What you need to know about cleaning your band instrument

What you need to know about cleaning your band instrument

How to Clean Your Band Instruments

The following guidelines are for use by music educators, students and parents to learn how to clean band  instruments.

Information from the CDC suggests the COVID-19 virus can remain on the following instrument surfaces for the stated amount of time:

Brass – Up to 5 Days
Wood – Up to 4 Days
Plastic – Up to 3 Days
Strings – Up to 3 Days
Cork – Up to 2 Days

If students are picking up instruments for the first time since school has been closed, those instruments will not need more than general cleaning as described below.

Instrument Cases

It is a good idea to spray all cases inside and out with an aerosol disinfectant. Empty cases can be opened and set in the sun to dry and air out which will also help remove odors.

Instrument Hygiene

Before using an instrument, thoroughly clean both the outside and the inside of the mouthpiece with use of alcohol wipes, swabs, or disinfectant solution. After use wipe off the entire body with a clean soft cloth and wash your hands after you put the instrument away. 

It is also essential to maintain overall cleanliness using instrument-specific cleaning rods, swabs, mouthpiece brushes, and flexible 'snake' brushes, to prevent buildup of residue within the instrument. 

Woodwind Care and Cleaning Supplies

When cleaning woodwind instruments, be careful to protect the pads from cleaning solutions and excessive moisture.

Brass Care and Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning the Flute Head Joint

  1. Use a cotton swab saturated with denatured, isopropyl alcohol, to carefully clean around the embouchure hole.
  2. Alcohol wipes can be used on the flute's lip plate to kill germs.
  3. Use a soft, lint-free silk swab inserted into the cleaning rod, to clean the inside of the head joint.
  4. Do not run the head joint under water as it may saturate and eventually shrink the head joint cork.

Cleaning Hard Rubber and Ebony Clarinet and Saxophone Mouthpieces

  1. Mouthpieces should be swabbed after each use and cleaned every week.
  2. Use a small container that will accommodate the mouthpiece vertically and place the mouthpiece, tip down, into the container.
  3. Fill the container just past the window of the mouthpiece with a solution of 50% water and 50% white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.
    *Protect clarinet mouthpiece corks from moisture.
  4. After the mouthpiece has soaked for fifteen minutes, use an appropriately sized mouthpiece brush to remove residue from inside and outside surfaces.
    Repeat as needed.
  5. Rinse the mouthpiece thoroughly and then saturate with disinfectant solution.
    Place on paper towel and wait one minute.
  6. Wipe dry with paper towel.
  7. Note: Metal saxophone mouthpieces clean up well with hot water, mild dish soap, and a mouthpiece brush. Disinfectant solution is also safe for metal mouthpieces.

Cleaning Saxophone Necks

  1. Swabs are available to clean the inside of the saxophone neck, or you can use a flexible bottle brush and toothbrush to accomplish the same results.
  2. The saxophone neck should be swabbed after each use and cleaned weekly.
  3. Use the bottle brush with mild, soapy water to clean the inside of the neck.
  4. Rinse under running water.
  5. Disinfectant solution may be used on the inside of the neck if desired.
    Place on paper towel for one minute.
  6. Rinse again under running water, dry, and place in the case.

Cleaning Brass Instrument Mouthpieces

  1. Mouthpieces should be cleaned at least monthly.
  2. Use a cloth soaked in warm, soapy water to clean the outside of the mouthpiece.
  3. Use a mouthpiece brush with warm, soapy water to clean the inside.
  4. Rinse the mouthpiece and dry thoroughly.
  5. Disinfectant solution may be used on the mouthpiece. Place on paper towel for one minute.
  6. Wipe dry with paper towel.

Cleaning String Instruments

  1. Isopropyl alcohol should be used on the strings and unfinished finger and fret boards.
  2. String, percussion, and keyboard instruments present fewer hygienic issues. Players should simply wash their hands before and after use for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Choosing a Disinfectant for Musical Instruments

  1. Sterisol Germicide Solution can be safely used on plastics, hard rubbers, and metals.
  2. Mi-T-Mist Mouthpiece Cleanser can be used on most materials, but is NOT recommended for use on hard rubber mouthpieces.
  3. Isopropyl alcohol wipes are safe for most materials, but are NOT recommended for use on hard rubber mouthpieces.
  4. A solution made with 50% water and 50% white vinegar, or 50% water and 50% hydrogen peroxide can be safely used on plastics, hard rubbers, and metals.

Read and follow product instructions. 

Remember - disinfectants do not remove dirt, so mouthpieces and instruments must be cleaned thoroughly before using.

For more information, visit https://www.nfhs.org/articles/covid-19-instrument-cleaning-guidelines/