How do you Clean Your Instrument?

Keeping it Clean

How do you clean a musical instrument? How do you disinfect an instrument? Colds and sicknesses are constantly being passed around our schools and musical ensembles. Playing an instrument every day can be a fast track to illness. Did you know that not properly cleaning your instrument can cause deterioration of the inside, leading to frequent trips to the repair shop

We may know that our instruments need periodic cleaning, but how often should we clean them? And how can we clean our instruments without damaging them? This post answers these questions and more. It is broken down by instrument type so you can make sure you are giving your instrument the specific care it needs to perform its best.


Brass Instruments:


The Mouthpiece 


According to the Take Lessons Blog, you can spray the mouthpiece of your brass instrument with water and brush it out with a mouthpiece brush before drying it. If the mouthpiece needs a deeper clean, you can soak it in a mixture of warm water and soap. 


trumpetThe Instrument


How do you clean the inside of a brass instrument? According to the National Educational Music Company, it is a good idea to give your brass instrument a deep cleansing bath about once a month. To do so, disassemble the entire instrument and wash it in a bath of warm water with soap before letting it dry.


Saxophones and Clarinets: 


The Mouthpiece 


If your mouthpiece is plastic, you can wash it out in lukewarm water with a mild soap. Just be careful about getting the cork on your clarinet mouthpiece too wet, as this can cause the cork to disintegrate over time. You can also use a mouthpiece brush to clean out the mouthpiece. After playing, be sure to swab out moisture from the mouthpiece with a small cleaning swab or mouthpiece brush!


All Woodwinds: 


dirty clarinetThe Instrument 

Always swab out the inside of your woodwind instrument after playing! Moisture left inside can cause pads and other parts of the instrument to deteriorate. One quick swab extends the life and playing ability of your instrument, preventing you from making frequent trips to the repair shop.




Old reeds can harbor a lot of bacteria, food particles, and even mold. Make sure to gently wipe off the moisture from your reeds after playing, using your cleaning swab. If a reed is starting to look black, toss it, as this can be a sign of mold! Be sure to always put away your reeds after playing and don’t leave them in conditions of extreme heat or humidity. 


All Wind Instruments:


trumpet cleaningThe Inside

Did you know that food particles in your mouth can travel to the pads of your woodwind instrument or the valves and slides of your brass instrument?


Having a slice of pizza before orchestra practice or going out to dinner before a concert? Make sure you brush your teeth before playing! If you are not able to brush your teeth, chew gum or rinse your mouth out with water. Your instrument will thank you!


The Outside


Feeling like your horn is covered in a layer of grease, dirt, or grime from months (or years) of playing? Use a polishing cloth to clean the surfaces of your instrument. You can also use tone hole cleaners to clean the keys of woodwinds and cleaning snakes to clean out the valves and bores of brass instruments. 

While cleaning your instrument regularly can’t prevent you from making any trips to the repair shop, it can push off a trip to the repair shop and keep your instrument sounding fantastic for years to come.


Keeping your instrument clean is well worth the effort. Make keeping yourself and your instrument healthy a priority by following these cleaning tips and you’ll be glad that you did!


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