Percussion instruments are accessible and allow even total novices to have fun with music. They also are used by technical masters to create complex and incredible rhythms. Whether you just want to slap a tambourine or totally slay on your drum kit, you’ve got to look cool doing it. That means your instruments have to be in top condition, so use these tips on how to clean percussion instruments.

Drum Set

Never use abrasive cleaners on your drums. This includes harsh cleaners like Ajax and Comet, as well as paper towels. Yes, surprisingly even a paper towel is abrasive enough to scratch the finish on your drums.

To clean, first disassemble your drum set and remove the hardware from your drums. Once you’ve disassembled everything, remove dust and grit from your drum shells by dusting with a microfiber cloth. Clean with a non-ammonia glass cleaner or a solution made from equal parts vinegar and water. Spray your cleaner on the rag, not directly on the drum shells themselves. You can polish your drums with a microfiber cloth. Use your favorite polish or wax and rub the drum shells.

For cymbals, clean and polish with your favorite polishing solution. Popular options include Nevr-Dull polish, Flitz Metal polish, or even just the all purpose cleaner Bar Keeper’s Friend.

The most basic cleaning for a drum head is just to wipe with a damp cloth. This is safe for all kinds of drum heads, including coated heads. For clear plastic heads, you can also use the same non-ammonia cleaner you used for the shells.

For your stands and hardware, use that same non-ammonia cleaner. You can remove stains, stuck-on dirt, and tarnish with a chrome polish, but be careful. Make sure you use this product away from your drum shells and heads as the polish could leave a mark.

How to Clean Percussion Instruments

Xylophone and Marimbas

You should regularly give your instrument a thorough dusting. Hitting the bars of the xylophone or marimba with mallets grinds dust into the surface, so frequent cleaning is important.

You can also use a high-quality furniture polish on the wooden bars of your xylophone or marimba. Apply the polish to a rag and then wipe the bars with a soft towel. For older marimbas and xylophones, apply wax to the bars to preserve their finish.

Conga Drums

Use a microfiber cloth to dust the drum. If your drum shell is wooden, you can clean it by applying furniture polish to a cloth and wiping. To clean the head, use a mixture of warm water and saddle soap or other leather cleaner. Dampen a cloth with this mixture and wipe the drum in a circular motion. Set the drum aside to dry.  If your chrome parts are dirty, just like with the drum set, you can use a chrome polish.


Use a damp cloth to wipe down the wood and leather. To clean the jingles, apply wax to a cloth and wipe them down. If your jingles have rust, scrub it away with a cotton swab moistened with vinegar.

Clean Percussion Instruments Rock!

Clean instruments look cooler and sleeker. Use these tips to keep your rhythm section looking as groovy as it sounds.