Musicians and cleaning instrument parts

Cleaning instruments

We're entering that lovely time of year where people get sick, and then sick again, annnnnndddd sick again. Musicians are notorious for continuing illnesses.

Properly disinfecting equipment during and after an illness is a necessity!

Luckily, this is a very simple process with only a few steps based on the instrument being played.

  1. For every musician, wash your hands during the day and before/after lunch! 
    • This step serves as a excellent shield against contracting and transmitting viruses.
    • There are a lot of hands touching the doors and table tops at a school. 
  2. For Brass Players (trumpet, horn, trombone, baritone, tuba).
    • Mouthpieces should be disinfected with one of these methods.
      • Use hot water and soap and wash all the surfaces.
      • Use rubbing alcohol on all of the surfaces.
        • Let the rubbing alcohol completely evaporate before rinsing the mouthpiece in water.
  3. For Clarinets and Saxophones
    • Mouthpieces
      • Use warm water (not hot) and soap and wash all the surfaces of the mouthpiece (inside and out).
      • Use a mouthpiece brush to gently scrub the inside and outside of the mouthpiece.
      • Rinse with water.
      • Dry.
    • Disinfecting reeds
      • Float or submerge the reed in a solution of 50% water and 50% peroxide (it will bubble up in the peroxide solution) or 50% water and 50% vinegar.
        • Let the reed sit in the solution for 30-45 seconds.
        • Rinse it well.
        • Let the reed air dry completely on a flat surface before putting it back in the reed case.
  4. For Flutes
    • Use rubbing alcohol and a q-tip or cotton swab on all of the surfaces of the Headjoint only.
      • Be sure to get the inside of the lip plate and embouchure hole area.
      • Do not submerge the headjoint in water.
        • A cork is at the closed end and the water submersion can ruin the cork's sealing ability to close off the end.
  5. For Percussion
    • Wash your hands!


Two NO-NOs to remember for flutes, clarinets, and saxophones!

  1. Do not boil mouthpieces or instruments.
  2. Do not put musical instruments or instrument parts in the dishwasher!

Boiling water and/or dishwashers will ruin woodwind instruments, woodwind mouthpieces, and flute headjoints.

Yes, I've had students in the past do what I just mentioned. The intent was good, but the process was bad...


Here are some additional resources about cleaning mouthpieces which detail similar processes.

UNLV School of Music

Fresno State University


I constantly remind the band that I wash my hands somewhere between 5-15 times while I'm at my schools. I always wash them when arriving at campus and when leaving a campus. I often wash them between classes (providing I have a moment to do so).



Pat Zaur



Director of Bands at O'Connor Elementary



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