Becky Allen's Music Studio

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Step by Step Instructions on Oiling and Greasing a Horn

Oil needed:

Al Cass Valve Oil

Bach Rotor Oil

Grease Needed:

Bach Tuning and Slide Grease


Oiling Valve Caps: 1 time a week

Remove one valve cap at a time, and apply 2-3 drops on the center of the valve. Replace cap. Proceeded to the next cap until all are completed.

Oiling Inside the Valve: Oil every other week

Grease as often as needed so the slides are easy to remove.

1) With the horn turned so that the bell is straight up in a vertical position so the valves are closest to your lap or the floor —keep a with a rag under the horn so you don’t drip oil on your clothing or the floor. You can Keep the horn in this position until completed with greasing and oiling.

2) Remove one slide at a time by pushing down the valve for the slide at the same time as pulling out the slide. (You must push the slide down when removing and putting the slide back in to avoid a vacuum inside the slide.) Notice the direction the slide is facing.

3) Use the grease to grease the slide part that goes in the valve casing. Using just a little bit at the base of the slide and spread the grease over the slide with your finger or a Q-tip. Your finger should slide easily over the slide and there should not be any dry areas. Put slide aside, on a paper towel to not get grease on anything.

4) Drop 10 drops of Al Cass inside of the slid directly down the center, try to avoid hitting the slide casing. If you have a double horn continue with the second slide in the back following the same pattern. Put slide back into the casing, again pressing the valve down. You should NOT hear a pop sound when you press the valve down after the slide is all the way in the horn. Continue with the rest of the slides for the valves greasing and oiling the valves.

5) Once all slides are returned to their location wiggle the valves as quickly as you can and you should feel them become more quick. If your valves are hard to push down or do not move easily repeat process again in 2 days until the valves more quickly.

NEXT you must REMOVE all the oil you just put into your horn.

6) To remove the oil that is in your horn. Turn the horn clockwise 2 times and rest the bell of the horn on your leg, like you are going to play. Remove the 3rd valve slide or the 3rd valve from the B flat side and dump oil onto a rag on the floor or in the trash.

7) Then keep turning the horn clockwise until the oil comes out the bell. It might take a few turns. Wipe down the bell after the oil comes out. Make sure the oil does not spill on your legs so keep the horn over the ground.

Greasing the slides

8) Grease the main tuning slide and the other slide on the back side of the horn. No oil needed. AVOID getting grease inside the slide. A little grease goes a long way, so just use a little.

9) When you push the slides back in all the way there may be some excess, wipe away with a paper towel. You can grease the slides without having to oil.

Oiling springs and back side of valve:

10) Using the heavy oil put one drop over each spring just above the valves and also on the thumb valve if you have one. Using the long metal or plastic tip add one drop of oil to the back side of the valves, in the space under where the strings are. Where the top casing is and the base casing.


Step by Step Instructions on Cleaning a Horn

Items Needed: 

Horn snake

Dawn Soap


2 towels – 1 for the bath and 1 for after the bath 

Cleaning your horn at home:

1) First, lay a folded towel along the bottom of a bathtub so there is a soft surface to protect your horn. Turn on the water and start to fill the bath with warm water just as if you were going to for yourself. Add a quarter sized amount of Dawn soap to the bath as it is filling. You only need enough water for the water to go inside the horn through the bell end, roughly about 6-8 inches high.

2) If this is your first time, take a picture of all your slides to remember their directions and which slide goes where, then remove all slides, and caps and place them gently onto the towel in the bottom of the tub. Then gently add your horn carefully on the towel. Press the keys to allow water to go inside the rotor keys.

3) Allow the horn to soak for 20-30 minutes. You may see iridescent grease swirls begin to circulate in the tub. After the horn has soaked for a time, using a washcloth, lightly scrub the ends of slides where you grease to clean the slides. Try to also (lightly) scrub in between all of the tubing on the horn where dust and grease collect over time.

4) Use a “snake” to clean out the inside of the slides on the horn wherever possible. If you don’t know what a “snake” is, it is simply a few feet of a metal or rubber cord with pipe-cleaner type material on the ends. They can be purchased at most music stores. Run the snake a few times through the lead pipe, the pipe where you put your mouthpiece and the exit is where you empty the spit. Gently use the snake in the slides. You won’t be able to get the snake all the way through the slides, and BE CAREFUL when using the snake near the rotor valves. DO NOT cram it in there as you can move the rotors, just lightly and gently scrub in the slides just above the rotor valves.

5) Once you have cleaned and rinsed your horn, you will need to dry it off . Lay another large towel on the bathroom floor outside the tub. While the horn is over the water, turn the horn clockwise many times to allow the water to fall out of the bell and all the slides. Also, move press the keys a few times to get all the water out of the rotor valves. Place the slides and caps on the dry towel and dry them individually.

6) And the final step in the process of cleaning your horn is to reassemble the horn. This step may sound easy but it involves three actions. 1): you must lubricate all of the slides with a thin layer of grease. 2): oil needs to be applied to the inside of the horn as well as all bearings and levers. Then put all slides and caps back in their normal position (refer to your original picture for direction of slides, because it does matter. 3): Polish your horn with a polish rag. I use a very light spritz of Windex to really clean my horn.

After your horn’s bath, it will play more freely, look more beautiful, and it should operate at its optimum level as soon as the oil works its way in. Your horn probably only needs a bath once every 6 months depending on how much you play and if you have band right after lunch or not (if you do, you might need to clean the lead pipe more).

Professional Cleaning Services:

Over time the horn will need to be professionally cleaned and have regular check ups to make sure all the strings are in no danger of breaking.

Ultra-Sonic Cleaning-

Ultra-sonic Cleaning is where the instrument is placed in a liquid and sound waves literally shake the gunk out of the horn. It is a very aggressive cleaning style because it will clean every nook and cranny of the horn but it a non-abrasive way to clean the horn. Music stores recommend every year to get this service done but if you maintain your horn by bathing it regularly you won’t have to do this that often.  The location listed below is the location I personally use for ultra sonic cleaning and maintenance check ups.


Roberson’s Music Store


1300 Jefferson Davis Highway,

Fredericksburg, VA 22401

$125- for a double French horn

Mild Acid Bath: (To be done by a professional only)

Another type of professional cleaning is using a mild acid to strip the gunk and dissolve it off of the instrument. This type of cleaning is not used as often any more as it is using an abrasive chemical inside of the instrument to clean it out. It can damage the lacquer and or the instrument.  I would not suggest that this type of cleaning be done to preserve the integrity of the instrument.