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Cleaning dirty reed plates

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Feb 07, 2009 6:12 AM GMT
Hey there, just wanted to ask how you guys clean dirty reed plates?
I have some old harps I bought off ebay and when I have taken them apart they have that green patina on the business side and some stains on the other side (cover plate side).
I asked this same question on MBH site and was told Jason used something called BAM to do this. I have looked this stuff up on google and it looks remarkably like a UK product we have callled "Cillit Bang" which is a pretty hardcore cleaning agent.
I would have thought this stuff might react badly with the brass.

Any advice?


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Comments (25)

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Feb 07, 2009 7:28 AM GMT
Oldwailer Replied:

Jeez, Oisin, "Cillit Bang" sounds like a product that would be sold on the porn sites! ;)

I recently read an article by Jason--don't remember where it was--the title was something like " An OCD Rock Star's method for cleaning harps). I think the article is posted on Harp-L. Jason?

Anyway, you use isopropyl alcohol for a cleaner and sanitizer--and go through a whole ritual. I went through my whole harp box and did the method on all of them. It was pretty amazing--some of my harps are a bit old, and some of them were flatting out a little--well, this method is tedious, but it sure does the job. all of my harps actually sound new again!

I buy harps off ebay too--and this will be my method of cleaning them from now on. . .

Feb 07, 2009 8:29 AM GMT
Kingley Replied:

I use vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.
Just soak them in it for 30 minutes then brush them (very gently) with an old tooth brush. It cleans the same as the way putting pennies in brown sauce does.

Feb 07, 2009 8:43 AM GMT
Oisin Replied:

Thanks for the replies guys. I know what you mean about the Cillit bang Oldwailer...just remove an i and and L and you've got yourself an outstanding porn name, better than Dirk Diggler! you use the vinegar and bicarb together? wouldn't they neutralise each other? I did try coca-cola once but I think I left it in the solution too long and it came out shamrock green.


Feb 07, 2009 10:21 AM GMT
Kingley Replied:

LOL Nice colour for a Paddy RIchter tuned harp though!!

What I usually do put the vinegar in a dish. Chuck the reed plates in it, wait 10 minutes then add the bicarb. Then wait 30 mins and rinse off using an old tooth brush.
Why not try Brown Sauce on them. just cover them in it and wait about 20 minutes. Then rinse it off under the tap. Surgical Spirits (isopropyl alchohol?) is another good method as well. Basically anything acidic will do it (just don't leave it on too long), as will anything antiseptic.

Feb 07, 2009 11:13 AM GMT
Bruce W Replied:

What I have taken is citric acid and soaked them a couple hours. Its called Zitronen Säure here in der Vaterland. It comes in powder form and easy to get. It is harmless to you, it does not stink like you're dunking easter eggs or like a hospital room. It gets those plates real shiny and clean. It will evan get rid of small burrs. We use it in our coffee maker to get the calcification out.

Take care when using a toothbrush to scrub plates. Always go in direction from the rivet to the end of the reed tip as to be careful not to get the brush hairs caught inbetween the reed and the slot - you can damage your harp this way.

Yes, second hand harps should be done over with alcohol. 1.7 million people have TB (once thought to be annihilated) and who knows what else you can get from using someone elses harp. It is always a risk.

There are a lot of good ideas here. Another is an ultrasound cleaning device (about €30). It was a rather lengthy thread on our harp forum here in Germany but quite a few people use them.

Feb 07, 2009 12:12 PM GMT
Oisin Replied:

Thanks for that Bruce...citric acid sounds like a good way to go.


Feb 07, 2009 8:36 PM GMT
Shawn R Replied:

I use Automaotive "Brake Cleaner", but ONLY on the Brass (it will actually melt plastic)! The aerosol cleaner does all the work (no scrubbing) and dries fast.

Feb 07, 2009 10:10 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

Rick Epping told me that at the Hohner factory, what they use is automotive naval jelly, sometimes sold as rust remover, and you can buy it at any auto parts store for low money, and what you do is brush it on very carefully, and then rinse it off with cold water, and finally GENTLY and CAREFULLY pat it dry with a lint free paper towel (DON'T use cheapie stuff). This is what I use.

Feb 07, 2009 11:36 PM GMT
Joe Replied:

I've tried about everything, and the absolute best product I've come across for making old reed plates look *brand new* is Barkeeper's Friend. It's very inexpensive and comes in a large container like Comet (it's in the same section at the store). This stuff is magic. Wet the reedplate with warm water, liberally apply the powder, and scrub with a toothbrush. Holding the plate in the palm of the hand, brush end-to-end the full length of the plate so that the bristles don't snag a reed. This stuff even removes rust, and if the rivets are looking bad they can be cleaned up with a little more effort. Rinse well while brushing to fully remove the product, then pat dry with paper towels. I also follow my repairs with an anti-microbial product and an ultrasonic machine, but the Barkeeper's Friend treatment is the first thing a used harp gets before I work on it.

Feb 08, 2009 7:36 AM GMT
Oisin Replied:

Thanks for all these great suggestions. Unfortunately living in the UK, we don't have a lot of these products (or at least the trade names you quote here). However I'll do a little research and I'm sure that similar products are on sale here.
Barkeepers friend over here would be something like a baseball bat or something like that for getting rid of drunk customers!!


Feb 08, 2009 1:24 PM GMT
Oisin Replied:

Well would you believe it...they sell it here too! I'll buy some of this and let you know how I get on. Thanks Joe.


Feb 08, 2009 5:51 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

best stuff I've used is purple KABOOM! jason turned me on to that, I'm sure somebody else introduced it to him...

Feb 08, 2009 8:10 PM GMT
Joe Replied:

Yeah, I did before using the BK Friend

Feb 08, 2009 10:55 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

Well,Joe I gotta try it... I've been all over looking for this other crap and I've had barkeepers friend in my cabinet for years and never tried it. I always use for cleaning the table, counters, sinks... sheesh! Why didn't I think of it? I'll try when I get home.

Feb 08, 2009 11:59 PM GMT
Joe Replied:

Dave you'll be amazed at how nice you can make those cherished old prewar plates look. And to impart a clean, minty-fresh smell and taste, lightly follow up with your favorite toothpaste!

Feb 09, 2009 9:18 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

Dang! I've had that the whole time, too.

The worst thing I think is oxygen cleaner. I've used it in a pinch, but leave it on too long or don't rinse it well and you've aged your plates about 50 years.

Feb 16, 2009 8:33 AM GMT
Builderofstuff Replied:

I use brasso. I put it on and rub it in with my fingers for a few minutes (wear gloves and do it in a place where you have moving air cause it stinks) then I rinse them really really good. Then I'll clean them with anti-bacterial dish soap, then put them in my ultrasonic cleaner for about 10 minutes. When done they look like new.


Feb 16, 2009 5:31 PM GMT
Kingley Replied:

LOL I can't believe I never thought of using Brasso! Doh!!!!!

Feb 17, 2009 1:13 PM GMT
Oisin Replied:

I have tried Brasso before but the harps stank of it afterwards no matter how hard I cleaned it.

I haven't got any Barkeepers friiend yet but I did use some oxygen cleaner and it a good job and didn't leave a smell or taste.


Feb 22, 2009 3:27 AM GMT
Todd G Replied:

CLR works for me 1:6 with hot water in a cup

Feb 22, 2009 8:42 PM GMT
Elk River Replied:

Todd G sent me this Mouse Ear Marine Band that he had cleaned with CLR. The reedplates looked brilliant. Better than a most new harps.

I mentioned CLR a couple days ago Wally Peterman and he says "you know it says on the label, 'don't use it on brass," which it does.

So, I thought, OK, I'll read some labels as I buy. I thought I'd try first Lime Away, which is similar. In fact, the labels are pretty much the same don't use on X, Y, Z, A, B, C, etc. except lime away does not mention brass at all.

So, I bought lime away. It works pretty well. One thing, though, wherever there is severeblack corrosion (i.e the worst spots) on brass, it cleans but leaves a light red hue in those places. Still looks mighty clean. I'm gonna try CLR and see if it works any better.

I did use the LIme Away to clean this nasty, nasty, harps I'm doing for the Henderson Hall museum. The Hendersons had bought this 48-chambertremolo back in the late 1800s and played it a good bit and put it away wetinacool,damp place. The comb chambers were filled with white mold, itdidn't really look like mold, cause the mold was dead,I guess,it wasmore like full of mold corpses. I am very allergic to mold, but took it in I started working on it last fall, getting it cleaned and ready.Took forever to get the comb halfway presentable. The reedplates were entirely black and rusty, the harp had no kidding, been sitting in a wet place for more than 100 years at Henderson Hall. There were two there together, this one has zinc covers, the other nickel coated steel, on the other one, the nickel is gone and there's not a spot of the cover left without rust. I haven't started that one yet.

With the Lime Away, I was able to get this harp presentable. Hell, I even played it a bit last night. Gonna be nice for folks to walk in the museum and see it and at leastthink "hey, harmonicas exist."

Apr 30, 2009 3:39 PM GMT
terry m Replied:

if they are real bad,soak the reedplates and covers in toilet bowl cleaner,sounds bad but works great.just make sure to wash them real well in dishsoap after...

May 02, 2009 12:26 PM GMT
FatJim Replied:

Doesn't the ammonia content of some of these cleaners have an adverse affect of the life of the reeds?

May 11, 2009 12:06 AM GMT
Al P Replied:

Ok lets see if I can finally add some good advice. First of all I reload all my ammo and have come across all of these ideas at one time or another to try to keep my bass clean. Anything that has to do with amonia will eventually ruin the brass!

Through years of buying /trying different things I have finally created something that works perfect. This is a home brew of sorts and here it goes.

Heat you a pan of water make it purdy hot (not boiling)

Once that is done add a few squirts of liquid dish soap and then a few cap fulls of white vinegar (you may need to add more or less depending on how dirty your brass is).

Now swish it around to let all the liquid blend together, now drop in your brass.

Let sit for 10 min. move it around let sit another 10 min. take out dab with towel then I put small fan on it and let it air dry.

Should look like new brass when finished!!

Good luck and I hope this helped.

May 12, 2009 6:37 PM GMT
FatJim Replied:

Thanks Al.

Ammonia reacts with brass to harden it.

Kaboom, Lime Away (Phosphoric acid) and Barkeepers friend (oxalic acid) all seem OK, but Brasso sounds like a really bad idea.

On the other hand, I bet dipping the plates in diet coke (citric and phosphoric acids and some other junk) will brink 'em up a treat! Tried it with a penny once - looked like new.

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