BRASS PLAYERS: Give your horn a bath!

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by farnellnewton, Jan 23, 2011.

  1. jbkirby

    jbkirby Forte User

    Sep 10, 2009
    Dothan, Alabama
    I certainly intend to add this step to my cleaning. Water emulsifies with alcohol and it ensures that the horn is not only really clean, but dry. Tonight is bath night, and I have two large bottles of 91% isopropyl alcohol ready to use.
  2. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009
    The percent alcohol is important (to be honest, I thought 91 % might be too high a concentration and actually protect bacteria from detrimental affects of alcohol). Seems like some neuron in the brain is attempting to fire- remember something from my biochem classes about if the percent of alcohol is too hig, it fails to work.

    Spotted this on the web:
    Alcohol's mechanism of action is still unconfirmed, but theories for how alcohol might kill cells include denaturing of cell proteins, interfering with cellular metabolism and destroying cell membranes. In the absence of water, proteins are not denatured as readily by alcohol, and this explains why a solution of 70 percent alcohol and 30 percent water is a better sanitizer than 100 percent alcohol. Alcohol will kill most bacterial organisms in less than five minutes, but because some organisms may take longer, it is best to let items soak at least 10 minutes to kill the majority present. Alcohol does not kill bacterial spores, and viruses are only killed after exposure of an hour or more, but these microorganisms are not a concern to brewers. As with all sanitizers, the degree of effectiveness is dependent on the initial cleanliness of the surface.
  3. NeonMarmot

    NeonMarmot New Friend

    Sep 25, 2010
    I have been using ultra pure oil on my new (old) horn which has been rather finnicky with previous brands of oil, and ever since using ultra pure I only have to oil it once every... 2 weeks to stop it from sticking, and I'm playing an hour or more a day. But I just pulled out the valves to look if there was any build up and I noticed a small tinge of ... I don't know what to call it, yellowish stain? Seems to be what Dave was talking about in the video regarding mineral deposits from saliva getting into the valve casings.

    So my question is, should I be oiling my valves before AND after I practice even if they aren't sticking? That seems a bit excessive... but anything to keep my baby in* tip top shape!
  4. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    As published in Chest, September 2010, the medical journal of the American Thoracic Society:

    A trumbone player had developed a chronic cough and was diagnosis with Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis HP. Symptoms improved significantly when he did not play his trombone for 2 weeks. His musical instrument was examined and showed innumerable whitish plaques found to consist of bacterial colonies and fungus. After the patient began immersing his instrument regularly in 91% isopropyl alcohol, his cough resolved completely over several weeks. He has been symptom free for approximately 20 months, except when he neglected to clean his instrument for more than a month.

    Instruments of seven additional brass musicians were sampled. All seven musicians had at least one instrument contaminated with either mycobacterial or fungal species. Because HP from exposure to aerosols containing mycobacteria or fungi is not an unusual, idiosyncratic reaction, our findings suggest that many brass musicians are at risk for HP from contaminated instruments, and standard cleaning methods may not be adequate to prevent this complication. Regular [monthly] cleaning with 91% isopropyl alcohol appears to be effective.

    Unless a study can demonstrate such a dramatic clinical response as in this case, I can only recommend 91% isopropyl alcohol at this time, and as a physician that prides themselves at practicing Evidence-based medicine, this is the only data currently existing and therefore my best recommendation.

    Your concern that 91% is too high may be correct, but studies using lower strengths have not been conducted. This actually is toxic to bacteria so I am confused by the comment that "91 % might ... actually protect bacteria from detrimental affects of alcohol". The study in Chest clinically demonstrates this concern of protecting bacteria is NOT supported. We do know in their report that 91% in fact works. A 91% isopropyl alcohol solution is highly volitable so will leave no alcoholic residue (ie. it's very safe as long as it is not used around an open flame and used in a well ventilated area), so therefore is the only solution this physician can recommend to remove "critters" safely and effectively from musical instrument brass tubing.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2011
  5. SteveRicks

    SteveRicks Fortissimo User

    Aug 15, 2009

    Not trying to sound argumentative --just vaguely remember a test question from 15 years ago by the leading biochemist at UAB. Best I remember, he taught that too high alcohol content actually denatures the cell wall and doesn't allow for entry internally for destruction of some bacteria -or something like that. The guy has a leading book in biochemistry so figure he knew what he was talking about. I imagine any percentage alcohol would be helpful. Then again, many trumpet players I know make a regular practice of this -Scotch and water, Gin and tonic .:)
  6. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    I don’t see your fine commentary as argumentative at all. I view is as appealing to knowledge that you so respected from your past. Your credibility is also proven by your choice of Olds trumpets. I myself am an Olds Recording player, so I absolutely know you can relate to quality. So let me try to convince you through my following APPEAL:

    Relatively recently a group of individuals from McMaster and Oxford Universities came together to provide a measure of value to the biomedical literature, and the process became known as Evidence-based Medicine. It has become the standard to which the medical profession holds physicians toward medical decision making. My recommendation of using 91% isopropyl alcohol (not ethanol as was discussed in the biochemist’s lecture) comes from a study referred to as an N-of-1 randomized (or cross-over study). In terms of quality of evidence, the ranking of quality from highest to lowest is:

    >N-of-1 study [The study reported in Chest regarding the trombone player]
    >Systematic review of randomized studies
    >Single randomized study
    >Systematic review of observational studies
    >Single observational study addressing patient important outcome
    >Physiologic studies [The study reported in a Biochemist’s text book]
    >Unsystematic clinical study

    Source: Journal of the American Medical Society Evidence: Users’ Guides to the Medical Literature (Essentials), 2nd Edition, Chapter 2: Fundamental Principles of EBM, Ed. Guyatt, Haynes, Jaeschke, Meade, Wilson, Montori, Richardson, page 7. McGraw-Hill Publisher.

    So my recommendation to use 91% isopropyl alcohol comes from the highest quality of clinical evidence. And from my readings of comments from the TrumpetMasters site, I see only the highest quality comments related. I just want to make sure that readers of this thread know my recommendation is based on a modern, updated grading of the highest quality of evidence.

    One final word, Cheers to the comment as to the practice of trumpet players partaking of the ethanol family of spirits. Is it just me, or is the most popular drink I observe trumpet players enjoying is a Gin and Tonic? And if you want to include the quality component, may I suggest Bombay Sapphire?
  7. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    My belief is that cleaning your horn once a year is just fine - if you only play it once a year. Regardless of how well you brush your teeth, there are plenty of aerosols in our breath. They collect in the horn and can cause all sorts of issues.

    It is not that much work to clean and anyone calling themselves a trumpet PLAYER should get in the habit of doing the dirty deed every month or two!
  8. gmonady

    gmonady Utimate User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Dayton, Ohio
    You know, I have been spewing off medical references throughout this thread, but rowuk puts the whole topic into a nice prospective. I totally agree with his sound recommendation: If you play your horn on a regular basis, a traditional cleaning (as shown in videos throughout this thread) every couple months should maintain good care and performance of the horn. If the horn is played on a regular basis, and a chronic cough is noticed, try a final rinse for the horn in a 91% isopropyl alcohol solution. THEN after devoting this quality time with the horn, sit back and reward yourself with an appropriate simple pleasure. For me the Gin and Tonic as mentioned in a previous posting works fine for me.
  9. tobylou8

    tobylou8 Utimate User

    Dec 22, 2008
    140 Proof should be about right.;-)
  10. Terrizzi

    Terrizzi New Friend

    Oct 18, 2010
    Jacksonville FL
    This may be an ignorant interjection, but wouldn't the silver in silver plated instruments offer a level of protection from microbial growth? The silver molecule is well known to be antimicrobial. I thoroughly clean once a month.

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