Your horn should be treated with the most utmost care, but this sentiment especially applies to the valves on your horn. Unlike the outside of your horn which is lacquered to prevent corrosion, the surface of your valves is bare metal and prone to all kinds of ailments. To avoid any dents, bumps, or scratches, it's important that you maintain the valves with routine cleaning and proper lubrication with valve oil. Having slow or frozen valves halfway into a performance is not a fun experience.
Valve oil works by lubricating the metal, which helps to avoid the metal-on-metal friction that ensues when your valves are dry. Sealing the space between the two metals also helps. Often, you might find yourself oiling the valves several times a week just to keep them playable.
There are many valve oils to choose from, and although valve oil is essentially mineral oil, different manufacturers may decide to add their own extra ingredients. However, more often than not, the biggest difference is the viscosity (the measure of the resistance of the fluid).
Synthetic valve oils are also available. In fact, common issues many players have stem from combining various oils. Mixing certain mineral ingredients together can cause build up and blockage as time goes on. To eliminate this issue, synthetic valve oils help magnificently, and they also have a reputation for requiring less re-oiling.
It helps tremendously to ask other players which valve oils they prefer, and why they prefer them. But your best route of action is to find out through a manufacturer which oil is best suited to your horn. Pairing your horn with the right oil can do wonders for your performance.
In actuality, no particular brand is better than another, mainly because your horn needs its own recommendation. However, some brands are more popular than others. Here are a few of the valve oils that are spotted often on the professional scene:
Most instrument manufacturers have their own versions of valve oils. Some examples include:
As you can see, there are many different kinds of valve oils to choose from, so don't be afraid to try out a few. When you find the right oil for your horn, you'll know; and rest assured, your valves will being operating smoothly in no time.