how to clean drums

How To Clean Drums: A Step by Step Guide

In this article, you’ll learn exactly how to clean drums to keep them in pristine playing condition.

We all know that our drums need a good dusting and a wipe-down every now and then. To keep your drums in the best possible condition, you should deep clean them regularly. However, this can be a delicate process as you want to make sure you are cleaning your drums thoroughly and carefully.

Here’s how you can clean your drums:

  1. Start with a basic wipe-down.
  2. Take the drum set apart.
  3. Use dish soap and water to clean each part.
  4. Put your drums back together.
  5. Provide in-between care.

Let’s go over these steps in more detail and help you get your drums thoroughly clean.

1. Start With a Basic Wipe Down

The first rule of keeping your drums clean is to regularly wipe them down. For this, you’ll want to use the least abrasive cloth you have, preferably a microfiber cloth. This type won’t leave scratches or abrasions behind. The cloths are also great for removing dirt and fingerprint smudges, so keep a microfiber cloth close by when taking care of your drums.

The microfiber cloth is versatile. You can use it for polishing and cleaning your entire drum set. So, keep one handy while following these steps. If you don’t have one, you can use a different type of cloth to care for your drumset but consider getting a microfiber cloth.

When you start to clean your drums, begin with a basic wipe-down. This will help get rid of smudges and any dirt that has begun to accumulate on your drum set. Nevertheless, this process is not enough for a deep clean. You’ll need to do much more. 

Let’s get into the next step.

2. Take the Drum Set Apart

After the initial wipe down, you will need to take apart your drum set. This can be intimidating for those who haven’t done it before, but we’ll guide you through the process. Let’s get started.

1. Remove the Cymbals

When disassembling your drum set, the first thing you want to do is to remove the cymbals. These are relatively easy to remove:

  1. Start by unscrewing the wing nut that is holding the cymbal in place. Remember to keep a firm hand on the cymbal, so it doesn’t fall when you unscrew it. 
  2. Set the cymbals aside, laying them upside down for maximum balance.
  3. Ensure you screw the wing nuts back on the drumset so they don’t get lost or mixed up with other parts as you take apart your drum set. 
  4. When it comes to the hihat, you should remove the cymbals, but it is okay to leave the wing nut attached to the top of the hihat. This will make it easier for you to put it all back together once finished cleaning.

2. Adjust the Cymbal Stands

The cymbal stands can be left as they are if you can reach them properly to clean them. If not, you can adjust them with the height adjustments on the side. Simply twist the adjustments, which will loosen them. This allows you to shorten the stand or elongate it. If you want to ensure you clean the entire stand, elongate it as much as you can.

Repeat this process for the other cymbal stands, and don’t forget to also remove the drum stick holder as well. Loosen it the same way you loosened the stands. You can also remove it entirely for the easiest possible cleaning. Once done, take your drum sticks and set them aside with the cymbals you have already removed.

3. Remove the Drums

Next, remove the drums from the stand by twisting the wing nuts, as you did above. You will need to hold the drums as you remove them, so they don’t fall. You can remove the drum stand from the bass drum by twisting it loose and carefully pulling it upward. This will separate the bass drum and the pedal from the stand.

You can also remove the pedal from the bass drum by locating the wing nut hidden under the pedal and loosening it. 

Once you separate the drums from their stands, it is time to take the drums apart. To do this, you will need a drum key. This is a small tool that should have come with your drum set. It looks like a capital T.

If you lose your drum key, don’t panic. You can buy drum keys just about anywhere you purchase music items. Here’s an EASTROCK 3-Pack Drum Tuning Key (available on The keys are reasonably priced, so don’t worry about losing yours. In fact, it may be a good idea to keep a few handy for taking your drums apart or changing your drum heads.

Use your drum key to loosen the lug nuts surrounding the drum. Once they are all loose, you can remove them and lift the rim off the drum. It’s essential to keep track of all the lug nuts and washers if you choose to remove them. Alternatively, leave them on the rim to prevent them from getting lost. You can now remove the head of the drum, allowing you full access to the inside of the drum.

3. Use Dishsoap and Water To Clean Each Part

Now that you have the entire drum set disassembled and ready to clean, let’s talk about the cleaning process. 

First, you want to avoid using harsh chemicals to clean your drum set. Water and dish soap is enough to get your drums completely clean. Besides, some parts of your drums should not get wet or soapy. 

Here’s what each part of the set needs.


Now that you have them separated from their stands, the cymbals will be a lot easier to clean thoroughly. First, wipe them down completely to ensure that there are no leftover chips from your drum stick. This can happen often and is one of the reasons cleaning your cymbals is so important.

While you’re cleaning the cymbals, you want to treat them like a vinyl record. The fewer fingerprints you leave behind, the better. Therefore, try to avoid touching the cymbals anywhere but the edges while handling them.

You can address small spots or stains on your cymbals with some water and dish soap. Gently scrub the stain with a damp, soapy cloth to remove the stains. While dish soap will not harm the cymbals, remember that your cymbals are made of metal. This means that you should dry them quickly and thoroughly after any cleaning to avoid rusting.

There are other options available if you need something a little harsher than dish soap and water. However, it’s important to note that you should not use basic metal cleaners on your cymbals if you want to keep them sounding crisp. Using something too harsh on the cymbals can wear down the lathing and change the tone of your cymbals.

One option that you have, if you need something a little more intense than dish soap, is a cymbal cleaner. Try to find something that is not abrasive, like this MusicNomad Premium Cymbal Cleaner available on Amazon. It’s acid-free and will leave your cymbals looking brand new without risking damage or tone changes.

Whichever method you use to clean your cymbals, wipe them down with a microfiber towel after you finish removing fingerprints you may have left behind.


Next, you want to clean the cymbal and drum stands that you removed from their attachments. To start with, make sure to elongate the stands as much as possible for the most thorough possible cleaning. Manufacturers use chrome to make these stands, so, any chrome cleaner will work just fine when cleaning your stands.

If you don’t have a chrome cleaner at home, that’s okay. There are plenty of alternatives you can use to clean these parts. The stands are the least risky part of the drum set to clean, hence, using chemicals and materials will not change how the drum sounds. This gives you more options for cleaning than other parts of the drum set.

If you want to avoid cleaners and harsh chemicals, you can use dish soap and water to clean the stands. Finish by ensuring the stands are completely dry, just like the cymbals, to avoid rusting. You also want to wipe them down with a microfiber cloth to ensure that there is no leftover cleaning residue or fingerprints.


You’ll need to clean the drums in parts to avoid using chemicals in certain areas. 

You can clean the rims of your drums the same way you cleaned the stands because manufacturers also make them with chrome. Therefore, use chrome cleaner for a more polished look or dish soap and water to avoid chemicals.

It’s essential to try to be more careful with the drum heads as certain chemicals and abrasive materials can harm these items. As such, you want to stay away from household cleaners that can cause harm. 

One of the best possible solutions for cleaning drum heads is a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar. This mixture will allow you to safely clean your drums without causing any harm.

You can use the same technique used on the stands above to clean the outside of the drums. Dish soap and chrome cleaners will both work fine too but make sure you avoid the inside and the head when cleaning with chemicals.

Finally, you should dust the inside of the drums to ensure there is no dirt or residue left inside. Because the inside of the drum is wooden, you need to be careful even when using dish soap and water. The main goal of cleaning the inside of a drum should be to remove dust and debris. Otherwise, you should leave the insides alone as chemicals can affect the sound of the drum.

Wingnuts, Lugnuts, and Smaller Parts

When cleaning the smaller parts of a drum, it’s important to be aware of the other components they will come in contact with. For example, the rims of a drum are made of chrome, hence, using chrome cleaner on these will not harm them. However, the rims of the drum may come in contact with the drum head when reassembling the drum set.

Thus, you can use whatever cleaner you choose for these parts, but ensure to dry and wipe them down thoroughly before attempting to reassemble the drum set to avoid cross-contamination. Remember, these metal parts can also rust. So, even if you just use the basic dish soap and water combination, you need to ensure they get completely dry.

4. Put Your Drums Back Together

After thoroughly cleaning your drum set, it’s time to put everything back together. While this may seem simple after disassembling the drum set, it’s very important to get it done correctly. Let’s break down the process to ensure you don’t run into any issues.

1. Start by Assembling Drums

You need to put the drums back together after cleaning them. Use the rims to re-attach the drum heads to the base of the drums. Once you have the rim attached, you need to use the drum keys to tighten the lug nuts around it. You can start this process using your hand, but you will need a drum key to ensure that you tightly put it together. 

2. Attach the Drums to the Stand

Next, you want to reattach the drums to the stand. Do the following:

  1. Start by inserting the drum stand into the kick drum, where you pulled it from. 
  2. Insert the stand and tighten it with the wing nut to ensure that it is secure. 
  3. You can now attach the rest of the drums to the stand as well. During this process, ensure you tighten the wing nuts to prevent them from coming off.
  4. Once you attach the drums to the stand, you can begin adjusting the stand back to where you had it originally. 
  5. Fully cleaning the drum set means that you need to change the height of the stands. So, take some time to adjust the stand to the correct height.

3. Place the Cymbals Back on the Stand

You now need to place the cymbals back on the stands. Again, do this carefully so that you touch the cymbals as little as possible. Hold them around the edges to ensure you don’t leave anything behind.

If you adjusted the cymbal stands to thoroughly clean them, you would need to readjust their height to be comfortable. Take some time to ensure that they are at the correct and most comfortable height. During this process, also make sure you reattach the drum stick holder. Simply place it back on the stand and twist the wing nut to tighten it.

Putting your drums back together will be much easier after disassembling them. If this is your first time putting your drum set back together, know that it will get easier the more you do it. Be sure to clean your drum set regularly and familiarize yourself with the process of disassembling and reassembling it. You’ll be a master in no time.

5. Provide In Between Care

Finally, let’s talk about how to care for your drum set between cleanings. 

  • Use a soft cloth. As we discussed above, always make sure you are using a soft cloth for any care, preferably a microfiber cloth.
  • Wipe down your drums regularly. You also want to get into the system of wiping down your drum set regularly to help avoid any stains or chips from your drum sticks affecting the sound of your cymbals. Overall, keeping your drum set clean takes very little effort as long as you maintain it regularly. Just remember to wipe it down before using it to remove any dust.
  • Look out for faded spots or stains. When wiping down your drums, keep an eye out for any faded spots or stains, especially on the cymbals. Cymbals are highly susceptible to damage, and any small change can affect the cymbal’s sound. So, if you notice the tone of your cymbals seems off, it may be time to inspect and clean them to ensure nothing is affecting the sound.
  • Change your drum heads regularly. Don’t forget to replace your drum heads regularly as well. How often you change them depends entirely on how much you play. For most people, experts recommend you replace your drum heads once a year. If you play quite often or play live, then you should do this more often.

Remember, fresh drum heads give you the best possible sound. So, even though you don’t need to replace them too often, consider replacing them right before an important performance. Also, if you perform live or plan to record, replace the drum heads before you do this for the best possible sound.

Final Thoughts

While cleaning your drums thoroughly is a lengthy process, it is vital for your drum set’s proper care and longevity. Follow these steps to ensure you are always cleaning your drum set thoroughly and carefully.

Lastly, ensure you don’t forget to take care of your drum set between cleanings. Wiping it down often will keep dust and drumstick chippings under control. Also, it’s important to consistently check your drum heads and cymbals for any damages, stains, or markings that would indicate something is wrong.

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