Breathing New Life into Old Zills

It has been a wonderful and busy summer, and with fall just around the corner I’ve been busy closet clearing, deep cleaning, and preparing for the colder months. This includes my costume and prop collection. Once or twice a year I reassess my belly dance needs and change out what no longer serves me, and the end of summer is a great time to do so. This time I’m attempting to apply Marie Kondo’s method of Spark Joy to my belly dance closet. I read her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and went through the process about five years ago, and it really is life changing. However, at that time my belly dance closet was boxed up, and I did not know if I’d return to dancing or not, so I let it be.

This year, with belly dance classes in full swing in Battle Ground, dance shows in planning and production in SW Washington, and performances regularly occurring across the US, I’ve decided to tackle the closet. In doing so, I’ve realized that I have too many zills. I don’t play seven pairs...ever. In fact, some I’ve never played, nor do I enjoy their tonality, so I am giving away my one set of student finger cymbals (the first set I ever owned), and selling three other sets at a local Portland, Oregon belly dance bazaar.

I’ve also realized that my favorite pairs have seen better days; they have become discolored and dull. I wondered about how to refresh them, so did a quick Google search that took me to Middle Eastren Dance’s webpage on how to re-shine and re-tone finger cymbals. The tonality still sounds great on mine, so I focused on how to brighten the appearance. She suggests soaking cymbals in lemon juice for three minutes, then rubbing with salt. The thought of doing something so harsh and abrasive to my beloved zills was unnerving, so I started with my first set of student cymbals from eons ago.



I removed the old elastic and gave them a good scrub with dish soap and warm water. Then, one by one, I submerged them into a bowl of lemon juice. After three minutes I remove them, dipped a paper towel into the lemon juice and then into salt, and began gently scrubbing in circular motions. Sure enough, the discoloration began to fade! It was immediate with the student cymbals, like watching a TV commercial for the magical cleaning properties of Pine-Sol.

With my upcoming performance music playing in the background, I treated four sets of cymbals, including a set of Saroyan Afghani’s in German silver, Saroyan Turkish Delights in brass, and Zildjans. Soap, juice, salt, rinse. It worked beautifully on all four sets. However, all but the Zildjans were a bit dull in shine after the process, so I used a jewelry polishing cloth to buff them to as a high a shine as I could.

Once I finish adding elastic to the four sets, a gemstone to the pieces that fit my middle finger (in order to quickly distinguish elastic size), they will be ready to sing again. Thank you to Middle Eastern Dance for posting your DIY cleaning recipe for finger cymbals. It worked beautifully!

Malia Christina is a professional belly dance in SW Washington, based in Battle Ground, WA. She teaches weekly local classes, workshops, and performs across the US and internationally. For more information, please visit or visit us on FB at

#bellydance #fingercymbals #diybellydance #zills #sagat #segat #cleanyourcymbals

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