Can Saxophones Rust? (Everything You Need To Know)

Can Saxophone Rust
Written by Corey Morgan

Brass, copper and bronze are a few of the metals that do not rust, this is because they have a very little amount of iron in them. Saxophone are often composed of brass, which is a non-ferrous metal and hence will not rust but will oxidize over time.

Because brass contains metal components, further oxidation of your saxophone can lead to tarnishing not rust which happens when brass is exposed to Oxygen.

How Does a Saxophone Become Tarnished?

Tarnish is the chemical discolouration of the outer layers of certain metals which is caused by the sulfur-containing gasses in the air. Tarnish, also known as oxidation, is a process that deteriorates the appearance of copper, brass, aluminum, and other metals.

When a metal begins to tarnish, its color changes as the tarnish builds up in the metal. At first, a yellow coloration appears, then gradually it turns reddish brown, blue, and finally black.

You already know that for a saxophone to produce sound, air must be directed into the instrument; in this situation, the air you exhale after taking a breath will serve as the air stream.

The saxophone will become damp as you play because your breath is warm and contains tiny droplets of water. If this moisture is not eliminated, mold and oxidation can occur which will lead to tarnishing or corrosion.

Note: Tarnish is a form of corrosion.

Corrosion occurs in two stages, the first of which causes the red spots you notice.

To begin, exposed brass can suffer dezincification (the loss of zinc from the metal) when exposed to certain acidic or alkaline substances, such as the compounds in your saliva, sweat, or sulfur in the air. When the zinc coating is stripped away, the exposed copper is seen in a bright pink color.

In the second phase of corrosion, copper reacts with atmospheric oxygen to form cuprite, which is the characteristic rust color (copper oxide). Cuprite can be a reddish, rusty brown, or nearly black color.

There are two ways to remove the rusty look:

  • First, scrub with a plastic scouring pad or steel wool to remove stubborn stains.
  • Secondly, by using a metal polishing product, such as Brass or Hagerty’s 100. Both Brasso and Hagerty’s are excellent oxidation removers.

If the tarnish isn’t too bad, there’s no reason to take the considerably more time- and money-consuming step of removing it and then relacquering the horn, which involves taking it apart, cleaning it well, buffing it, and then lacquering it again.

Related: Can Trombones Rust

How Do You Clean Corrosion off a Saxophone?

Depending on the saxophone model and the nature of the corrosion, different approaches may be necessary for cleaning it.

Cleaning Tarnish Off a Sax

A saxophone with a lacquer finish:

  • Start by soaking a cotton swab in your water-alcohol mixture.
  • To restore the instrument’s shine, rub the swab over any spots where oxidation or tarnish have set in.
  • After applying the solution, wipe the area dry with a soft towel.
  • You can buff the surface with the lacquer polishing cloth.

In case you have a silver saxophone that hasn’t been lacquered:

  • Metal polish should be applied in a very thin layer to the damaged region.
  • Just leave it out in the open till it dries.
  • Use a buffing cloth to bring back the shine.

Cleaning Rust Off a Sax

  • First, dampen a piece of sandpaper with water and use it to scrub the tarnish off your instrument’s surface.
  • Lightly rubbing the sax with sandpaper will remove the rust. Applying more pressure and speed with the sandpaper may be necessary to remove the afflicted area entirely, but this should be done cautiously.
  • If there is any tarnish left after that, use metal polish or a lacquer polishing cloth to get rid of it.

How do I Clean up the Metal Degradation of my Sax

Deterioration of the metal occurs when the lacquer on the saxophone’s surface deteriorates and turns a dismal shade of brown. To stop this from continuing:

  • Move the cloth around in a circular motion to remove the grime.
  • Then, buff the area using the metal polish (for silver saxes) or the lacquer polishing cloth (for lacquered saxes). To get better results, you may need to execute this method more than once.

Should I Use Ballistol On My Saxophone?

Never, ever use Ballistol on your sax; this is an absolute no-no. Ballistol is a mineral oil containing alkaline salts. Because of its alkaline nature, it will temporarily make the surface shinier, but after that, it will speed up the process of dezincification.

Utilizing a pull-through to extract moisture from the interior of your saxophone and then wiping down the exterior with a clean towel is the most effective way to care for your instrument. If you always engage in both of these strategies, the red tarnish will never become more severe.

How do I stop my saxophone from tarnishing in the future?

The following are some additional pointers that will help you ensure that you prevent tarnishing, oxidation, or rust from accumulating in the future on your saxophone:

  • Remove Moisture

The pull-through swab that was stated previously is an excellent tool for accomplishing this operation, particularly when it comes to removing moisture from the interior of a saxophone.

To use the cloth, simply pass the weighted string through the piece of horn and pull the entire cloth through the opposing end (bell). You may also draw the cloth through the instrument by utilizing the strings that are attached to it and moving them back and forth.

You will need to carry out this procedure a sufficient number of times to ensure that the interior of the saxophone is bone dry.

We suggest that you invest in a saxophone cleaning kit that comes with a cleaning swab if you need additional saxophone supplies in addition to those mentioned above. If this is all that you require, the pull-through swab can also be purchased on its own.

  • Clean and Polish the Instrument Regularly

In addition to removing moisture, maintaining a regular cleaning and polishing routine for your saxophone will guarantee that the material does not become susceptible to oxidation or other forms of corrosion.

If you use a non-abrasive clear lacquer, you can prevent previously affected areas from re-tarnishing or corroding more quickly.

  • Don’t Forget Your Keys!

Small quantities of key oil should be applied approximately once every two to three months between both the key axle and the key post on your saxophone to keep the keys from corroding.

If the keys of your saxophone are lubricated too frequently or if an excessive amount of oil is applied, the keys will acquire additional filth. Because of this, after you have waxed your keys, you should use a cloth to remove any excess oil that may have been left behind.

  • Store the Instrument Properly

You will also need to make sure that your instrument is stored correctly if you want to prevent tarnishing and other forms of corrosion from occurring to it. When not in use, the saxophone should be kept in a dry case and kept away from places where there is a lot of humidity

Before you put away your saxophone, you need to make sure that both the inside and the outside are completely dry. This is an absolute necessity. If you have just finished cleaning your instrument, use a soft cloth to dry each of its surfaces before putting it away for the night.