Sunday, November 07, 2010

How to clean a mouthpiece

Got a text from Erika asking about how to clean a mouthpiece. First off, you should dry your mouthpiece regularly (like every time you practice) but you should NEVER run a swab through it. At least not regularly.

There are two reasons to clean a mouthpiece, and they take two slightly different approaches:

Reason #1: It's disgusting inside. Gunk, reed nastiness, and other whatnot has collected in there, usually by the inside of the mouthpiece rails. While I usually don't let it get that bad, sometimes I forget (gross, but true). So, to clean this, I usually fill a cup with 1/2 Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2) and 1/2 water. I'd bed you probably have some H2O2 in your house, but I also bet it's old. It loses its potency, and it's cheap to replace, so if it's old, replace it from your local pharmacy. Anyway, soak your mouthpiece in that for about 15 minutes. It'll bubble something fierce, which is the H2O2's reaction to the bacteria in your mouthpiece. Afterwards, roll up some kleenex (no aloe- or lotion-infused kleenex, please) and run it through the inside of the mouthpiece to clean it. Get in the corners with a Q-tip if needed.

Reason #2: It's got lots of calcium caked onto the beak of it. That white stuff around where your mouth goes? It's not gonna come off with H2O2. But it will come off with a little weak acid. I take lemon juice and mix it 1/2 and 1/2 with water (if you don't have lemon juice, use white vinegar, but dilute it a little more). Soak the mouthpiece in that for 10 minutes or so, and then rub with a cloth or kleenex on the build-up. It should come off with a little elbow grease :)

Again, NEVER use a swab inside your mouthpiece unless you're looking for an excuse to get a new one.

Hope this helps Erika!


Erika said...


aNdRe said...

Hi Michael just wondering, the lemon juice isn't going to ruin the mouthpiece in any way?

ear said...

Hey andre, I've never had trouble with it hurting the mouthpiece. Don't soak it overnight or anything -- just about 10 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Hey Michael,

Could you explain what the swab does to the mouthpiece. Is it ANY type of swab (silk, felt, etc.)? This is really interesting and I've never heard this before.


Anonymous said...


Does any of this mess with the cork, or do you submerge everything but the cork?


earspasm said...

Hey William,

Avoid using anything that is at all abrasive. Even silk is abrasive if you whip it through your mouthpiece. I usually use a VERY soft kleenex (not an off-brand, but something that is very smooth).

Why? Imagine that tiny, invisible pieces of rubber are removed every time you swab, day after day after day. When you measure mouthpiece facings and inner dimensions in micrometers, you can imagine how a couple of years of daily swabbing might change your mouthpiece -- usually for the worse.

When I soak a mouthpiece like I describe, I do usually try to avoid soaking the cork, but if you do soak it occasionally, nothing terrible should happen.

Again, this is my experience -- your mileage may vary.