If you play a woodwind instrument, it’s really important that you clean the woodwind mouthpiece regularly. This part is more likely to be contaminated with bacteria, yeasts, and moulds than any other part of the instrument – and this is the part you put in your mouth!
By not cleaning their mouthpiece regularly, woodwind musicians are subjecting themselves to possible infections and allergic reactions. This is more important now than ever before, with the risks associated with covid-19 and playing a wind instrument. The good news is that we can clean our mouthpieces easily and regularly, which we’re going to break down for you in this blog!
We want to start by making sure that we don’t have any build-up on or inside our woodwind mouthpiece. If you have any lime deposits on the beak or baffle of your mouthpiece, you can remove these with a soft toothbrush and white vinegar. Dip the toothbrush into the vinegar, and gently rub the affected parts. Repeat this as many times as necessary to remove the build-up. We really like using bamboo toothbrushes for this job!
If your mouthpiece is particularly grubby, use a mouthpiece brush to remove residue from the inside. We would suggest purchasing a mouthpiece brush with a coating to prevent any scratching. Not only does this decrease the value of the mouthpiece and not look good, but it can also change the way it responds and sounds! We may or may not be launching something suitable in the next few months…
Removing mouthpiece patch glue
If you have traces of glue, from a mouthpiece patch, for example, you can remove this easily too. Again, a soft toothbrush comes in handy, but this time with cooking oil. Dip the toothbrush into the relevant solution, and gently rub the affected parts. Repeat this as many times as necessary to remove the build-up. Another oil that we like to use is our bore oil – not only does it smell lovely, but it saves us buying another product (and the extra packaging) when we have something perfectly suitable in our instrument care kit already!
Sanitising your mouthpiece
Now, it’s all very well and good removing calcium deposits and mouthpiece patch glue from our woodwind mouthpiece, but the fact that we can’t see anything on our mouthpiece doesn’t necessarily make it clean. There are plenty of invisible nasties that can live inside and on our woodwind mouthpiece, without us even realising. This is why it’s important to sanitise it regularly.
There are lots of different products the market currently that can help you do this. However, many of them contain harmful chemicals and toxins – which ideally shouldn’t go anywhere near your mouth! Each come with their own specific directions and hazard warnings, so we’re going to stick to what we know best…and that’s our very own sanitiser spray!
- Spray the solution all over, and inside the mouthpiece. It’s important to remember that it won’t sanitise any surface that it doesn’t come into contact with, so make sure it’s completely saturated.
- Leave spray on for 1 minute. That’s how long it’s going to take to kill 99.9999% of the germs (including bacteria, viruses, yeasts, moulds, spores, and enveloped viruses including Influenza, HIV and Human Coronavirus)
- Once the time is up, you’ll need to rinse your mouthpiece with clean, cold water.
- Dry your mouthpiece with a clean, lint-free cloth before playing it or putting it back in its case (here’s an example of one that’s perfect for the job!)
- Use the same spray to sanitise your hands afterwards – it’s skin-friendly!
(If you’re interested in a spray that’s free from alcohol, fragrances and harmful chemicals, and is safe on all plastic, ebonite and metal woodwind mouthpieces…check it out here!)
The last thing we want you to think after reading this blog is that you need to brush your mouthpiece with vinegar and oil, replace your mouthpiece patch AND spray it with a sanitiser every single time you play. Not only would that be incredibly time consuming, but it would also be pretty wasteful and expensive to replace your mouthpiece patches at that rate.
Each time you play your instrument, you should be drying your mouthpiece before you put it away. This can be done very easily by swabbing with a pull-through. Your mouthpiece should be cleaned with a sanitiser on a weekly basis (or more often if you prefer). The vinegar can be used when you start to see any build-up on your woodwind mouthpiece, which you shouldn’t if you’re cleaning it properly each time you use it. You’ll only need to use oil to remove mouthpiece patch glue when you’re replacing it. This will be when your teeth have gone through it, when it’s peeling off, or when it’s just looking a little worse for wear!
So, there you have it – some top tips on how to look after your woodwind instrument mouthpiece. In a future post, we’ll be doing the same for our brass playing friends. If you have any requests, feel free to let us know here or reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook!