The most important aspect for maintaining the overall longevity of brass instruments is cleaning. Brass is constructed by combining copper and zinc. The zinc in the metal reacts with saliva to cause lime deposits along the bore of your horn. As this accumulates, the bore will get smaller and smaller if it is not cleaned regularly. People who have a high alkaline PH level in their saliva will accumulate lime deposits quickly and require cleaning more frequently. Instrument bores are designed to exacting specifications. As the bore changes and become irregular from increasing lime deposits, your horn's performance will also suffer with regular cleaning.
Home cleaning can be accomplished rather easily in about an hour. Before proceeding make sure that none of the valve caps or slides are stuck. Do not attempt to remove them if they are stuck. Have your local repair technician remove them for you. Fill the bathtub with warm soapy water. (Dish detergent will be fine for soap - do not use hot water!) Remove the valves and caps and set them aside in a safe place ( a small plastic or Tupperware container will do nicely) Remove all the slide tubes, and place the in the tub along with the rest of the instrument. Gently swish the soapy water through the horn. If you have a cleaning snake, run it through the horn and slide tubes to help loosen the lime deposits. Use a valve casing brush on the value casings. When you are done, rinse the horn and tubes with clean warm water. set the parts on a clean towel aside to dry in a safe place. Make sure excess water has been wiped off the horn with a clean soft cloth. The valves and caps can be cleaned in the same manner, however take care to keep the corks and felts from getting wet. Scrub the bottom caps with an old toothbrush to remove any grime inside and wipe clan with a rag. Clean the valve ports gently with a valve or mouthpiece brush, taking care not to scratch or nick the ports. The greatest of care must be taken when handling the valves; be sure to keep them from any type of damage. Wipe them as dry as possible with a soft cloth and set them aside again to air dry. Do not mix the order of them up. When everything is dry, the horn can be reassembled in the following manner. Wrap a clean cloth around a valve casing cleaning rod and clean any lint remaining in each case. Next, lubricate the valve casing threads and slide tubes with tuning slide grease. Use the slide grease sparingly, a little goes a long way. Insert all the tubes and replace the bottom valve caps. Replace the valves in the appropriate valve casing, oil with a few drops, and twist until it locks in place. (Most valves are numbered to help you put them in the right casings) Try using a few drops of valve oil on the 3rd valve slide instead of slide grease. the consistency of slide grease is thicker than oil. The action will be smooth with slide grease but valve oil will be easier and faster. Don't forget to clean that mouthpiece with soapy water and a mouthpiece brush. Check for burrs, worn plating and well-rounded shanks. Every 1 or 2 years have your horn cleaned at a repair shop. Your PH level will determine whether it is more often or less often.
Avoiding a costly repair is a function of periodic inspection and maintenance. There are some simple, general techniques to follow, which can help you avoid a costly repair. Routine inspections, combined with proper maintenance, will keep your brass in shape, and provide a continuous excellent sound.
Stuck tuning slides are a constant source or irritation when trying to tune. Have your local repair technician free the stuck slides, do not attempt it yourself. Remember, the longer a slide remains stuck, the more difficult it will be to remove it and at a higher cost. A tuning slide lubricated with slide grease and moved regularly is less likely to become stuck. The longer a tuning slide remains unmoved, the longer lime deposits have to form a strong bond leaving the tuning slide stuck. The combination of lubrication and moving the slide helps to minimize lime deposits forming to old a slide in place. Moving the valve tubes is just as important. The valve will move easier as a vacuum pressure will not be working against you, and you will not promote valve leakage. Do not remove the 2nd valve slide. It is small and difficult to replace sometimes. They also can be easily bent. The valve casing becomes out of round, and the second valve will be sticky or in worst cases unmovable. Do not use too much oil on valves. Oil is magnet for dirt and lint from cases. Use just enough oil and periodically swab out the valve casing with a lint free cloth on a valve-cleaning rod. Check the braces and make sure they are attached. Check water key corks and springs. Corks can be checked for leakage by removing the slide tube, covering one end with a finger, and sucking out the air to obtain a vacuum seal. (Clean the slide tube first, before you inhale!) This applies to trombone outer slides as well. General cleaning and alignment is usually all that is needed and dent repair can also be easily eliminated if you take care of your instrument.