At Heartbeat, we often get asked about cleaning cymbals. This is one of those topics that produces a wide variety of opinions. Some people never clean their cymbals. Others clean them regularly. When folks drop in to try out cymbals at the Heartbeat offices, we use a product called Groove Juice to remove their (and our) finger prints and stick marks. Groove Juice makes two different cymbal cleaners: the Pro cleaner is for B20 and other professional cymbals (all Heartbeat cymbals are B20), and the Groove Juice Jr. cleaner for B8 and entry level bronze and brass cymbals.
Here’s one of many videos posted on line that features cleaning cymbals with Groove Juice. There are other products available. We do not recommend using a household or industrial product that is not specifically made for cymbals.
For dealing with stick marks and fingerprints, we follow a simple process: Spray on Groove Juice to one side of the cymbal. Let it sit for a maximum of thirty seconds. Wipe the cymbal in a circular pattern around the cymbal until dry. Then spray the cymbal with clean water. Wipe off the water with a clean cloth in a circular pattern around the cymbal. Flip the cymbal over and repeat on the other side.
If you have years of grit and grime and other stains, then you might have to add more elbow grease and a couple of treatments. Or, you can do what many drummers do…. do nothing at all! Some consider the years of dirt and grime on their cymbals as seasoning is to a steak. Since the lathing in a cymbal typically produces the shimmer or resonance, it is logical to think that if the lathing grooves fill up with grit, the cymbal will produce less shimmer, and therefore sound more mellow. I can think of one company that promoted burying its cymbals in order to age them more rapidly.
There is no right or wrong, but be careful if you clean your cymbals. A good rule to observe is like what most bottles of spot remover for clothing recommend…. try it on an inconsipicuous area first! It never hurts to keep an old cymbal that has a crack or you just don’t like it anymore to experiment on. Maybe you want to practice drilling a hole for adding rivets to another cymbal. Maybe you want to try notching out an edge crack to prolong the life of the cymbal. And maybe it is a good proving ground for trying a couple of different methods of cleaning your cymbals.