How to Lubricate a Trombone Slide

Lubricate Trombone Slide
By Kevin Christensen
Last updated: September 14, 2023

As a professional trombone player, maintaining the condition of my instrument is a top priority.

Among the key components that need regular care and maintenance is the slide. A smooth, responsive slide is crucial for playing notes accurately and with ease.

In this article, I’ll be sharing some tips on how to clean and lubricate your trombone slide to ensure that it functions at its best.

The slide of a trombone is designed to move back and forth with ease, enabling the player to get the right note quickly. Over time, however, the slide can become stiff or sticky due to dust, dirt, or grease buildup.

Let’s fix that.

What you’ll need

Before you start lubricating your trombone slide, there are a few things you will need. 

  • A trombone (duh).
  • A clean cloth or a piece of paper tissue to wipe your slide clean. Having some spare tissue paper or cloth is also handy in case excess cream or oil needs to be wiped off the outer slide.
  • Trombone slide lubricant. There are different types of lubricants available on the market, such as slide cream, slide oil, and liquid slide lubricants. Do not use tuning slide grease!
  • A water spray bottle. While you can do it without – it will give your slide the final touch.


Here are the steps to lubricate your trombone slide:

  1. Wipe the slide clean: Before applying any lubricant, clean the slide thoroughly.
    Use a clean, soft cloth or tissue paper to wipe off any dirt, dust, or excess cream or oil from the slide.
  2. Apply the lubricant. Apply your lubricant of choice to the inner slide. Follow the instructions on the packaging. 
  3. Spread the lubricant: After applying the lubricant, spread it evenly along the slide, using the outer slide. Move the slide back and forth a few times to ensure that the lubricant covers the entire slide.
  4. Use a water spray bottle: After applying your slide lubricant and working the slide for a bit, simply spray a small amount of water onto your slide, then work the slide back and forth a few more times.

Trombone lubrication types

There are three types: slide cream, slide oil, and liquid lubricants. 

Let’s explore each one.

1. Slide cream

Trombone slide cream, although considered a professional option in the past, is not my preferred choice anymore. However, it is important to note that slide creams can still provide excellent slide action when used correctly. 

It typically comes in a small jar or tube and has a creamy consistency. One of the well-known slide cream brands is Trombotine. Other widely used brands are Superslick, Conn, and Bach Slide creams.

To apply slide cream, a small amount is placed on the inner slide tubes and spread evenly with the fingers. The cream creates a thin layer of lubrication, reducing friction between the inner and outer slide tubes. 

The main drawback of slide creams is that they require more attention and can be challenging for young students to handle effectively.

Often, students tend to apply excessive amounts of slide cream and neglect to wipe it off between applications.

This results in the accumulation of gunk that becomes troublesome to clean out later on.

2. Slide oil

Slide oil is another common type of lubricant. It usually comes in a bottle with a dropper or spray mechanism for easy application. Slide oil has a thinner consistency compared to slide cream, making it easier to spread and distribute across the slide tubes.

When using slide oil, a small amount is applied to the inner slide tubes, and the slide is worked back and forth to evenly distribute the lubricant. 

I do not recommend slide oil in any way or fashion. Slide oil tends to create a mess, emits an unpleasant odor, has a short lifespan, and fails to provide a smooth slide action.

3. Liquid lubricant

Liquid lubricants, such as Slide-O-Mix and Yamaha Slide Lubricant, offer a hybrid approach combining the qualities of both slide cream and slide oil. 

Liquid lubricants are generally easy to apply and maintain. The liquid component can be applied directly to the inner slide tubes, and the treatment can be added sparingly as needed.

This straightforward application process saves time and effort compared to spreading slide cream or oil with fingers or a cloth.

Additionally, liquid lubricants often come in convenient applicator bottles or containers, making them portable and accessible during rehearsals or performances. 

I much prefer liquid lubricants to slide cream or oil. It’s easy to apply, long-lasting, provides excellent lubrication and I don’t get cream on my fingers! 

Selmer 337RC Slide-o-Mix Rapid Comfort Trombone Lubricant, 30 ml
Yamaha Trombone Slide Lubricant, 30ml
Selmer 337RC Slide-o-Mix Rapid Comfort Trombone Lubricant, 30 ml
Yamaha Trombone Slide Lubricant, 30ml
Selmer 337RC Slide-o-Mix Rapid Comfort Trombone Lubricant, 30 ml
Selmer 337RC Slide-o-Mix Rapid Comfort Trombone Lubricant, 30 ml
Yamaha Trombone Slide Lubricant, 30ml
Yamaha Trombone Slide Lubricant, 30ml

Last updated on 2024-06-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What Is the best trombone slide lubricant?

As for my personal preference, I use Slide-O-Mix Rapid Comfort or Yamaha Slide Lubricant.

Both products are excellent in my opinion and provide an equally good effect.

Convenience and ease of application are essential considerations, and I appreciate that these products allow for direct application without getting it on my fingers.

It is worth noting that the choice of slide lubricant ultimately comes down to personal preference. 

Experimenting with different types and brands of lubricants can help you find the one that best suits your playing style and instrument. 

How often should you lubricate your trombone slide?

As a general rule, it’s recommended that you lubricate it daily or every week, depending on how often you use your instrument. This ensures the slide stays smooth and moves effortlessly.

If you notice that your slide is difficult to move, sticking or moving slowly, consider lubricating it immediately. 

In conclusion, lubricating your trombone slide regularly is crucial for maintaining its good condition and ensuring it performs at its best. By following these simple steps, you can keep your slide clean, improve its hygiene, and ensure it moves smoothly – giving you the opportunity to play your instrument to the best of your ability.

By Kevin Christensen
Trombone Geek, managed by trombone player Kevin Christensen, is a comprehensive resource for trombone players of all levels worldwide. Christensen's 20+ years of professional experience and training at prestigious institutions provide valuable insights into trombone playing. Trombone Geek offers tips, tricks, and advice on all aspects of playing the instrument. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced player looking to improve your skills, Trombone Geek is an excellent resource for learning and mastering this fascinating instrument.
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