Trombone slide lubricants — which is best?

trombone slide lubricant

Trombone slide lubricants — which is best?

Have you ever assembled your trombone, after a long period of neglect, only to discover that your slide moves with the finesse of a rusty gate?  The antidote is trombone slide lubricant.  But which one should you use?  There a plenty of options on the market, however, most fall into 2 main categories; creams and liquids/oils.  We’ll review pros and cons of both.

First things first

For best results, you must start with an undamaged slide.  Any little dents in the slide can inhibit movement.  Take the slide to a reputable instrument repairer. They have specialized equipment and techniques to remove dents and they will restore your slide back to good working condition.

The next step is to clean the slide, both the inner and outer slides. Now you are ready to apply a lubricant.

When I was a lad

The most popular slide cream way back in the dark ages was “Ponds Cold Cream”.  It served its unintended purpose well for many years for many players, however, today, there are many better options specifically developed for the job.

Trusty Ponds Cold Cream
Ponds Cold Cream – trusted by generations of trombonists

Trombone slide creams

Trombone slide creams specifically designed for the job replaced Ponds Cold Cream many years ago.  For older slides, the creams might work best.  Bear in mind that they will usually need a spray from a water bottle to keep the slide moving freely. The finer the mist, the better. 

The primary rule with creams is “Don’t use too much”.  Just a small amount to cover the stocking (end of the slide) should suffice.   If you apply too much, the slide will feel sluggish—wipe it off and start again.

A downside of using creams is that you will need to wash/wipe your finger afterwards. There is no easy way to apply creams without using your finger.

Two creams worthy of mention are Trombotine and Superslick.  Both work well.

Trombone slide liquid lubricants

Due to being a liquid, these types of lubricants may not last as long as a cream before they need to be reapplied, however, they may yield better results on newer slides where the tolerances are smaller.  Liquid lubricants can stop working suddenly while playing.  If you have a regular routine to maintain your slide, this won’t be a problem.  There will be less of a need to frequently use a water spray bottle with liquid lubricants.

Again, don’t apply too much.  If you do, it will make the slide worse—wipe it off and start again. 

Two lubricants worthy of mention are Slide-O-Mix (scientifically engineered by the Germans) and Yamaha Slide Lubricant (refined and improved by the Japanese).  Both work well, although the Yamaha is easier to use since it is a single bottle.  Slide-O-Mix has 2 bottles which requires more mucking around.


Try creams for older/worn slides and liquid lubricants for newer slides.

Things to remember;

  1. Any lubricant is better than none
  2. Less works best

Happy sliding!

One thought to “Trombone slide lubricants — which is best?”

  1. My advice to young trombonists:
    1. Ask your trombone teacher if you can (very carefully) move their slide. Once a young’un experiences an undamaged, well maintained slide, their dented and neglected slide will never feel the same again.
    2. Get it repaired. 99% of student slides are damaged. The other 1% make excellent doorstops.
    3. Learn how to use a cleaning rod. Snakes are only good for getting the primordial sludge out of the slide crook and inside of the inner slide.
    4. I recommend using a very small dab of cream on (the recently cleaned) slide, starting on the stockings and working your way up towards the mouthpiece. Rub, rub, rub, until the slide is warm and the cream gets really thin. The metal expands slightly, allowing the microscopic “potholes” to be more easily “paved” with cream. If your professional trombonist dreams don’t pan out, maybe your local DOT will hire you.
    5. DOS and DONTS: Don’t ever pick up the horn by the slide, do protect the slide from hard objects when walking through crowded situations (imagine your shinbones hitting an anvil in a dark room), do ask your teacher to demonstrate how he/she cleans their slide, do clean the inside of the INSIDE slide with the snake. This is where all the harmful bacteria thrives. The only part of the outside slide that needs to be cleaned by the snake is the crook. A snake and warm water does the trick.

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