BlowDry Brass vs. Herco Spitballs

Post Reply
LarryPrestonRoberson
Posts: 27
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 7:36 am

BlowDry Brass vs. Herco Spitballs

Post by LarryPrestonRoberson » Sat May 12, 2018 11:29 am

To preface, I'm very diligent in the maintenance my trombone—all my instruments for that matter. My end-of-day routine includes wiping it off with a soft cloth, toweling off the inner slide, and swabbing out the slide tubes with a cloth-wrapped cleaning rod to remove the condensation and lubrication. My main horn gets a bath every month, or so. All that being said, I'm considering augmenting my routine with Herco Spitballs or the like. Let me reiterate, I'm not looking for a substitute to actually cleaning my horns. The goal is to aid in condensation removal/drying and neutralizing any acids from saliva in an effort to mitigate the conditions for Red Rot.

Saliva is often cited as the principal, or at least a major, cause of Red Rot. Yet looking at the chemistry, it seems that saliva actually neutralizes acids. Furthermore, selective leaching/dealloying of brass is due to the presence of oxygen and moisture, as much as anything. Granted any information found out in the World Wide Web should be taken with a grain of salt. And admittedly, chemistry isn't my strongest science; That's why I gave up on Pharmacy in college, but that's another story. As I mentioned, I'm considering Herco Spitballs or another product I found, BlowDry Brass. I have questions about the chemistry behind either choice. Hopefully, one of the chemists such as Bruce Guttman, or other science buffs, will chime in. My questions are as follows.

1) What is the cleaning agent in Herco Spitballs? I can't seem to find that information out on the Web—not surprisingly. Hickey's description says they're soaked in alcohol. I used them in junior high and and my recollection is of a seemingly more complex cocktail.

2) Does anyone have experience with BlowDry Brass? http://blowdrybrass.com/
The company is straightforward about the product; The bits are soaked in isopropyl alcohol. Unfortunately, they only offer a size for small and medium bore instruments.

3) Can all acids contribute to dezincification of brass (Red Rot).? Or, is it just hydrochloric acid?

4) So is isopropyl alcohol, or other cleaning-type alcohols, safe for brass? Alcohol is acidic by nature, correct? Supposedly isopropyl alcohol is less acidic than plain water.

5) Does anyone know where to purchase similar foam cylinders/bits appropriate for this purpose?

Thanks for reading this lengthy post and for answering my queries.
User avatar
Neo Bri
Posts: 622
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2018 10:30 am
Location: Netherwhere
Contact:

Re: BlowDry Brass vs. Herco Spitballs

Post by Neo Bri » Sat May 12, 2018 1:16 pm

I'm sure someone will chime in with the specifics of the aforementioned products.

Now, my unsolicited opinion. Your idea sounds like overkill, though if it makes you happy, have at it. And I personally wouldn't blow objects through my horn. Seems the risks outweigh the benefits.
________________________________________________________
Get the word out! Make www.trombonechat.com our community!
User avatar
BGuttman
Posts: 354
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:19 am
Location: Cow Hampshire

Re: BlowDry Brass vs. Herco Spitballs

Post by BGuttman » Sat May 12, 2018 1:53 pm

Firstly, about red rot. Red rot can be the result of nearly any acid. The strength of the acid determines the rapidity of the development of red rot. The acid in question is normally carbonic acid, formed as carbon dioxide dissolves in water. It's the same acid that is in most fizzy soft drinks (Coca-Cola being an exception; it contains another acid as well). Carbonic acid is a rather weak acid and will take its time in eating the zinc from your brass. Often the time period is measured in decades.

Next. An alcohol is NOT an acid. An alcohol can oxidize into an organic acid, but an organic acid is not going to eat at your brass in any significant rate. Alcohol will absorb moisture (at least the more common ones: methyl alcohol, ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol) and will dry quicker taking the moisture with it. Removing the moisture will eliminate the creation of carbonic acid from the absorption of the carbon dioxide in the air.

I think Herco Spitballs may also have had a surfactant in them which would spread out and protect the brass from the action of corrosive gases in the atmosphere. In addition to carbon dioxide, you can have sulfur dioxide (big sulfur dioxide emissions from the volcano in Hawaii) and nitrogen dioxide (a component of smog). Usually the amounts of these other corrosive gases are much less than carbon dioxide, although the acids formed when they dissolve in moisture are much stronger.

Hope this little chemistry lesson is of use.
Bruce Guttman
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orchestra
LarryPrestonRoberson
Posts: 27
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2018 7:36 am

Re: BlowDry Brass vs. Herco Spitballs

Post by LarryPrestonRoberson » Sat May 12, 2018 3:22 pm

Neo Bri wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 1:16 pm
Now, my unsolicited opinion. Your idea sounds like overkill, though if it makes you happy, have at it.
Yep, that's me—obsessive personality type.
BGuttman wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 1:53 pm
The acid in question is normally carbonic acid, formed as carbon dioxide dissolves in water. It's the same acid that is in most fizzy soft drinks (Coca-Cola being an exception; it contains another acid as well). Carbonic acid is a rather weak acid and will take its time in eating the zinc from your brass. Often the time period is measured in decades.
This exactly is why I avoid soft drinks before playing. And, I always brush my teeth before playing; I keep an extra toothbrush and toothpaste with me for this reason—I said I was obsessive. That's interesting about the Coca-Cola being containing a different acid; I didn't know that.
BGuttman wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 1:53 pm
An alcohol is NOT an acid. An alcohol can oxidize into an organic acid, but an organic acid is not going to eat at your brass in any significant rate. Alcohol will absorb moisture (at least the more common ones: methyl alcohol, ethyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol) and will dry quicker taking the moisture with it. Removing the moisture will eliminate the creation of carbonic acid from the absorption of the carbon dioxide in the air.
I didn't know that either—interesting and fascinating. The properties of alcohol are exactly what I'm looking for in this application.
BGuttman wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 1:53 pm
Hope this little chemistry lesson is of use.
Thanks so much Bruce. I think it's neat when someone's expertise/profession dovetails with music in some way. Did you ever thinking about coming out of retirement and going into the classroom? That kind of clear cut approach is asset as a teacher. I think I might have actually enjoyed chemistry!

Here is a side question Bruce: Does the alcohol oxidize into an organic acid after/during metabolization?
User avatar
BGuttman
Posts: 354
Joined: Thu Mar 22, 2018 7:19 am
Location: Cow Hampshire

Re: BlowDry Brass vs. Herco Spitballs

Post by BGuttman » Sat May 12, 2018 6:29 pm

Mostly alcohol (particularly ethanol) goes into a ketone. Further oxidation goes to an acid. You really have to work to convert an alcohol into an acid, so it's not likely to occur on its own.
Bruce Guttman
Merrimack Valley Philharmonic Orchestra
timothy42b
Posts: 109
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:51 am
Location: central Virginia

Re: BlowDry Brass vs. Herco Spitballs

Post by timothy42b » Sun May 27, 2018 6:24 am

BGuttman wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 1:53 pm
Firstly, about red rot. Red rot can be the result of nearly any acid. The strength of the acid determines the rapidity of the development of red rot.
What I remembered from engineering classes (and that's several decades back, so it's vague) was the opposite, that the zinc in brass was more likely to be attacked in alkaline environments. In particular we needed to avoid using brass plumbing fixtures in environments where ammonia was present, like dairy farms.

Perhaps it's both.

There are good photos on this site:

https://met-tech.com/brass-plumbing-fittings/
User avatar
BaritoneJack
Posts: 18
Joined: Wed May 30, 2018 3:41 pm

Re: BlowDry Brass vs. Herco Spitballs

Post by BaritoneJack » Thu May 31, 2018 7:52 am

timothy42b wrote:
Sun May 27, 2018 6:24 am
What I remembered from engineering classes (and that's several decades back, so it's vague) was the opposite, that the zinc in brass was more likely to be attacked in alkaline environments.
Timothy - in the write up on the site you linked to, it says this:
"No significant calcium (calcium carbonate, typical of hard water deposits) or silicon (silicon oxide, typical silt or sand deposits) were detected."
So the water which was lying undisturbed in those fittings for a couple of years may or may not have been acidic - but it appears that it definitely wasn't alkaline, as otherwise there would have been limescale deposits on them.
According to this website, the threshold at which brass becomes vulnerable is when it contains 15% or more of zinc. The alloy's resistance to dezincification at ambient temperatures can be greatly increased by the addition of Arsenic (typically 0.02 - 0.25%) - and even more by the addition of the Tin in 'Admiralty Brass' (69% Copper, 30% Zinc, 1% Tin, also making it highly resistant to salt corrosion).
https://www.avivametals.com/collections ... -brass-dzr
The yellow brass commonly used for making brass instruments has quite a high Zinc content (over 30%); this makes it very ductile, even at room temperatures, so it can be formed into complex shapes easily - but also makes it vulnerable to Zinc loss.
Rose brass, often used for lead-pipes, can contain up to 90% copper, with the possible addition of Tin as well - making it highly resistant to loss of Zinc - but cheap, it's not!
Post Reply

Return to “Maintenance”