How To Clean & Polish Handbells

hand holding a polishing cloth used for handbells

Beautiful in appearance and versatile in use, handbells can be found in a wide variety of musical groupings and performances. Their sound is distinct and endearing, and it can give any composition more layers and complexity. However, handbells, like any other musical instrument, need regular care to preserve their sound quality. To keep them looking like new, handbells should be polished often.

What You Will Need To Clean Handbells

Although it may appear like a difficult chore for ringers, polishing handbells is actually pretty easy. Getting together the required components is the first order of business when it comes to handbell maintenance. You will need the following to have your own polishing party for handbells:

  • A soft cloth

  • Polishing cloth

  • Polishing solution

To protect the metal from being corroded, a polishing solution should be used that is specially made for handbells- simichrome polish is a good example of this. Ordinary cleaning products may damage the delicate finish of the handbell, so it’s best to stick with what is designed for this purpose.

Step-by-Step Process for Polishing Handbells

After gathering everything you’ll need, you are ready to begin your cleaning.

Initial Wipe Down

Start by cleaning the handbells by washing them down with a soft cloth to get rid of any dust or debris.

Buffing With Polishing Cloth

The next step is to dampen a polishing cloth with the cleaning solution and then use it to buff the bell. Make sure you get into any cracks or other hard-to-reach spots and coat the entire bell. You can get the difficult spots by using a soft brush or even a toothbrush! Just don’t use it to brush your teeth afterward, otherwise your dentist will be quite cross with you!

Use the soft cloth to rub the bell to a shine after applying the polishing solution. It’s important to handle metal with care and avoid putting too much pressure on it. Keep at it with the buffing while rotating the bell evenly, until the handbell is completely spotless and gleaming.

Vacuuming the Interior of the Bells (Optional) 

If you want to give your handbells a thorough clean, consider vacuuming the interior of them. This will remove any dirt that may have settled inside. To do this, use an extension vacuum or a high suction device and place it against the opening of the bell. Be extra careful with this step as too much pressure could damage the structure of the bell.

The polishing step may need to be repeated multiple times if your handbells are especially unclean or have tenacious stains and scratches. However, with consistent care, your handbells can continue to look and perform like new for many years to come.

How often should handbells be polished?

How often you should polish your handbells really depends on what kind of environment they are being stored in, as moisture and humidity can corrode the metal. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to give your handbells a deep clean every 6 months or so. This way, the handbells will remain in great condition and be ready to go for your next performance.

Proper Storage And Care To Keep Handbells Clean

Storage is just as crucial as polishing when it comes to protecting your handbells from wear and tear. Don’t let them get too hot or too cold, and store them somewhere dry and cool. A sturdy bag or case to store and transport them in is also a good idea. Additionally, store the bells in a secure place away from small children or curious pets.

Gloves are also a crucial aspect in keeping handbells clean- ensuring that ringers wear gloves are an easy way to keep fingerprints from tarnishing the surface of the bells. Certain Schulmerich bells can be particularly sensitive to fingerprints, so it’s important to maintain this precaution. Malmark handbells tend not to be as susceptible, but it is still good practice to wear gloves while ringing nevertheless.


In conclusion, polishing handbells is an easy but crucial step for ringers to main their optimal condition. If you follow these guidelines, your handbells will last for many years and continue to add beauty and delight to your musical performances.

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