How do you clean tube pins?

I'm sure there must be some discussion on how to clean tube pins (both power and small input tubes), but I haven't been able to find much on the subject. Specifically:

1) As tube pins are so close to each other, what tool do you use to clean the pin?
2) What solvents do you use?
3) How often should you clean tube pins?
4) Any other advise / suggestions you'd like to share.

In advance, thanks for any suggestions you may offer.

1.) Use 0000 grade steel wool
2.) None
3.) Once, usually after I bought the tube and found out the pins needs cleaning
4.) I spray Pro Gold most of the time after cleaning the tube pins. After that, I do not worry about cleaning them again ever.


The best stuff is Caig DeoxIT Gold, in the pen ( Wipe the pen tip around the pins a couple times, clean off with a rag, apply a little again and you're done. If you really want the cherries- Apply a touch of Walker Audio SST after cleaning off the Caig DeoxIT. (
Hi Louis1,

Most of the time just by taking a tube out and putting it back in the socket 6 or so times in a row should clean the pins well enough. If not, as mentioned above steel wool or a brush can be used. Make sure to wipe away any lose particles before re-inserting the tube in the tube socket.

Word of caution ..... I highly recommend checking with the manufacture of your amp/pre before using ANY chemical cleaner or contact enhancer as this may void your warranty and and using such products may cause a costly repair bill.

Take a normal pencil. Drill a small hole in the end centered. Fit tube pin into drilled hole and rotate. If you need to get SST off use an emory board.
I've been using contact cleaners of varying discriptions on tube pins for 30 some years. All it takes is reading the instructions and a modicum of common sense to use them successfully, and without any sort of damage.
Bend a pipe cleaner 180* dip it in Kontak cleaner and you will be able to clean all sides of a tube pin.

good listening....
I've had good luck cleaning steel tube pins on small signal tubes by cutting small strips of 1000-1200 grit wet/dry sandpaper and wrapping that around the pins and oscillating the paper over the pins. Really gets into all the hard to reach areas that are harder for me to reach with the steel wool method.
Good info above but the tough question is how do you clean the tube sockets?
Any slight corrosion should get rubbed off the contacts when the tube is inserted, most are nickeled anyway. The ProGold or SST on the tube pin actually then somewhat seals(capillary action) the contact point, inhibiting oxidation. I've used small dental brushes(the kind that look like extremely small pipe cleaners for between the teeth) on tube sockets(of older equipment) in the past, with non-residue contact cleaner, to remove accumulated dirt.
Donaudio, pipe cleaners especially with Audio Top cleaner.
usually inserting and taking the tube out a few times should be all it takes as far as maintenance cleaning.
I usually use DeOxit for initial cleaning if I get a NOS tube set. Just make sure you use tiny bit. This stuff dries out fast and works pretty good.
Boy, you guys sure are meticulous. I thought you could just put tubes in the dishwasher with the other glassware.
"I thought you could just put tubes in the dishwasher with the other glassware."

uh...You Can't?


It's always something...
On tubes with gold pins i use Tarn X with great success. On other tubes i use Caig DeOxit and wipe it off with 99% rubbing alcohol. I do not use any type of contact enhencement products on tube pins.
Hope this helps.
Gold pins do not need any treatment. It is not required or recommanded. That is the reasone for gold plated pins.
Whatever u use on standard pins make sure you remove ALL of the solution. Do not use steelwool or voodoo crap. Plain metal polish is need to go crazy over this issue.
Cleen the sackets with compresed air and contact cleaner from Radio Shack and a tooth pick.
Be careful.
Mrjstark, I don't think you want to go so far as to say there is no benefit from cleaning gold pinned tubes. Most plating is ultra thin and I have seen dirty quetips using cleaner on gold pins. Also pipe cleaners, I have found, work better than compressed air in sockets.

It is hard to find a "plain metal polish," as most try to retard oxidation. I have no idea what voodoo crap means.
Do not use steelwool or voodoo crap

Wait, wait, wait!! Yes, it's expensive, but other threads have said vodoo crap is ok!
Well, use voodoo as well as magic clocks and report back to let us all know how great it sounds. :)


Voodoo, meaning $150 for a tinny bottle of miracle product that some make money of poor naive souls. No names need to be mentioned. When I said "Steelwood" I was refering to my genius friend who used it and shorted his preamp. Very fine particulars find its way into the tube sucket and it was 4th of July. As to gold plated pins, I believe the whole idea behind it was to.......yes, preserve the perfect connection and prevent the oxidation..........I could be wrong though.

How many times one needs to clean the pins.....come on, give me a break.
Gold is a good conductor and it doesn't oxidize. That's why it's used. And because it can be spread very thin, in the order of a few angstroms, it's not too expensive.

However, even though it doesn't oxidize, it can get grungy with air borne pollutants. That's what the Caig products can clean up for you. However, there is the the danger of putting solutions on the pins and subsequently getting it into places it shouldn't be.

IMO, the best cleaning is simply to insert the tube in and pull it out of the socket a couple of times. The mechanical abrasion will clean off any surface grunge. Quick, easy and cheap.
Markphd, I have found that rotating RCAs slightly each night and doing clockwise on even days and counter clockwise on odd days does wonders. I often forget, however.
When I said "Steelwood" I was refering to my genius friend who used it and shorted his preamp. Very fine particulars find its way into the tube sucket and it was 4th of July

The steel wool is not the problem here don't you think?

Your genius friend, granted that he's a real genius needs to buy or acquire some goddamn common sense.

Think about the question of the original poster, then ask yourself if your response was appropriate. If it is, then suit yourself. I have nothing else to add.


The EXACT SAME principal(common sense) applies to the use of contact cleaners and contact enhancers, but neither of them will remove the very thin anti-corrosion plating(gold, nickel, etc) that most tube pins have. Steel wool(no matter how fine), working the tube in and out of the socket or abrasive cleaners will.
Abe, too bad you did not like the story.
However that is what happend to one guy who was going nuts about cleaning pins and suckets......and thought he knew everything. Since that day , he did not touched pins or suckets yet.
If you feel it should NOT be posted in this thread.......
piece of advice:
get in touch with the moderator or become one, it is that easy.
I am still useing brass polishing cream that costs close to nothing as well as regular contact cleaner from RS and comp.air. You experiences might be different........I am just shareing mine. However IMO, you are over-analizing the importance and benefits of the simple thing as tube pins.
So polish all you want and feel good about your pins. :)

Nahh, why would I feel that you cannot post in this thread? Anyone can, of course. We are here to entertain ourselves.

You know the problem with the Audiogon forums, everybody is pretending that it is real! Including me.

Great read though!

FWIW, I rarely use 9 pin small signal tubes nowadays. The smallest of tubes that I use extensively are the octals so steelwool is convenient to use in cleaning the pins. So in my case, scraping the audiophile approved gold plating on the pins is not really a factor.

There...I lied...I still have something to add......
9 pin tubes can be easily clean using wire brush,for octal and 4 pin,I use hair brush,soap and water but be careful not water getting in between glass and the tube  base.
You can clean sockets and tube pins but it should be done with caution!

Do not use any abrasives. The best thing I have found is spray contact cleaner that leaves no residue. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES USE ANY "CONTACT ENHANCERS"!!!

-If you do, you can contaminate the socket and possibly ruin the circuit board on which the socket sits or at the very least the socket itself. Contact enhancers can be identified as they usually have to be applied with some sort of swab and they most definitely leave a fine film. This film can migrate across insulators such as the socket material. This can degrade the performance of the circuit dramatically over time, and can even damage components! We had a customer ruin a set of circuit boards in his MP-1 preamp once- the only solution was to replace both boards with new components.

Tubes can have high voltage differentials on them so if you contaminate the tube or its socket you can get leakage voltages and stray capacitances that should not be in the circuit; that is how damage and degradation can result.

So: to clean the pins or the socket, use a spray contact **cleaner** that leaves no residue. Spray the pins of the tube itself, wipe off excess, insert in the socket and pull it out again. If a miniature tube, rock the tube in the socket and you are done. No more than that!

Tin plating is a common sight on tubes and tube sockets. Like gold, tin is highly conductive and does not corrode easily. Unlike gold though, it is rather hard and so holds up much longer to use. However it is, just like gold, a plating on the pin of the tube and the socket. If the plating is damaged by abrasion (such as steel wool) the result is that the material beneath the plating will be exposed to oxygen and could see significant corrosion! SO DO NOT USE ABRASIVES WHEN CLEANING TUBE PINS OR SOCKETS!

BTW, the use of silver and gold in tube connections really isn’t that great an idea. Tin is much more reliable in the long term. This is why you can still find tubes and tube sockets on ebay that are decades old and yet are perfectly serviceable.
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Ill often use 0000 wool and DeOxit. Not in tube sockets, pins are okay. Inspect and blow them off with compresses air then apply a tiny bit of dielectric grease where its suitable. I like putting it on RCA poles it saves having to wrestle some of the very tight ones off and potentially breaking something. 
I forgot to mention good hobby stores usually have an array of cleaning mini utensils and mechanical tools for RC that can come in handy.  
I should also say I trust the lightest steel wool. One or two even three cleanings will not remove a quality plating it just isnt aggressive enough. By the time it would it wiould have taken countless cleanings by then it would be time for new tubes anyway. I use it on open grain fine furniture if it needs a good cleaning among other things. I can see how people would think "yikes steel wool", the light stuff isnt as aggressive as some may think. The name implies disaster and there can be some truth to that. I would probably option something else when it comes to something like an auto finish or jewelry, eye glasses, that sort of thing.