Dirt and dust and bacteria, oh my!

Our instruments have been through a lot with us, and most of them could use a good cleaning.

How do you sanitize your instrument and keep it clean and hygienic without using harmful chemicals that aren’t good for it?

Keep reading to find out.

Brass Instruments

Make sure you empty the water key after each use. Swabbing the interior will also help keep it clean and dry.

Wash your mouthpiece regularly with a small amount of gentle soap and warm (not hot) water.

Lubricate your instrument every day, and make sure that your lubricant and valve oil are intended for instrumental use. Do not use Vaseline, cooking oil, or motor oil (that sounds crazy, I know, but people have tried it).

The outside of your instrument can be rubbed (gently) with a soft cloth.

If the finish on a silver-plated instrument becomes tarnished, use an instrument-safe dry polishing cloth to shine it up. Please note that regular furniture polish is not considered instrument safe.

Never use water, soap, bleach, harsh chemicals, rubbing alcohol, or disinfectant wipes on your instrument. This can cause permanent damage. The only exception to this is the mouthpiece, which should be washed with gentle soap and warm water.

If you need deeper cleaning than this, call a professional. Instruments are expensive, and cleaning mistakes can be costly!

Keyboard Instruments

Since pianos and organs sit out instead of living in a case, it’s important to give them a good dusting every now and then. Just make sure your duster or dusting cloth is soft and non-abrasive.

Keeping the keyboard lid between practice sessions will help prevent dust from accumulating on the keys.

Never clean, dust, or sanitize the instrument’s interior. There are a ton of small, delicate moving parts that could be easily damaged.

Polishing the wood of keyboard instruments is not recommended, as it can ruin the finish or cause buildup which is a pain to remove.

Some pianists recommend periodically cleaning the keys with a vinegar solution or even toothpaste, depending on what kind of material your keys are made from (ivory, ebony, plastic, resin, etc.).

I haven’t personally tried any of these methods, but if you’re interested I would suggest talking to your piano technician first to get their professional opinion. Whatever you do, make sure you don’t get any moisture between the keys or the dampness will cause big problems.

Never use water, soap, bleach, harsh chemicals, rubbing alcohol, or disinfectant wipes on your instrument. This can cause permanent damage.

If you need deeper cleaning than this, call a professional. Instruments are expensive, and cleaning mistakes can be costly!

Percussion Instruments

Clean your instrument with a soft cloth after each practice session.

Some percussionists recommend using Windex or a vinegar solution to give your instrument a deeper cleaning. I’m not familiar with the details of of these methods, but if you’re interested I would suggest talking to a professional first to get their opinion.

Never use water, soap, bleach, harsh chemicals, rubbing alcohol, or disinfectant wipes on your instrument. This can cause permanent damage.

If you need deeper cleaning than this, call a professional. Instruments are expensive, and cleaning mistakes can be costly!

String Instruments

It’s important to wipe the rosin off your strings with a string cloth every time you finish practicing.

I also gently rub the wood on the body and underneath the bridge with the cloth, just to clean up any leftover residue.

If left on the strings, the rosin will start to build up and affect the tone quality and your ability to bow effectively. Eventually it could even cause damage to the wood finish.

A soft cloth can also be used to wipe off your chin rest, fingerboard, bow stick, and bow hair. Again, a gentle touch is essential!

Periodically you might want to use an instrument-safe polish to shine up your instrument. Please note that regular furniture polishes are not considered instrument safe.

Never use water, soap, bleach, harsh chemicals, rubbing alcohol, or disinfectant wipes on your string instrument or bow. This can cause permanent damage to your instrument.

If you need deeper cleaning than this, call a professional. Instruments are expensive, and cleaning mistakes can be costly!

Wind Instruments

Swab the interior of your instrument to keep it clean and dry.

Wash your mouthpiece regularly with a small amount of gentle soap and warm (not hot) water.

The outside of your instrument can be rubbed (gently) with a soft cloth.

If the finish on a silver instrument becomes tarnished, use an instrument-safe dry polishing cloth to shine it up. Please note that regular furniture polish is not considered instrument safe.

Never use water, soap, bleach, harsh chemicals, rubbing alcohol, or disinfectant wipes on your instrument. This can cause permanent damage. The exceptions to this are the mouthpiece (which can be washed with a few drops of gentle soap and warm water) and the reeds (which need to be soaked).

If you need deeper cleaning than this, call a professional. Instruments are expensive, and cleaning mistakes can be costly!

The Bottom Line

Washing your hands before playing is an easy way to keep your instrument cleaner and more hygienic.

All instruments should be given a regular maintenance cleaning and a periodic deep cleaning.

No instrument should ever be left in a cold, hot, or humid environment. For more information about protecting your instrument from the elements, read this post.

What methods have you used to clean your instrument? Leave a comment below.

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