twice a month.

Some tongue drums, such as those made of stainless steel, are particularly durable and do not require as much protection against rust. Oil can be applied, but at a much more frequent interval. Again, ask your manufacturer for advice.

Of course, there is no need to apply oil to painted tongue drum.

For more information on the maintenance of your Zenko tongue drum, watch our video tutorial.

Removing rust spots on your steel tongue drum

The Metal Sounds Zenko® tongue drum is made of stainless steel, which is particularly resistant to corrosion. This means that you will not have to remove rust from our instruments. However, not all steel tongue drums are made of stainless steel and some models can rust.

Don't panic, there are solutions! If this is your case, here are the steps to follow:

Treating a layer of surface rust

First of all, clean your tongue with alcohol. Then take a sponge, and with the abrasive side (the green side), which you will have moistened beforehand, gently rub the rusty spots. Keep in mind that this process should be used sparingly, as it can remove the oxidation layer from your tongue drum. It should be possible to remove the rust bloom quite easily with this process.

If the corrosion has been there longer and the abrasive side of the sponge is not enough you can use Cape Cod a soaked polishing cloth which works wonders as the name suggests. Rub in a circular motion and the rust should come off. Obviously the aesthetics of your tongue drum may be altered but it is up to you whether you want to remove the rust or not.

Once you have done this, clean your tongue drum thoroughly with alcohol to remove any rust residue that may still be on the surface. It is important not to leave any rust dust behind as it could contaminate the instrument again. Now that you have removed the rust and applied a good coat of alcohol you should protect your tongue drum by applying a good dose of oil with a clean cloth.

Use a rust remover

If the rust has already spread and is not coming off, you can also use a commercially available rust remover. But beware, this can alter the oxidation layer of your tongue drum, and thus change its original colour! Take the instrument with you and ask the seller for advice.

Maintenance of a Zenko® steel tongue drum
The Zenko is made of stainless steel sheets and is therefore not subject to corrosion. Whether you play it by hand or with the sticks, regular maintenance is relevant to avoid deposits, preserve its shine and ensure playing comfort. Use a cloth and a suitable oil about once a month.

Storage of a steel tongue drum

The tongue drum is generally considered to be a robust and durable musical instrument. However, the quality of different models and brands can vary considerably, as can the durability of their coatings or heat treatments. Therefore, the way you store your tongue drum can also have an impact on its longevity.

To ensure that your instrument remains in good condition for many years, it is essential to store it properly after each use. Especially avoid leaving it outside or in a place exposed to the weather, as humidity and temperature changes can cause damage over time.

And to eliminate the risk of scratches or bumps, we recommend that you store your tongue drum in its case or in a specially designed box. This will help protect the surface of the instrument from scratches and impacts and it will look great for much longer.

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