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 cheap, mass-produced $200 ones. From what I've read 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 instruments themselves.) Basically, what I'm asking 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?

Edit: I have found that regular cleaning has helped with the tarnish over time. I got this kit which has been really nice. I gave the cork grease to a clarinet player as I had no need for it. The kit isn't really specific to the flute, despite the name.

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    I found just wiping my flute with a micro fiber cloth works wonders.
    – user6943
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 20:53

7 Answers 7


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.


I am a seasoned flautist that has had and played many silver plated flutes, one of which was badly tarnished, so I am coming from experience.

Do not use baking soda or toothpaste, as these are too abrasive. Your flute is not silverware. Any music store will tell you this.

Use silver polish (Wrights silver cream and a Q-tip) but do not get any water or polish on the pads. Then wipe it clean with a soft cloth (damp when needed), again being careful around the pads. Silver cream does not hurt the flute, and it extends the shine and life of the silver plating. I have never had peeling of the silver plating. If your finish is peeling, you are cleaning it wrong.

A polishing cloth performs poorly, cannot reach tight areas, and eventually strips the metal from hard rubbing.

Between applications of silver polish, to remove fingerprints just wipe your flute down with a soft cloth (a bit damp if needed) across the body and keys.


I once took my flute apart to clean hard to reach spots. Once all tarnish was removed, I used a thin layer of clear fingernail polish on the body in areas that cannot be cleaned easily without taking the flute all apart. Never had to polish those areas again...it didn't affect the sound, and no tarnish ever reappeared there.


I'd recommend something like this http://www.dawsons.co.uk/helin-cleaning-clo?gclid=CPaduaOP8cYCFUHJtAodzW8OSA , a flute polishing cloth

They have a very small amount of a silver polish in them, and are fine material so they're really gentle on the metal even of a plated flute. They also leave zero residue.

I had a buffet crampon for years and a yamaha 211 for few years too, both student model silver plated flutes. Every now and again (probably not more than once or twice a year) I'd polish my flute with this. Really couldn't recommend it enough.

Side note: DON'T use commercial silver polish or polishing cloths for silverware, these will be far far far to harsh and abrasive.

I find that the flute does actually play better after a good clean&polish with one of these cloths, some people might say it won't make a difference, but that's my personal experience


Flutes don’t have corks. And no, do not get it wet. It’s not worth professional cleaning. You can do it yourself after watching a YouTube video. Besides, the appearance shouldn’t affect the sound.

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    Welcome! Keep in mind that the answer is in response to the question, not to other answers. It seems like the mention of corks and getting it wet is referencing another (heavily downvoted) answer. By the way, I should explain the downvote that I'm giving this answer: It seems there's enough misinformation out there that I wouldn't simply recommend that someone do whatever they find on Youtube. Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 22:26
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    My flute has a cork in the crown. Please Google "flute crown cork." Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 17:59

Take a tooth brush and tooth paste and scrub your flute down with it. Make sure you use lukewarm water before and after to rinse it off. I tarnished my flute by accidentally soaking it in 3% hydrogen peroxide for too long so it got all tarnished but the toothpaste helped it a lot. To disinfect it I use mouthwash. Just put a little on a washcloth or spray on flute, wipe down with a washcloth, and wash off with water. Be careful not to get the top of it soaked because that is where the cork is and you don't want to mess with the cork too much or it could effect your flute in a bad way. I hope this helps you and if it does (which I'm sure it will!) have fun with your newly shined flute!!!

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    Using water wil ruin the flute pads!!! Never bring your flute close to water. Most mouthwashes are flavoured, which if not cleaned well, will leave a sticky residue. The abrasive particles in the toothpaste will rub off the thin silver or gold plating. It is best clean tarnish by using a silver polishing cloth, or just get it cleaned by a professional. Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 13:11

baking soda, toothbrush, boiling water, do not get pads wet, aluminum foil pan, allow to soak or sit in its baking soda for at least 3 minutes, scrub off making sure that you do not get pads wet!- very hepful- it is acidic- baking soda is pure base will def help!

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