how to clean clarinet mouthpiece

Your clarinet and its mouthpiece will grow unclean and will harbor bacteria as well as calcium deposits if they are not regularly maintained. This has the potential to not only alter the sound of your instrument but also make you sick. Rinsing and drying your clarinet properly will allow it to retain its wonderful sound for many years to come.

1. Drying the Clarinet after Use

1. Disassemble the clarinet. Loosen the ligament. Remove the mouthpiece and the reed inside of it. Also undo the barrel joint that connects the mouthpiece to the joints that contain the keys. It’s a good idea to do this cleaning every time you play in order to remove moisture that can damage the clarinet.
  • Although it is possible to disassemble the lower joints so that each component of the instrument can be cleaned separately, in most cases this step is not required to properly maintain the instrument.
2. Wipe off the reed.When you play the clarinet, saliva gets left on the reed. This spit leaves behind food particles and provides a wet environment that is ideal for the growth of germs and fungi. After you have finished playing, take a clean, soft towel and wipe the reed down with it. Then, place the reed back in its case.

  • Keep in mind that your fabric needs to be washed on occasion. Germs and saliva will be transferred back onto the reed if you use a dirty cloth.
3. Swab the clarinet. A specialized swab that is strung up on a string can be used to clean the joints and the bell of the instrument. The swab should be pulled through the bell after the string has been passed through it and out the opposite end. Be sure that the cotton swab is spread out so that it may reach the maximum amount of the instrument. If you have the joints of the clarinet disassembled from one another, you can wipe each joint independently using the same method.
  • You may purchase specialized swabs either on the internet or in music supply stores.
4. Rinse the mouthpiece. During your regular cleaning, you can put the mouthpiece under cold or warm running water to remove saliva and debris beginning to form. This will make later deep cleaning easier.

5. Dry the mouthpiece. Before you reassemble the clarinet or store the pieces, make sure the mouthpiece is dry. Use a swab on a string by running the string through the mouthpiece and pulling the swab through. Leave the mouthpiece out in the open to dry in air for several minutes to half an hour to ensure all moisture is gone.
6. Wash the swab. When working on your instrument, you should always use a clean swab so that you don’t risk reintroducing moisture or other potentially damaging contaminants. Before you forget to clean it, toss your swab into the washing machine with the rest of your clothes, and then hang it up to dry so that it will be ready for the next time you need it.

2. Preserving the Mouthpiece

1. Choose a small container. The mouthpiece must be able to fit inside the container, and the liquid must be able to completely surround it. Put the mouthpiece end down into the container so that it is facing the bottom. The container itself may be placed in a sink for storage.

  • At a minimum of once every month, but preferably once per week, give the mouthpiece a thorough cleaning.
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2. Fill the container. Make a solution consisting of equal parts water and white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, and use that. Deep cleaning the mouthpiece can be accomplished with one of these methods. These compounds do not possess the necessary potency to do any damage to the instrument. The temperature of the water should never exceed cool or mild, but never hot.

  • A regular dish soap can also be used to clean the mouthpiece, regardless of whether the water is cold or warm.

3. Brush off limescale.

After letting the mouthpiece soak for a few minutes, use a soft brush to scrape it in order to remove any buildup that may have occurred. Specialty mouthpiece brushes that won’t damage your instrument can be purchased at most music stores.

  • Limescale can also be eliminated with the use of a child’s toothbrush.

4. Rinse the mouthpiece. Rinse the mouthpiece in lukewarm or cold water using the sink’s faucet. The water helps remove any lingering limescale and washes away any soap, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide that may have been present. If the mouthpiece is still dirty, you will need to repeat the steps from before.


5. Use sterisol. This isn’t required, but germicide ensures that all the bacteria is removed from the mouthpiece. Sterisol is regularly sold for instrument cleaning, but mouthwash can also be used. Soak the mouthpiece in a small container of the solution.

6. Wipe the mouthpiece dry. Before putting the clarinet back together or storing the components, wipe away any remaining moisture with a paper towel or a clean, soft cloth. Any residual moisture can cause the pads in the clarinet to deteriorate and can also provide a fertile environment for the growth of bacteria inside your instrument case.

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You may ensure that all of the moisture has been removed from the mouthpiece by allowing it to dry completely on the paper towel or cloth.

Cleaning your clarinet ligature

It is important to keep your ligature clean so that corrosion does not build up, so that it continues to function properly, and so that it continues to look nice. If you do regular maintenance, the screws will remain easy to move, and the reed will be able to vibrate as it should, which will result in accurate resonance.

Use a gentle cloth dampened with warm water and soap to remove any limescale or grime that may have accumulated. Use a paper towel or a soft cloth to dry the area. Polishing the ligature with your polishing cloth will result in a lustrous finish that is ready for use. It is recommended that you clean your ligature around once every month.

Cleaning and sanitizing your clarinet reed

If not cleaned on a regular basis, say every week, your reed can grow mold or get an unhealthy buildup of germs. Luckily, cleaning your reed is simple and quick.

  1. Soak your reed: In this stage, you can choose to use mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, or Sterisol with water in a small container. Mix the mouthwash, Sterisol, and water in the same proportions as the water. You can reuse the container that you used to clean your mouthpiece, as long as you make sure to give it a final rinse first. Because the reeds are not particularly large, you won’t need to put in very much. It is recommended that you soak your reed holder in the solution as well because it is likely to be contaminated with the same germs. Ten to fifteen minutes of soaking time is recommended. Additionally, you can clean multiple reeds at the same time.
    Which liquid to use: Mouthwash not only acts as an antibacterial but also leaves your breath smelling minty fresh after use. Hydrogen peroxide is used for destroying microorganisms. You may find Sterisol, a sanitizer and germicide that is preferred by many musicians and can be purchased either locally or online from instrument retailers. Be aware that if you soak your reed in Sterisol for an extended period of time, it will turn red. The game can still be played normally; the only change is in its appearance.
  2. Wipe and dry your reed: Following the soaking process, you should carefully dry your reed by wiping it off with a paper towel or a soft cloth. Be careful to always begin at the back of the reed and work your way forward in order to avoid causing any kind of harm to the front edge of the reed. Using a paper towel or a clean, soft cloth, thoroughly dry the reed casing as well. After the reed has been allowed to air dry for a little bit longer, place it back into the holder it came with, and then place it back into the instrument box.
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