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My flute is tarnished and needs to be cleaned... I was afraid if I polished it, I would break something on it. I read online that it's a bad idea to remove tarnish on a flute yourself as you can ruin the pads. I have some questions regarding cleaning a tarnished flute:

My flute is one of those cheapy, mass-produced $200 ones. From what I'm seeing online, it costs about $50 to have your flute tuned and cleaned. Is this worth it if I have a cheap flute, or is this something that those with really nice instruments have done (leaving people with student instruments to clean their instrument themselves.) Basically, what I'm saying is, is this worthwhile?

Also, the inside of my flute is clean (I had the sense to clean that part) and the pads work great. Is there any downfall, besides ugliness, to playing a tarnished flute? Does it corrode after a while? Even though it's tarnished, should I continue to polish the flute to prevent it from getting worse -- or does it not matter at this point?

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I found just wiping my flute with a micro fiber cloth works wonders. –  user6943 Aug 27 '13 at 20:53
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Wiping your instrument down when you put it away will prevent tarnish caused by the oils from your skin. For other tarnish, a silver polishing cloth can work wonders (mine cost about $12), if you have a silver-plated flute. Keep in mind that using the cloth does wear a bit of the plating off, so using one too much will leave you with a rather dull nickel tube. Don't use any liquid or cream polishes, as they will get into the key mechanisms and cause problems.

There will be no sound change from a tarnished flute. If it is corroded, you may have a problem. It is more likely that corrosion in the key mechanisms would impede your playing. My beginner flute doesn't have a lot of silver left (it flaked off after a while) but it still plays ok for its quality.

Cleaning - you may be thinking of a COA (Cleaning, Oiling, Adjustment). Basically, they take the flute completely apart, clean and lubricate everything, and put it back together. Then they adjust all the mechanisms so that the keys are level and activate correctly. They will also often replace worn pads, although this usually costs more. Some of that you can do yourself; for instance, if your flute has adjustment screws, you can adjust the key movements so that the keys activated by other keys seal their holes correctly. Other things, like pad leveling, are better left to experts unless you are willing to possibly sacrifice the flute (or pay a lot more to fix your damage).

In all likelyhood there will not be any problems playing a tarnished flute. Chances are that you will have a hard time restoring it to the original condition, but you can prevent it from getting worse, and maybe make it look a bit better than now.

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