The topic of cleaning your horn has come up a few times in Horn Matters, Dave Weiner addressing the topic of having a shop clean your horn here:
- Ask Dave: How Do I Shop for a Reliable Horn Cleaning?
- The Value of a Professional Instrument Cleaning
If you need a reminder why to clean your horn…
Breaks are a great time to do a quick cleaning of your own horn. My personal, simple, three-step routine is as follows:
First you run a “snake” (flexible brush) through the lead pipe. A trumpet snake will usually work fine if you can’t easily find a French horn snake at your local music store. This will get the “big stuff” out of the worst area of your horn. Protip: push the snake gently from the large end toward the small end of the lead pipe and put a paper towel over the opening so that you don’t spray “stuff” out on yourself when it emerges. If the brush is too big diameter it won’t go through the small part of your horn; don’t force it!
After doing that a couple of times, put the mouthpiece back on the horn and pour water from a plastic cup into your mouthpiece. When the lead pipe is full blow the water through the horn (having replaced the main tuning slide first!). Do this a few dozen times (over a kitchen sink!) with various valves depressed (start with open). This will remove most of the other, light “stuff” that is down in the horn further than the lead pipe.
Finally, take out all the slides, wipe them down and re-grease, and oil the valves well.
It does not take long and will make a difference you will likely notice. And of course clean your mouthpiece as well! This was a topic of a prior article by Bruce Hembd, linked below, with another good Hembd link following on the topic of using a sink hose adapter to rinse the horn:
- How to Clean a Horn Mouthpiece and Sanitize a Lead Pipe
- How to use a Sink Hose Adapter to Clean a Horn
The one time I used a sink hose adapter it was admittedly fun but I am not sure I got more out than with my usual routine. Some people have even more involved cleaning routines that include putting the horn in the bathtub, etc. I am also not convinced that gets you any further than the simple routine I describe above. If it really needs more than the simple cleaning, my personal suggestion is to take it to a reputable shop that can do a proper ultrasonic cleaning.