Arab Instruments Forum

Doumbek / Darbuka => Doumbek Advice, Tips Questions & Lessons => Topic started by: Zoba on January 15, 2016, 11:37:02 AM

Title: Old Darbuka Polish
Post by: Zoba on January 15, 2016, 11:37:02 AM
I have bought an old Syrian Darbuka. I have decided going to skin. The shell of it is really old and dingy, so I thought I'd give it a good cleaning or polish while I am at it. Does anyone know the best way to go about this? Will any old metal polish work, or am I going to do more harm than good?

Thanks in advance.
Title: Re: Old Darbuka Polish
Post by: dHuGo on January 26, 2016, 10:18:21 AM
it’s a pity, there’s no photo, no further description of your best piece.

A lot depends of which materials you need to clean up; are surfaces regular or plane or with relief (hammered) etc.

Here’s a website with a little overview, what’s the diversity of “Syrian Darbuka”:
Alat Musik Gambus (

So I may guess only, what your little problem looks like:

( (

These two pics are taken from the website:

It already might be an good answer to your question, isn’t it!?
Title: Re: Old Darbuka Polish
Post by: dHuGo on January 26, 2016, 12:29:32 PM
However, I’m afraid, you’re a self-made man, so what can we do with an old aluminium shell like this!?:
($_1.JPG)(c) ebay

The reason for the matt dull gray covering the body of the drum is in oxidation of metal surface on the air over years.

Actually it’s very easy to remove aluminium-oxide with abrasives or acid liquid, but we would ultimately scratch the soft metal surface - and when the liquid gets inside of some micro cracks – and I’m sure, that they are - drum shell won’t sound any more and you can say “Good bye!” and waste it - or put flowers inside… …you understand!
Title: Re: Old Darbuka Polish
Post by: dHuGo on January 26, 2016, 01:09:28 PM
Let me tell about my grandma:
She sweared to know the best way for cleansing up our table silver - using some common tooth paste and a soft flannel cloth to polish it with smooth circular motions. - I’ve seen it with my own eyes: It really works with silver to get it bright and shiny.
Some of its patina remains in the deep of relief what improves appearance of surface ornaments. The only thing: Silver is a hard metal against aluminium is very soft…
( :o cleanipedia: What Products Can I Use When Cleaning Silver? (

So what, we use the paste to clean, whiten and polish our teeth – and to avoid acidic reactions, what may harm its enamel.
Though, if I had the problem with an old aluminium shell to clean, I would try that method of my grandma first and - of course – beginning somewhere on a little spot at the edge of the lower part of the body. You can see then, whether it works, what happens with metal surface and how do you like the finish – and if “yes”, go so on. - And you may proof several products and take your best choice.
Use tooth paste without additional water – as dry as possible - that prevents ingress of water into said micro cracks. The cloth you need should be very soft: I’d do it with chamois leather. For heavily soiled spots I’d try it very gently with a Scotch Brite or at least with some of that kind of cotton cloth used for body peeling in Hamam …

All these tips are not approved, so you shall do it on your own risk.
Title: Re: Old Darbuka Polish
Post by: dHuGo on January 26, 2016, 01:13:55 PM
At the end, wash it up with a lot of warm water and some drops of dish soap within.
Use a hairdryer thereafter.

For finishing I’d use WD-40 spraying it overall the whole shell:
WD-40 liquid was developed for cleaning and protecting of various surfaces in space units. - There’s a lot of aluminium and its alloys in those technical equipment and further with high standards of physical and chemical stability and durability.

The WD-40 will form a film and displace the moisture on the metal surface, even in micro cracks too.

Personally me I put WD-40 on my Turkish beauty (at my avatar the left one). But I sprayed it on the outer surface only to prevent oxidation of the bright parts:
Because aluminium oxide is much harder then poor aluminium, I hope for better sounds by time with a lot of new patina inside the drum.

You already have an old drum, so you may don't touch the inner side, I'd recommend you. - And please tell us, what did you do and what is the result of your work!
Good luck!
Title: Re: Old Darbuka Polish
Post by: dHuGo on January 26, 2016, 02:35:48 PM
There is another interesting idea to clean up aluminium (kitchen utilities):
Use tomato ketchup instead the tooth paste. - It should be less abrasive but, be careful, surely it's more acidic.
(source: cleanipedia: Aluminium polieren und reinigen (

I'd try it with dried concentrated tomato paste only, wich you can buy in tubes.

Do the same washing, drying and conserving procedures thereafter - but I don't know, does it really make sense or not…
Title: Re: Old Darbuka Polish
Post by: dHuGo on February 20, 2016, 01:26:06 PM
Forget the tomato paste (and the ketchup too)... - I tested it with some old piece of aluminium - there's absolutely no result. So we can see that it's the vinegar in  ketchup cleaning metal surface.

It's an acidic reaction, I wouldn't recommend that with a darbuka body at all.
Title: Re: Old Darbuka Polish
Post by: drtom on June 20, 2017, 04:38:47 PM
I realize this thread has been idle for some time, but it's such a good question I had to chime in.  It's amazing to me that after 1700+ views no one but dHuGo has had anything to add, offering some great suggestions then going the extra mile and acutally trying some of them.  WOW!  Thanks dHuGo.

It's a good question for at least two reasons.

First, because a good answer can be applied to not only Syrian darbukas, but also to plenty of other drums and even more non-drums.

Second, because a good comprehensive answer is not easy to offer.

Let me point just one thing out.  In order to properly clean a metal, one must first know what that metal is, and this is often difficult.  Darbukas, for example, can be made of any number of metals and these metals can be plated with any number of metals.  Now cosider that these combinations of metals vary from drum maker to drum maker and over time.

What is one to do?