How to clean your drum kit

Let’s face it, drum kits and cymbals can be expensive and whether you’re rocking out in your bedroom or playing Wembley arena, you want your gear to look and sound the part. To help you out, we’ve put together a simple, but crucial list of hints and tips on how to clean your drum kit.

We understand that cleaning your drum kit is a bit of a chore. Especially at 2am after a sweaty gig and a 2 hour drive home! But just like a car needs an MOT and service, it’s just one of those things that must be done to ensure that your investment stays in tip top condition and sounds great time after time.


Before you think about how to clean your drum kit, the first thing you need to think of is where you’re keeping your kit. Avoid anywhere that has frequent temperature changes, moisture and/or direct sunlight e.g. a garage, conservatory, car or loft can cause significant damage to the drum shells and finishes. We’re all guilty of occasionally leaving the kit in the car after a gig, but this can cause a lot of problems if it becomes a regular occurrence. Issues such as shells and wraps warping, lacquer cracks and pitting (rust) on the hardware occur when the drums aren’t stored at a steady temperature.

Drum bags and cases are crucial for transporting and whilst they won’t protect against drastic temperature changes, storing your gear in cases will stop moisture damage and fading from direct sunlight. There are 3 types of protection available: gig bags, soft cases and hard cases.

  • Gig bags are the most budget friendly of the three; however they aren’t super protective when it comes to padding. They are fantastic dust covers and protect from minor bumps, scrapes and scratches when moving your kit about. We stock the full range of Mapex drum bag sets here.
  • Soft cases are the nice middle ground between gig bags and hard cases, which means they’re lightweight, but also provide an extra level of protection when it comes to knocks and small drops. Brands such as Protection Racket and Ahead Armor come with thick padding, are tailored and fleece lined giving a snug, soft fit for your drums.
  • Hard cases are the most hardy, drop resistant cases that you can buy. They provide the ultimate in protection from falls and side impact and have interlocking grooves allowing you to stack them. However they’re also the heaviest and least flexible of the case options. So if you’ve got a small car, and need to squish everything in, they may not be the best option for you, but if you’re bundling everything in the back of the van for gigs, then Hardcases are essential!

Disassembling the drum kit

Taking apart the drum kit every once in a while is essential. You’ll be surprised at how much dirt, dust and grime builds up in places you would not expect, so giving your entire rig a service is highly recommended. We’ve outlined the main parts of how to clean to clean your drum kit below, so simply follow those instructions and you won’t go wrong.

Cleaning the shell

Cleaning the drum shell itself is very important as it gets rid of all the dust and bits of chewed up drum stick from under the hoops and the bearing edge. This allows the drum head to sit properly on the shell, tune up evenly.

  1. First off, take off the hoops and heads making sure you put the tension rods to one side and keep them safe.
  2. Next, take the lugs off and again, keep them safe, making sure that all of the screws and parts stay in place.
  3. Spray on the shell cleaner, work in with a microfiber cloth and remove with a clean polishing cloth.
  4. Pop the hardware back on the shell and put a tiny drop of Tama Tune Up Oil on the bottom of each tension rod.
  5. Once you’ve replaced the drum heads, pop the hoops back on and finger tighten the tension rods working on opposite rods.

We use Dunlop drum shell cleaner which is available here as part of a full drum kit cleaning pack.

Replacing the drumheads

Replacing your drum heads will make the most significant difference to your drum sound. We recommend that you have a deep clean and replace your batter heads every 6 - 9 months or if they’re dented. We advise never to reuse worn or old heads, as once they’ve ‘seated’ and they’ve been put under tension, stretched out and are much harder to tune.

Cleaning the cymbals

Cleaning cymbals is always a source of debate between drummers. Whether you polish yours to a mirror shine or not, you should always wipe them down after playing. This will remove any sweat, water or anything else that can corrode your cymbals.

There are 3 main types of cymbal finish – Brilliant, Raw and Natural and only Brilliant cymbals should have cymbal polish used on it.

To polish Brilliant finish cymbals we always recommend using a purpose made cymbal cleaner. There are many ‘hacks’ out there using household items like ketchup and lemon juice, but these can contribute to corrosion and damage your gear in the long run! We recommend using either the Paiste Cymbal Cleaner and Protector and also the Dunlop Cleaning pack.

Cleaning the hardware

This is often the part that gets left out when it comes to cleaning, but is in fact is the most important part in cleaning your drum kit. It holds everything together and is essentially the backbone of the kit. Mostly the hardware will just need a quick wipe over before putting it back in its case, but if it’s really dirty cleaning with a non-abrasive cleaner such as Crazy John’s Hardware cleaner will get it looking brand new in no time. Finally, before putting it all away always ensure all wingnuts, bolts, tension rods and tilters are moving freely. If anything does feel a little seized up, Tama’s Tune Up Oil will soon get it moving properly.

Reassembling the drum kit

Once you’ve finished giving everything a good clean, just reassemble it all and tune the drums up. Alternatively, the Cookes Drum Department are more than happy to service, tune and set-up any drum kit.

It really is that simple, but just cleaning your drum kit every so often will keep your pride and joy in showroom condition and sounding like it’s straight out of Abbey Road.