Clean a Mouthpiece – How To

How to Clean and Sterilize a Mouthpiece

Many players think that we repair people use voodoo magic and extravagant
chemicals to clean built up residue on mouthpieces.  But there are home
products that can do a fantastic job without spending money on those “special” cleaners and sterizers.

First of all, you will need a vial or small glass.  Something where the
mouthpiece will fit into without much room (to not use much liquids).  You
will have the mouthpiece tip down into the glass or vial and the cork end up out of any liquids.

You will need (a) vinegar; (b) an old toothbrush (soft or preferably hard bristles); and mouthwash.

Now pour some vinegar into the glass/vial and insert the mouthpiece tip down
into it.  Be careful that there isn’t too much as the cork should be well out of the vinegar.

After 5 minutes take the mouthpiece out and use the toothbrush and agitate
any buildup in or on the mouthpiece.  Repeat this step a couple times as necessary.  DO NOT have any silver plated ligatures or caps close to the
vinegar for an extended period of time – the vinegar seems to badly oxidize the silver quite quickly.

Now to sterilize the mouthpiece clean out the same glass/vial and pour some
mouthwash into it.  Place the mouthpiece once again tip down into the glass/vial.  Let it sit for 30 seconds if you wish, remove and rinse with
water (being careful not to get the cork wet).

That is all to this simple method to clean and sterilize a mouthpiece. This
can be used for a clarinet or saxophone mouthpiece.

The one big issue about cleaning clarinet and saxophone mouthpieces is the material it is made from.

If you are using a metal mouthpiece then you have to be aware of what interacts with the specific material. Silver plating can lose luster with certain materials.  Gold plating does better. Some mouthpieces are made of hard plastic which can withstand other material more than others.

Most mouthpieces are made of a Hard Rubber compound which can cause issues.  When I was young I bought a new mouthpiece for my saxophone (a Selmer C*) and wanted to clean my old one.  So I boiled some water and put it in for about 10 minutes. This brought out the oils in the mouthpiece and it lost it’s black color.  It also started smelling.  The boiling brought out the oils and sulphur in the mouthpiece.  Something not to do.  Thus be very careful about how much exposure is put to a mouthpiece or an instrument.  As certain materials can discolor them.