This article will focus on the outside of your horn, and we'll discuss keeping the inside clean at a later time.
Polishing Cloth—One of the most important things you can do to protect your instrument's finish is to give it a thorough wipe down after every time you play it. After all, it is the oils in your hands that do the most damage to the outside metals. These oils are strong enough to eventually corrupt the metal and even burn holes through the horn. But don't use just any cloth when you polish your horn. Many cloths have abrasive materials and fibers that, while invisible to the eye, can be damaging to your horn's lacquer finish. Many manufacturers make polishing cloths specifically for brass finishes, including Giardinelli and Yamaha. Town Talk, a polish company recognized by famed Tiffany & Co. Jewelers, actually has several versions, including a wallet-size polishing cloth (for traveling musicians), a Dual cloth that offers two different fabrics, the fancier Luxury Duster, and the Town Talk standard microfiber polishing cloth.
Polishing Glove—Bach offers handy (no pun intended) polishing gloves, which are ideal for times when you are really giving your horn a thorough cleaning, inside and out. .
Polish—When the spotlight hits you, you want your horn to sparke! Regularly polishing your instrument is key. Hagerty offers both a standard and a spray-on version of their professional grade instrument polish.
Brass Soap—Metal instruments will eventually fall victim to tarnish, no matter how hard we try to prevent that. Brass soap is a handy item can help remove tarnish and will help to keep your horn looking great. Yamaha's brass soap is worth keeping in your horn care kit.
Valve Guards—Because your acidic hands are your horn finish's worst enemy, using one of these valve guards may help head off any issues at the outset. And, frankly, they look and feel pretty cool, too! The Reunion Blues valve guard is a nice one as are the Protec and Denis Wick valve guards. Bach makes a lace-up valve guard that adds an extra little flair. And, of course, WWBW offers their own valve guard version.
Woodwind & Brasswind has many different options for each of these products. Whichever you choose, the important thing is that you keep your horn clean, inside and out, and protect it from any physical and cosmetic damage. And, of course, you'll be doing your part to help all of us band geeks look that much cooler!