how to clean a clarinet mouthpiece

It is essential to maintain any musical instrument, but keeping the clarinet in pristine condition is extremely essential. Brushing your teeth and thoroughly rinsing your mouth out with water before each time you play your clarinet is actually the most effective technique to keep it clean. However, this is not always possible, and even if it is, your clarinet will still require upkeep in order to function properly. Each component needs special attention in order to continue operating properly. After a practice session or a rehearsal is the optimum time to clean a clarinet since any residue that may have been left on the instrument has not yet had a chance to dry.

In this post, we will walk you through all you need to know about cleaning a clarinet with our cleaning guide that is broken down into step-by-step instructions.

What You’ll Need

In order to get started, you will need to go out and purchase a few cleaning materials, which should include the following:

  • Bowl
  • Hot water (but not boiling)
  • Sanitizing spray
  • Mouthwash or hydrogen peroxide
  • Clarinet swab
  • Mouthpiece brush
  • Cotton swab
  • Dish soap/liquid hand soap
  • Polishing cloth
  • Cork grease
  • Cleaning paper
  • Key brush
  • Key oil
  • Bore oil

Some of these things are things that you should have laying around the house, while others are things that are specifically designed for cleaning clarinets.

Clarinet Cleaning Step by Step Instructions

1. Take the Clarinet Apart

Before you even begin to clean your clarinet, you need to first take it apart into its five individual parts. This is the first step in the cleaning process.

In addition to removing the mouthpiece, you will also need to detach the reed and the ligature from the reed and remove them.

Due to the fact that reeds are quite fragile, you should always use extreme caution when putting them away in order to avoid breaking them.

2. Swab the Clarinet Body

After each time you play the clarinet, you need to wipe it down with a dry cloth to eliminate any extra moisture that may have accumulated before putting it back in its case.

The procedure is fairly straightforward, but it is absolutely necessary for the continued health of both you and your clarinet.

Take the swab and gently work it through each section of the clarinet by inserting the weighted end of the swab into a section of the instrument and then pulling the swab through the section.

After you have finished cleaning the body of the clarinet with the swab provided, you will need to disassemble the barrel, upper joint, lower joint, and bell and set them to the side.

Repeat this method multiple times until you are certain that the clarinet does not contain any moisture remaining in it.

You can also swab your clarinet after it has been assembled by turning it over so that the bell is pointing upwards, and then taking the little, weighted end of the clarinet swab and dropping it through the bell. This method works best when the bell is facing upwards.

Make sure that you hold your clarinet carefully with one hand so that you don’t bend any of the keys, and use the other hand to pull on the weight and draw the swab through the instrument. This is true regardless of the method that you choose to complete this task.

However, it is imperative that you never use the swab to clean the mouthpiece because doing so can, over time, damage them and affect the shape of the interior of the mouthpiece. Swabbing should never be used.

3. Cleaning Your Reeds

Each and every time that clarinet reeds are used, they must first be removed from the mouthpiece before the mouthpiece may be stored back in its case.

Sanitizing spray ought to be used on the reed and mouthpiece of the instrument if you are sick, as this will help prevent the spread of illness.

Even if you observe all of these guidelines, you should still sanitize your reed on a regular basis.

There are many different approaches to take here.

The method that is most straightforward is to first rinse the reed under warm water after soaking it in mouthwash for a minute and a half.

If you don’t have any mouthwash on hand, another option is to let your reed soak in a mixture of hot water and hydrogen peroxide in a ratio of one part peroxide to one part water for a few minutes, then thoroughly rinse it afterward (because peroxide has a strong smell and taste).

When sanitizing a reed, you should never use rubbing or isopropyl alcohol because it can be harmful if swallowed.

It ought to be adequate to sterilize the reed if done in this manner.

It is possible for there to be a residue built up on the reed if you play while wearing lip balm, or if you have a tendency of eating or drinking anything other than water before you play.

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To remove any film, you should make an effort to clean the reed gently with your fingertip while it is submerged in the soaking fluid.

Finally, to stop the reed from warping while it dries, place it on a level surface.

4. Cleaning the Mouthpiece

Because the mouthpiece is typically the dirtiest element of the clarinet, you will need to make sure that you clean it as part of your regular regimen.

If you don’t have a mouthpiece brush handy, you can use a small toothbrush or bottle brush instead. However, you should be very careful of any hard surfaces on the brush that could harm the mouthpiece. Mouthpiece brushes are rather inexpensive.

In a bowl, place a couple of drops of regular hand soap or dish soap, and then fill the bowl with warm water.

However, you should check to make sure that it is not boiling, as the mouthpiece may become deformed if the water is too hot.

Put the mouthpiece you’re using to speak into the basin of water, and then wait a few minutes before removing it.

As soon as it has had some time to soak and get nice and sudsy, rapidly press the mouthpiece brush in and out of the mouthpiece repeatedly to dislodge any residue that may be stuck inside.

When you are through, give it a thorough rinsing in some warm water, and then allow it to air dry.

A cotton swab, often known as a Q-tip, can be used to examine the state of cleanliness of the mouthpiece by being moved along the inside corners of the mouthpiece. This is an effective method.

If the cotton swab comes away clean, the cleaning operation is complete; if it does not, however, you will need to do it again.

When you are finished cleaning the mouthpiece, you should wait until it is totally dry before placing it back in the case.

5. Clean Each Segment

Whether or not you wash your hands before playing the clarinet, the oil from your fingers will transfer to the instrument.

Polishing cloths designed specifically for musical instruments are impregnated with a very thin quantity of polish, which allows them to remove dust without scratching the surface of the instrument.

A clean cloth made of microfiber can serve the same purpose as a polishing cloth in the event that you do not have one available.

Be sure to pay close attention to the keys and any other areas of the clarinet where your fingers might rest when you polish the metal elements of the instrument with the cloth so that they gleam.

You can also use a polishing cloth to clean your ligature, which is another option available to you.

If you detect rods or keys that appear to have a residue on them, the cause of the residue is most likely water or excess moisture.

While you play the clarinet, condensation forms on the interior of the instrument. This condensation has the potential to escape through the perforations and drip along the keys.

To eliminate this residue, you should use a key brush that has two sides, such as the one included in this cleaning package.

Simply take the end of the brush that is spiralized and clean the key by rubbing it gently with it until it is clean.

Use the end that resembles a paint brush for areas that are more difficult to access or for joints that may merely have dust on them.

6. Cleaning the Pads and Tone Holes

The pads and tone holes of the clarinet can become clogged with condensation if it does not escape, which can cause the keys to become sticky.

To clean keypads, just position a sheet of cleaning paper so that it is sandwiched between the keypad and the hole, then push down on the paper repeatedly while shifting it each time until the key no longer leaves a mark on the paper after being pressed.

If you have a really sticky key, you might need to apply powder paper (in the same way) in order for it to work correctly.

7. Oiling the Keys

Key oil, such as the one that can be found below, will make it easier for the keys of your clarinet to move smoothly.

Even though the majority of the clarinet’s components are constructed of metals that do not rust, the screws that are utilized on those components might deteriorate with time if the instrument is kept in an area with a high level of humidity or if it is routinely put away while still wet.

A drop of key oil should be applied on the hinge of each key in order to lubricate it and prevent rust from forming.

Use only very little drops of the key oil because just a little bit goes a long way.

8. Checking the Corks

Corks have the potential to dry out and become compressed with regular usage; in order to stop this from happening, they will need to be well lubricated and kept.

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Rub a small smear of cork grease (like the one below) on the tenon if the cork on the mouthpiece, either end of the upper joint, or the bottom of the lower joint feels dry or if it is difficult to slip into its socket.

You can apply the grease all over the cork with your finger, but you need to be careful not to use too much of it as it could seep out of the joint and end up in places where it shouldn’t be.

9. Using Bore Oil

The clarinet’s bore (also known as the inside of the instrument) should be oiled as the final step in a thorough cleaning of the instrument.

Bore oil, such as the one below, prevents the wood of the clarinet from becoming brittle as a result of absorbing an excessive amount of moisture.

In order to accomplish this, first connect the barrel, the upper joint, and the lower joint, and then put a tiny amount of oil on a cotton clarinet swab that has been thoroughly cleaned.

After carefully guiding the swab through the apparatus, allow it to rest there for a few minutes so that it can absorb the liquid.

Last but not least, pull another clean swab through the opening a few times to capture any remaining oil.

Why You Need To Clean Your Clarinet

During play, saliva, moisture, and possibly even bits of food can become trapped inside the instrument.

In the event that it is not removed, it may stimulate the growth of bacteria within the damp and dark case.

In addition to that, wooden clarinets have additional maintenance requirements.

A consistent cleaning schedule can prevent buildup from causing the metal to tarnish, causing the cork to become damaged, destroying the pads, and cracking or splitting.

How Often to Clean Your Clarinet

At various points in the process, various aspects of cleaning must be completed.

When necessary, the reed and mouthpiece should be cleaned with disinfectant, and then they should be let to air dry before being placed back in the case.

In addition to this, you should wipe down your clarinet after each time you play it.

Brushing your mouthpiece at least once every other week (and potentially once per week, depending on how often you play) is recommended.

Corks should be greased at least once per month, but the ease with which joints may be assembled is typically a good indicator of whether or not they need to be greased.

A monthly task should also include cleaning your pads and giving your keys a good brushing.

The bore and the keys should be oiled once per year, unless you frequently play in a highly humid atmosphere or if you do so outside, in which case you should reduce this frequency to once every six months.

It is not necessary to play professionally in order to be a responsible player, and a responsible clarinet player should be familiar with the proper cleaning techniques for their instrument. If it is not properly cared for and maintained, even the highest-quality clarinet will not perform as well or last as long as it otherwise could.

After playing a clarinet, there is no way to avoid an accumulation of saliva in your mouth. This is one of the reasons why you need to have a solid understanding of how to disassemble the instrument and clean each individual component of it. It doesn’t matter if you’re only going to be storing the instrument for a day or for an entire year; there are specific actions and safeguards that need to be done in order to protect the health of the instrument and, in some instances, your own as well.

For instance, mold can grow on instruments that are not properly maintained, which can lead to a fungal infection known as a saxophone lung if the instrument is played regularly.Careful attention is required to be paid to the instrument for a variety of reasons, including this one.

How to clean a clarinet

If you are getting ready to clean your clarinet, there is one thing you need to bear in mind: the clarinet needs to be cleaned both after it has been disassembled and after it has been put back together. However, this cleaning technique is not the same for all parts of the instrument, and in order to get the best possible results, the majority of the components will need to be handled in a different manner.

Swabbing the assembled clarinet

Swabbing the clarinet after it has been built is the first stage in the clarinet cleaning process. This should not present too much of a challenge. After each usage, the reed, the ligature, and the mouthpiece of the clarinet should be removed from the barrel, and then the inside of the instrument, from the barrel to the bell, should be wiped clean with a cotton swab.

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Disassembling and swabbing each piece

In order to give each component of the clarinet the thorough cleaning it deserves, the instrument as a whole must first be taken apart. The disassembly of the clarinet and its cleaning can be performed in this order, starting at the top and working your way down:

Unscrew the ligature carefully, then take it off.

Take the reed out of the mouthpiece taking care not to touch the point where it meets the mouthpiece. After that, the reed can be cleaned by soaking it in mouthwash or hydrogen peroxide for about ten minutes and then allowing it to dry before placing it back in its case.

Split the mouthpiece from the barrel of the instrument. It is recommended that the mouthpiece be washed on occasion, perhaps once per week, using warm water and a medium that is not abrasive. However, it should never be swabbed because swabs are abrasive and could distort the form of the mouthpiece, which would have an effect on the sound produced by the clarinet. After the mouthpiece has been allowed to dry, the cap should be reattached, and it should then be placed back into the clarinet case.

Turning it counterclockwise off the upper joint will allow you to remove the barrel. To clean the inside of the barrel as well as its exterior, use a cotton swab. When you are finished, you should put it in the clarinet case.

To remove the upper joint, twist it, but be careful not to grasp it or you can end up injuring the keys. Polish the keys with a polishing cloth as you use a cotton swab to clean the inside of the joint. You might also take this chance to inspect the screws that are keeping the keys in place. After it has been cleaned, you should place it in the appropriate location within the case.

Turning in opposite directions will help you separate the bell from the lower joint. To clean the interior of the bell and the lower joint, use a cotton swab. To remove moisture and grease, the keys of the lower joint should be polished in the same manner as the keys of the upper joint. After each component has been thoroughly cleaned, place it back in its casing.

In the event that the clarinet case is lost or stolen, replacements can be acquired even without the instrument. This is demonstrated by the bass clarinet case manufactured by Protec.

Maintenance tips

After playing, thoroughly drying off each and every one of the tenons. The presence of moisture on the tenons, which are used to attach the various sections of the clarinet, may cause the joints to swell and shatter. This is not an ideal situation and would call for instrument maintenance or possibly even the acquisition of a new one. You may prevent this from happening by cleaning the tenons after each usage.
Performing maintenance on the tone holes. The accumulation of dirt in the tubing of the instrument can cause the tone holes to become partially clogged, which in turn has an effect on the clarinet’s ability to be tuned properly. You may avoid this from happening by having a specialist clean the tubes for you or by utilizing a pipe cleaner.

Final thoughts

The clarinet is a musical instrument that has been meticulously created, and as such, it requires a level of care and attention that is commensurate with the accuracy of its creation. To accomplish this, it must be put together with care, taken apart in the same manner, and, most importantly, kept in good condition by being cleaned frequently and maintained appropriately.

There are several brands of clarinets that come packaged in robust cases and provide an extensive assortment of supplies for cleaning. One of these is the clarinet made by Yamaha and it’s called the YCL-450.

I really hope that this article was helpful in showing you how to properly clean a clarinet. However, in order to achieve the greater objective of maintenance, the clarinet must be cleaned using substances that are less likely to cause damage at a later stage in the instrument’s life.

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