Keeping your trumpet valves and slides moving is critical to being able to play.
Let’s look at a few alternatives you can try if you run out of trumpet oil or grease!
Table of Contents
1. What Are the Best Oil Alternatives for Trumpet Valves?
The best oil alternative for trumpet valves is synthetic oil from brands like Fat Cat.
Unfortunately, many oils aren’t good alternatives for trumpet valves. Valve oil uses water as the lubricant, while products like silicone or oil lubricants can damage the nickel in the trumpet.
Regular valve oil typically contains a combination of mineral oils, including paraffin oil or kerosene oil. If you can find oil with mineral oils, you may use it for your trumpet valves.
Other water-based lubricants may also be suitable. However, you should always consult a repair technician or another expert before you use any specific product on your trumpet or any other brass instrument.
2. What Are the Best Alternatives to Tuning Slide Grease?
The best alternative to tuning slide grease is pure lanolin because it doesn’t seize up like other materials and lasts longer than alternatives.
Pure lanolin also provides a balance between keeping tuning slides in the right position without compromising how easy they are to move.
Lanolin can do even better than tuning slide grease, so you should keep some on hand. Vaseline and other petroleum jelly products can also work if you don’t have anything else.
Tuning slide grease falls somewhere in the middle in terms of efficacy and ease of use.
If you choose to use petroleum jelly, make sure you don’t use too much so that the slides stick. Start with a little bit and add more as necessary to keep from overdoing.
When using oil, be sure to avoid using water to clean the instrument, but if you use a hybrid lubricant, the water can help add moisture to keep the oil from drying out.
3. Can You Use Baby Oil on a Trumpet?
You can use baby oil on a trumpet, but be careful.
Baby oil can act as a substitute for another lubricant after you remove stuck valves. That way, you can keep the valves from sticking again.
As with other alternatives, start with a small amount of baby oil and add more if you need to.
Baby oil primarily uses mineral oil, which is very similar to standard valve oil. The one concern is that baby oil may also contain fragrance.
Consider looking for fragrance-free baby oil to keep from harming your trumpet.
You can find baby oil in many drugstores and department stores. So if you can’t get to a music store or wait for an online order, baby oil is a suitable alternative.
However, you may not want to rely on it all of the time.
4. Can You Use Trombone Slide Oil?
Trombone slide oil and trumpet valve oil aren’t interchangeable.
Valve oil is much thinner than trombone slide oil, so that the slide oil may be too thick for your trumpet valves. On the other hand, trombone slide oil isn’t as syrupy as trumpet slide oil.
If you need to use something on your slides, the trombone slide oil may not be dense enough.
While these oils all contain the same ingredients, their viscosity can make them more or less effective for certain things. Using trombone slide oil on your trumpet slides may work okay, but it won’t be as effective as trumpet slide oil.
However, using trombone slide oil on your trumpet valves could lead to a lot of problems. In the process of lubricating the valves, the slide oil may keep your valves from moving smoothly. Make sure you avoid all types of slide grease when working on your trumpet valves.
5. Can You Use Sewing Machine Oil?
Sewing machine oil has many of the same ingredients as valve oil, but you shouldn’t use it on a trumpet.
Each oil serves a different purpose, so they’re perfect for those uses. Since sewing machines have plastic parts and trumpets have metal parts, sewing machine oil isn’t going to be the best.
At best, the oil might do a little bit to loosen the valves, but at worst, you may damage your trumpet after using sewing machine oil on it.
Sewing machine oil is relatively thin like valve oil. Because of that, you definitely shouldn’t use it on your trumpet slides. If sewing machine oil is all you have, you may choose to use a bit on your trumpet valves, and it won’t leave deposits in the valves.
It would be best if you didn’t rely on it as a full-time alternative to trumpet valve oil, though. Keep the sewing machine oil for your sewing machine and stock up on valve oil when you can.
6. Can You Use Hair Clipper Oil?
Hair clipper oil and valve oil are both very thin mineral oils, and you can substitute the two in either direction.
You can apply your hair clipper oil to the valves on your trumpet to lubricate them. However, the hair clipper oil isn’t thick enough to be a substitute for slide oil.
If you have a beard and have hair clipper oil on hand, you may want to use a bit of it when you don’t have valve oil. As with any oil, start with a tiny amount of it and increase the amount slowly. Then, you won’t add too much of the oil to your trumpet, potentially causing damage.
However, you should only use hair clipper oil if you have to play and don’t have anything else available. Ideally, you would wait until you can get valve oil before you work on your trumpet.
7. Can You Use WD-40
You should only use WD-40 on your trumpet if the valves get stuck and nothing else works.
WD-40 can penetrate deep enough to get the valve to move. However, it can leave residue behind, and it can work as an adhesive when it gets hot enough.
WD-40 can also have an odor, and it can be toxic. If you need to use WD-40 on your trumpet, make sure you clean it off completely.
The following steps can help keep your trumpet in good condition when using the oil:
- Apply the WD-40 to the stuck valve.
- Remove the valve from the trumpet.
- Use soap or another cleanser to get all of the WD-40 off.
- Replace the trumpet valve.
Before you try WD-40, consider soaking your trumpet in water with or without soap overnight. You may be able to move the valve without resorting to penetrating oil. If nothing else works, consider taking the trumpet to a technician for more help, and then you can give WD-40 a try.
8. Can You Use Cork Grease for the Tuning Slides?
You can use cork grease for the tuning slides as an alternative to slide oil. In fact, you can find products that companies market as both cork grease and slide grease.
The two products serve the same purpose of lubricating a part of an instrument. While cork grease is more common for woodwind instruments, it’s about the same consistency as slide grease.
Cork grease is especially smart if you also play a woodwind instrument or know someone who does. However, it can also be a suitable alternative if your local music store has it but is out of slide grease.
Use a clean finger to pick up some of the cork greases from the tube. Then, apply it to your trumpet as you would when using slide grease. Make sure you can move the slides and tune the instrument.
You can use cork grease as often as you would slide oil, about once a week or whenever the slides are hard to move. That way, you don’t have to take your trumpet to the repair shop as often.
9. Can You Use Key Oil?
You might be able to use key oil, depending on its thickness.
Some key oils are thicker than others, so look for a thinner key oil if you want to use it on your trumpet. That way, it will be closer to trumpet valve oil’s viscosity, so it will work similarly.
If you need an alternative to slide oil, a thicker key oil may be preferable.
When you play the trumpet and a woodwind, you might have key oil on hand. Before you use it on your trumpet, consider how thick it is and how it compares to your typical valve or slide oil.
If it’s close to the oil you need, you can give it a try. However, you don’t want to use a thicker substance on valves and risk the oil building up in the valves.
10. Can You Use Rotor Oil?
You shouldn’t use rotor oil on newer trumpet valves because rotor oil is much thicker.
Rotor oil could be worth trying when adjusting your trumpet slides though because slide oil is also thicker than valve oil. However, it would help if you were very careful when using rotor oil on the valves because it could keep the valves from moving smoothly.
If you have rotor oil on hand, it can be tempting to try it on your trumpet valves, but it can be too much for your trumpet valve-like other thick oils.
Before using it on your trumpet slides, compare the rotor oil’s thickness to your usual slide grease. Then, you can keep from damaging your trumpet.
What Oil and Grease Alternatives Will You Use?
As a trumpet player, valve oil and slide grease are two of your best friends, but if you run out of them or can’t find your current stash, you may consider other options.
From WD-40 to other instrument oils, you have a few alternatives.
Just make sure whatever you use won’t hurt your trumpet or require a trip to the repair shop.