Instrument Health During COVID-19 / Cold & Flu Season


With the spread of COVID-19 in addition to cold and flu season, we would like to offer some advice about how to keep your woodwind or brass instrument clean and safer for you to use.


Please note, if you are recovering from a serious contagious illness inform our staff so that we can take the proper precautions to protect ourselves and our other customers.


First, regular maintenance of your instrument is vital for your health and the health of your instrument.  Brass instruments should receive an annual professional cleaning of the instrument as well as a professional cleaning following an illness.  For woodwind instruments, we recommend regular maintenance every 6-12 months, which includes a cleaning and keeps the key mechanisms regulated.  With the current spread of COVID-19, some additional measures can be taken to avoid the spread of any illnesses among musicians young and old.

Do not let anyone else play your instrument or your mouthpiece as this can easily spread cold, flu or other contagious diseases.

Brass Instrument Health

If you are feeling ill you don’t have to practice daily and it is ok to take a few days off until you feel better.  Before you start playing again, it is most important to clean the areas of the instrument that come in direct contact with the player.  Wipe down the outside of the instrument and thoroughly clean the mouthpiece.  The inside of the instrument can be cleaned with soap and water and a cleaning snake.  This should be a part of your regular maintenance routine already. If you have suffered from the seasonal flu or a serious virus such as COVID-19, you should not play your instrument again until you have recovered from your illness and you have had your instrument professionally cleaned.  This will reduce the chance of recurrence of your symptoms or the spread of the illness to others.

Here are some reminders of normal maintenance that you can do to take care of your instrument and keep it safer:

  • Keep your mouthpiece clean
    1. You can spray the mouthpiece with sanitizer daily after playing.
    2. Every week, you can simply clean your mouthpiece with soap and water and a mouthpiece brush.
  • Wipe down the outside of the instrument with a disinfecting wipe and allow to dry.This can be done anytime
  • For the inside of the instrument, clean the inside of the instrument with dish soap and cold water and a cleaning snake.After you let the instrument fully dry, the valves should be oiled and the slides lightly greased before the instrument is reassembled.Be sure the instrument is dry before putting it back in the case.This should be done monthly.


Things to avoid:

  • Do not clean the instrument with boiling water. This will damage the finish of the instrument.
  • Do not use harsh chemicals to clean your instrument.Substances like ammonia cause severe damage to brass instruments.

 

Woodwind Instrument Health

If you are feeling ill you don’t have to practice daily and it is ok to take a few days off until you feel better.  Before you start playing again, it is most important to clean the areas of the instrument that come in direct contact with the player.  Wipe down the outside of the instrument and thoroughly clean the mouthpiece.  The inside of the instrument should also be kept clean by regular swabbing of the instrument to remove any foreign material from the instrument.  If your swab becomes soiled, you can hand wash it with a mild detergent.  This should be a part of your regular maintenance routine already. If you have suffered from the seasonal flu or a serious virus such as COVID-19, you should not play your instrument again until you have recovered from your illness and you have had your instrument professionally cleaned.  This will reduce the chance of recurrence of your symptoms or the spread of the illness to others.

These are some things you can do at home to keep your instrument clean and safer to play.

  • Keep your mouthpieces or headjoint clean!
    1. For reed instruments, remove your reed every time you have finished playing.If you have not been doing this, it is a good time to make it a habit.
    2. Look at the reed and ask yourself “Do I want this in my mouth?”If not, discard the reed and replace it with a new one.
    3. Clean your mouthpiece with cold to lukewarm water and dish soap.Do not clean your mouthpiece in a dishwasher as this could damage the mouthpiece.
  • Flutes, clean the lip plate and headjoint with rubbing alcohol.Do not immerse in water or other liquids.
  • Flutes, Clarinets, Saxophones: Wipe down the outside of the instrument with a disinfectant.Any number of disinfectant wipes are available and will help keep your instrument sanitary.
  • For flutes, saxophones, plastic clarinets and oboes, you can clean the inside of the instrument with rubbing alcohol.Use the swab that came with your instrument, apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to it and pull through the instrument.Do not pour a large amount of rubbing alcohol down the instrument.
  • For wood instruments, keeping the mouthpiece clean is the biggest priority!When you are finished playing, pull a clean swab through the instrument before putting away.The use of chemical cleaners including rubbing alcohol can damage the wood or remove the oil from the surfaces.This could lead to damage of the instrument.

Things to avoid:

  • Do not immerse your woodwind instrument in water.Woodwind instruments have delicate pads that can be damaged by soaking in water.These instruments also have steel rods, screws and springs.If these are soaked in water they can rust and cause the keys to stick and may make the rods difficult to remove later.
  • Do not clean with boiling water or harsh chemicals this can damage the finish or leave dangerous residue on the surface of the instrument.
  • Wood clarinets and wood oboes.These instruments should not be cleaned with alcohol or other harsh cleaning agent.The instrument must be oiled regularly to prevent cracking.Rubbing alcohol may remove the oil from the instrument and make it more susceptible to cracking over time.When these instruments are cleaned it is absolutely essential that they are oiled again.