berp bio oil: a Fantastic Earth-Friendly Valve Oil
An idea whose time has come: a valve oil specifically formulated without the traditional petroleum distillates as its primary lubricant. The result is a bio-degradable, non-toxic lubricant made from renewable sources - the world's first "green" valve oil for brass instruments.
From the makers of the fantastic BERP brass instrument practice tool, berp bio oil is not only an "Earth-friendly" product, but it is the most effective valve oil I have ever used. The BERP's creator, Mario Guarneri, contacted me after reading my review of his original product and offered to let me review this new one. My initial reaction was, "A Green valve oil - good idea."
Recently at my school, the school's director asked all faculty members to submit data for the school's Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) Manual. If you're not familiar with this, it is the large manual required by law to be available to anyone using a public facility such as a YMCA or a school. It contains descriptions of hazardous materials on the premises and what symptoms humans display if they ingest or come into contact with them. As I thought to myself, "What materials in my instrumental music room could possibly be hazardous to people's health?", the only answer I came up with was, "The valve oil."
The MSDS sheet for a typical valve oil shows that is contains petroleum distillates and other synthetic oils, none of which are toxic, but do cause symptoms such as nausea and diarrhea if swallowed, irritation if exposed to eyes or skin, and produced carbon monoxide when burnt. And for decades, brass players have been breathing in trace amounts of this stuff! While the amounts inhaled are minute, I personally would rather be inhaling organic materials than petroleum distillates.
berp bio oil is pale yellow in color, smells like citrus, and is a much lighter and less "syrup-y" oil than traditional valve oil. One of the things that always was a minor annoyance about traditional valve oil is that it stains clothing. I often would come home from a day in the band room with stains all over my pants from valve oil drips, so much so that when I came through the front door, my wife would ask, "What smells like gasoline?" The first thing I did with bio oil was put a few drops on my pant leg. Like traditional valve oil, it left a small wet mark on the fabric and was absorbed into the fibers within a minute or two. Unlike traditional valve oil, it did not leave a prolonged stain and did not have a strong, lingering odor. bio oil: 1, regular valve oil: 0
Green is Great, But How Is It As a Valve Oil?
Then it was time for the real test. I got my trumpet out, and luckily (or typically), the third piston valve was initially stuck and the second valve was moving very slowly. Mr. Guarneri recommends cleaning the valves ahead of oiling them, but also states that it is not necessary. I just applied it right away. The first drawback that I found was that the squeeze bottle is actually rather difficult to squeeze. That may have been just my bottle, or that may be by design. Because it was difficult to squeeze with one hand and hold the valve in the other, I only put two or three drops on each valve. The oil goes on much more like water than traditional oil, which tends to spread out and diffuse across the surface.
Once I screwed the valves back on, I tried them. The only word I can use to describe it is WOW! Not only was the slow valve no longer slow, but all three moved as if they were brand new! Perhaps the bottle is hard to squeeze because you only need a few drops to get the valves moving like lightning! It is by far the most effective valve oil I've ever used.
I let the trumpet sit for a while and came back to it later, and the action hadn't changed. According to Mr. Guarneri's website, bio oil does not evaporate the same way traditional oil does. Any brass player or band director who has played an outdoor gig, suffered through summer marching band camp, or marched in a drum and bugle corps has undoubtedly experienced the phenomena known affectionately as "sun valves." Brass instruments in the hot sun tend to end up with sticky valves from oil evaporation, dust and dirt gumming up the works, and so on. After a few hours outside in the sun on my back porch, there was no noticeable difference in valve action when using this product.
A Few Considerations
Of course, the fact that bio oil does not evaporate as easily means that the valves will have to be cleaned periodically to prevent build-up, but if you are doing regular maintenance on any brass instrument, you do this anyway. Band directors may have to monitor and insist upon students cleaning out valves for school-owned instruments. Also, Mr. Guarneri states on his website that bio oil can be mixed with other traditional oils without "gunking up", but for best results, using bio oil alone is recommended. Because bio oil lasts longer, players will not need to re-apply the oil as frequently as conventional valve oils.
For more details on this fantastic product, including ordering information and discounts for school groups, visit the Berp Bio Oil website.
Be sure to mention this review when you order.
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