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How to Clean Your Clarinet

Any instrument that isn't cleaned on a regular basis is likely to become unsanitary quickly. Food particles, sugar, and germs don't just create a breeding ground for bacteria, but they also change the tonal characteristics of the instrument. The clarinet is especially prone to this happening. Its small size, tight fit in the case, and small vents (tone holes) trap any moisture left in the instrument when they player is done.

Fortunately, it's easy to do preventative cleaning on your clarinet that can prevent build-up that would affect the instrument.

Here are a few dos and don'ts do help guide you along the way.


1. Wash your mouthpiece once a week. Use the small brush in your Clarinet Care Kit or a baby-size soft toothbrush to clean the edges and surfaces. Be careful not to scratch the mouthpiece by pushing too hard.

2. Use the swab to remove moisture from each of the clarinet joints before you put the instrument in its case.

3. Apply cork grease to the tenon corks on your clarinet when the instrument becomes difficult to put together. New (or recently replaced) tenon corks will need this more often.

4. If your clarinet is made of wood, the body will eventually need to be treated with bore oil. Use a few drops on a clean swab and pull it through the instrument.

5. Over time, you will eventually encounter a sticky key that doesn't open or close reliably. Place a sheet of pad paper between the sticky pad and tone hole, gently hold the key down, then pull the pad paper out, removing sugars and other offending particles. Repeat as many times as needed to eliminate gummy sounds and stickiness.  A severely soiled pad will need to be replaced by a qualified technician at your local music store.


1. Wash any part of the clarinet, except the mouthpiece, using water. This can damage the pads, causing the instrument not to play at all, and actually accelerate mildew growth. Instead, use the swab that comes in your Clarinet Care Kit and pull it through each joint several times to eliminate moisture from the body.

2. Store the mouthpiece in the case with the reed still attached. Take the reed off, gently dry it off, and store it in a reed case to prolong its life and prevent bacteria growth.

3. Remove any keys or rods trying to get to the dirt on the body. Use the small brush that comes in your Clarinet Care Kit to get what you can reach. If your clarinet is very dirty, it's probably time to bring it to your local music store repair shop.

Finishing Up

These are simple steps you can and should be doing every time you play the clarinet. Regularly cleaning your clarinet will prevent small issues from developing into larger symptoms that may cause your clarinet to not play properly. You can prolong the life of the pads and reduce your repair shop costs and time away from the instrument.

Good luck!

Posted by Ben Fonville at 6:00 AM
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