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My flute is a gold beginners flute (Brand: Mendini by Cecilio), which was not very expensive. After about half a year of using the flute, I began to see some rust on the head joint, to the point where the gold color was slightly coming off and revealing the silver underneath.

I have read about using toothpaste and a soft cloth, but, since the silver underneath the gold top is already slightly showing, I wondered if that would make the situation worse. How should I clean my flute before the situation becomes even worse?

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Unfortunately there isn't much you can do about it at this level of instrument. Manufacturers are now putting out entry level instruments that have a very short life-span, usually up to a couple of years of use at best.

It sounds like your plating is flaking or lifting, or you could have some "rash" from corrosion of the metal underneath. For the most part, this will be cosmetic, and shouldn't affect the play-ability of the instrument.

Polishing it will make more of the silver show through, but as long as you don't have flakes of metal coming off, it shouldn't be an issue other than looks. You can use dish detergent and a soft rag to clean the head if you are worried about making it look worse with polishing.

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I suspect your cheap flute isn't solid gold! :-) It's only the 'gold' surface coming off. Just wipe the instrument clean as usual, and carry on playing. It doesn't matter. You might be able to preserve what's left of the 'gold' with some clear nail varnish.

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