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!

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