True Confessions: I Don't Clean My Gongs

I field a lot of questions about cleaning Gongs, but I have to admit that I don't really clean mine. I'm not obsessive about them like some people. I don't wear white gloves when handling them, in fact, I touch them with my bare hands. 

If you look at my Paiste Gongs from a distance, they look really great. Up close, you can see finger prints, scratches, discoloration, and areas where the wax coating has worn off. The coating tends to keep them in good shape. I may wipe them off with a cloth once in a while, or even wash them with water and Dawn Blue dish detergent, but not often (I can't remember the last time I washed them off!). 

Which Paiste Gong is 20 years old? 30? 40?

I love my Gongs and take good care of them. I always transport them in hard or flight cases, but let's face it, they are TOOLS. They are the tools I use to create the music I play. And as such, I don't obsess over keeping them as clean and shiny as the day I got them.

My 19 year old 32" Symphonic. You can see the 2 places I mainly
 play in the worn coating: the center, and a ring around the center.

I have other Gongs too (over 100 now), from all different countries and regions. They are made of different bronzes, stainless steel, iron, aluminum, and brass. I tend to let them alone, as some of them take on a great, dark patina over time. Yes, I will wipe them off once in a while if they seem overly dirty from playing in a dirty environment, but nothing special. I did use a soft cloth and some Pledge furniture polish on some of them a few years ago.

20 year old gamelan Gong (L) & 45 year old Thai Gong (R).  
A little Pledge Polish a few years ago, but otherwise never cleaned.

Now this is not to say that others shouldn't clean their Gongs. I'm all for it. But mine are used so much that I really don't have the time for it. I present 2-4 sessions a week, plus concerts, and a maintain a regular teaching schedule, so my working gear tends to always be in its cases. 

The same can be said for my various bowls, Burma bells, bell plates, and other bronze instruments: I leave them alone. Some of the older pieces have developed a very deep, dark brown color and look lovely. Sometimes a Gong or other instrument will start to corrode and develop those green areas known as verdigris. This is an oxidation of the metal. If that happens, I will clean it off and apply a wax to keep out the air and elements.

Verdigris on the back of a Wind Gong

And that's it. I don't really clean anything, but I do tend to keep things clean. 

~ MB

Chop Wood / Carry Water / Play Gongs™

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