by Padilla
(United States)

How to Clean a Clarinet Mouthpiece?

How do you properly clean a clarinet mouthpiece? Is there different ways to clean different mouthpieces if they're wood, plastic, or some other material? They say to dip it in soapy water and then rinse it and wipe it off for plastic mouthpieces. What does it mean when you smell a horrible smell from the mouthpiece? What do you recommend?


Hello Padilla,

Here are some tips to cleaning clarinet mouthpieces:

1. Keep your clarinet mouthpiece clean. Try to avoid gunk building up inside or around the mouthpiece. Gunk on the inside (slimy or eventually hard) will change the sound of the mouthpiece and often to the worse.

2. Whether the mouthpiece is plastic, hard rubber, crystal, or wood, always take care in cleaning it. Handle the mouthpiece carefully. If you drop it on the floor or in the sink, it could chip and ruin it.

3. Before you put water on the mouthpiece, put a nice coating of cork grease on the cork to protect it. Do not saturate the cork with water, otherwise, you will be heading to the instrument repair person to add a cork to your mouthpiece.

4. If washing it out in a sink, use only cold water. Hot water could warp a plastic, hard rubber, or wood mouthpiece.

5. Take care in how you clean the inside of the mouthpiece out. Do not shove hard plastic or metal wire items into the mouthpiece to scrape off harden gunk or buildup. These could damage the mouthpiece. Even if you scrape off or scratch a mouthpiece by a 1/1000th of an inch, it could change the mouthpiece dramatically.

6. I will often take a paper towel, fold it up, wet it, and then wipe the inside of the mouthpiece. Another possibility if you are not too aggressive, is to use a Q-tip with water.

7. Using soap is okay to lightly scrub the mouthpiece. Also, you can use mouthwash to help eliminate germs.

8. Get a dry paper towel and dry off the outside and inside of the mouthpiece. Make sure the cork is dry. Do not get too aggressive with drying the inside of the mouthpiece as you do not want to scratch up that area (the inside of the mouthpiece is referred to as ‘the chamber’).

9. Some old plastic or hard rubber mouthpieces will have an odor that might not go away with cleaning. If you cannot stand the odor, shop for another mouthpiece.

10. Honestly, I would steer clear of wooden mouthpiece made for the clarinet. After all, you will blow into the instrument and condensation will build up. Water on wood usually makes wood swell up. I cannot imagine the original dimensions of your wooden mouthpiece (the dimensions that made you choose the mouthpiece) would be stable over time.

BONUS TIP ON MOUTHPIECE CLEANING! Clean your mouthpiece daily. However, take care in cleaning it with your clarinet swab. Some clarinet swabs are made with a bare metal weight on the end of the string. If you run the bare metal weight through your mouthpiece every single day, it will cause scratches and change the inside, chamber dimensions of the clarinet mouthpiece.

Find a swab that either has cloth or rubber over the metal weight. I would lightly run the weight through the mouthpiece, pull the string through, allow the cloth to get to the mouthpiece, and then rotate the cloth slightly. DO NOT PULL THE CLOTH THROUGH THE MOUTHPIECE. Too much material will eventually get stuck. I would reverse the cloth, and put the clarinet away.

Don’t forget, after you clean the mouthpiece, go and enjoy it by practicing.


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