Every few months I clean my French horn in an enamel bathtub filled with warm water and added dishwasher liquid. The oil and grease residues that attach to the detergent float to the water surface and collect and attach to the bathtub wall. After draining the water the residues leave an everlasting visible yellow-brownish ring that seems virtually impossible to remove. I tried to clean the stains again with dishwasher liquid, bathtub soap removing detergent, regular "general purpose" bathtub cleaning agent as well as another general purpose bathtub-cleaning agent marketed to be extra strong and work against "any type of stain".

I assume the regular bathroom/bathtub cleaning agents are not targeted towards the dishwasher/oil residue, and hence I'd like to ask if there is any effective remedy to remove such stains?

PS: The bathtub is enamel and despite being 25 years old still rather shiny.

  • 3
    Dish-cleaner is not actually a very good degreaser, it's designed to be 'kind to hands'. All you need is a harsher degreaser, & wear rubber gloves.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 17, 2021 at 18:47
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    Is the bathtub plastic, porcelain or refinished? And if porcelain, is it still shiny like new or has it been dulled to a matte finish by abrasive cleaners?
    – MTA
    Oct 18, 2021 at 13:36
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    I'm not a horn player, so forgive me for asking: Why? Does residue on the inside of the horn affect tone or playability? Where is the residue coming from? Are you just washing away lubrication that's meant to stay there for the valves?
    – Theodore
    Oct 18, 2021 at 14:13
  • 1
    If it's a porcelain tub, you might want to try Oxalic acid such as "Barkeeper's Friend" It's cheap and you can get it in a non-abrasive powder.
    – JimmyJames
    Oct 18, 2021 at 18:09
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    @Theodore Lubricants degrade over time while exposed to mechanical stress, air, and condensate. Small quantities of dust and hair get trapped in them and result in a sticky goo that degrades playability (valves) and usability (tuning slides for purging condensate). Trace amounts of saliva wash up to the valves along with condensate and leave mineral-deposits (e.g. calcium) in the valves that will rub against each other at some point (and be trapped in the lubricants). After cleaning moving parts need to be lubricated with fresh oil and grease again, indeed. Oct 23, 2021 at 8:24

3 Answers 3


You don't specify whether you have an enamel or plastic bath tub, so an abrasive cleaner that would work well on enamel would damage plastic.

When I've borrowed really dirty cornets I've washed them in a plastic baby bath in the bottom of the bathtub. The baby bath is plastic and if I accidentally bang the instrument against it, it doesn't suffer damage, and the dirty water produced doesn't sit in the main bathtub, but goes straight down the plug hole.

You could certainly find a large plastic storage box to wash your horn in, and save your bathtub from that hard-to-remove scum line.

As rotary horn valves aren't straightforward to remove, chances are you're submerging the entire valve assembly, which, if you've got cord-operated rather than linkage-operated rotors, is not particularly good for the assembly (especially if you have felts at each end of the valve travel)

I'd suggest it's better to wash the inside of your horn using running water and a bendy brush rather than submerging it. The running water is better at dislodging internal grot than submersion alone, and from the colour of the water coming out you can judge how much more cleaning is required. The water doesn't sit in your bath tub either, so you avoid the risk of a scum line.

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    While this is all good advice, this doesn't actually answer the question asked, which was "how do I remove these stains?"
    – Tristan
    Oct 18, 2021 at 17:38
  • The size of the horn imposes larger containers in which one is still able to reasonably manipulate and maneuver the instrument in the process. Plastic boxes/buckets certainly prevent the issue and presents a viable option for many people. For people living in an apartment without additional storage-space in a city, such a large container – used once or twice per year – is a less practical solution, unfortunately. Oct 23, 2021 at 8:40
  • (Having moderate mechanical understanding and received basic necessary instructions) I do disassemble the rotary valves myself in order to remove mineral deposits. But even apart of the valves, I found running water through the horn qualifies as intermediary rinse at best, makes it impossible to get oil solvents where they need to be and doesn't leave them enough time to properly work. It can't remove the grease on the exterior tubes. Oct 23, 2021 at 9:06
  • Unfortunately water hardness is quite high where I live and contains significant level of micro-sands (despite private filters). Letting the water sit in the tub for 5 minutes before submerging the horn allows most sand to sink to and settle at the bottom. I'm not very comfortable running our water straight from the tap through the horn. Oct 23, 2021 at 9:16

If you choose to keep using the tub, I believe "Krud Kutter" would remove the lipid ring.


Prevention is better than cure!

Use a different bath for cleaning the instrument. It can't be that difficult to find a container that it will fit, and the residue won't be a problem. Bathtubs are made and sold basically for bathing/showering in, not for cleaning instruments - or car engines, etc! That aside, metal in a bath of any material isn't a sensible way to go, and oil and grease aren't the best substances to put into the sewerage system.

At least in a plastic tub, outside, the dirty water could go onto the garden.

Strictly not an answer to the question, but certainly a solution to the problem!

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