Edgware Cares No. 6: How to clean your brass mouthpiece?

If you play a brass instrument, it’s really important that you clean the brass 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 rest your mouth on!

By not cleaning their mouthpiece regularly, brass 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!

Brushing brass mouthpiece
Brushing brass mouthpiece

Removing build-up

We want to start by making sure that we don’t have any build-up on or inside our brass mouthpiece. Given its narrow diameter, gunk can accumulate inside, which can actually change the diameter of the bore – which in turn will affect the sound you make! Use a mouthpiece brush to remove residue from the inside of your brass mouthpiece. Make sure you go both ways so you clean both the cup and the stem, and submerge it in water frequently as you brush. 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! Why not check out the one from our range here?

If you have any lime deposits on the outside 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!

We would also recommend popping your mouthpiece in the bath when you soak your instrument with our brass soak on a monthly basis.

Sanitising your mouthpiece

Now, it’s all very well and good removing calcium deposits from our brass 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 brass mouthpiece, without us even realising. This is why it’s important to sanitise it regularly.

There are lots of different products on 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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. Once the time is up, you’ll need to rinse your mouthpiece with clean, cold water.
  4. 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!)
  5. 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 and plated brass mouthpieces…check it out here!)

Polishing a silver-plated trumpet!
Polishing a silver-plated trumpet!

Polishing your brass mouthpiece

Now you’ve gone to all that effort to clean your mouthpiece, you may as well make it look good too! If you use a silver-plated mouthpiece, give it a good rub with a polishing cloth…and put your back into it! It will shine beautifully, so why not do the rest of your instrument whilst you’re at it?

Daily care

The last thing we want you to think after reading this blog is that you need to brush your mouthpiece AND spray it with a sanitiser every single time you play. The more often you do this, the quicker and easier a task it will be, but doing it once a week will be sufficient.

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, or using a soft lint-free cloth. If you’re drying your mouthpiece each time you play it, it won’t end up with gunk building up inside – and a brush could even been obsolete!

Cleaning brass mouthpieces with sanitiser spray
Cleaning brass mouthpieces with sanitiser spray

So, there you have it – some top tips on how to look after your brass instrument mouthpiece. Click here to read the post we did for our woodwind playing friends. If you have any requests, feel free to let us know here or reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook!