How to clean urine from clarinet

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Jenthetree, Nov 21, 2016.

  1. Jenthetree


    Nov 21, 2016
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    Hello! This is my first post, so I especially apologize for the nature of it, but I am having great difficulty finding an answer. A month ago when some kids broke into my house to rob me they opened my clarinet case and urinated on the clarinet and case. In all the mess they left I didn't notice until it had dried, but it's definitely human urine (the cats are innocent!). I can't afford professional cleaning, and anyway I'd like to learn how to clean it myself. My instrument, fortunately in this case, is plastic. I really want to play again, if someone has tips or resources to share. Thank you!
  2. Helen

    Helen Content Expert Saxophones Staff Member Administrator

    Jan 4, 2008
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    Hi Jennifer. Welcome to the Woodwind Forum (WF). Sorry it is under these circumstances.

    I'm going to let a tech and/or our clarinet specialist chime in with an answer here, but my initial thoughts are: Isn't this covered under your insurance? If you filed a police report, then your home owners/tenant's insurance would cover this (at least I would think it does). Have you checked with the insurance company.

    Although the plastic clarinet is not so much the issue, the pads are. They will likely need to be replaced. Springs might get rusty when wet, so those may need replacing as well. Also, cleaning the inside of the case may not be so easy. It's possible a case replacement may be in order.

    All in all, a professional cleaning/repair/replacement is likely what is needed. This is why I'm asking about insurance.

    I'm going to turn this over to the techs on this board now, perhaps they have something to add...
  3. Tony Fairbridge

    Tony Fairbridge Tony F

    Dec 30, 2009
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    Cleaning urine from a clarinet

    Hi, Welcome to the group.
    In another life I once owned a commercial cleaning business, and this takes me right back to those days.

    Firstly, what you do depends to a large extent on whether you have insurance or not. If so, then make a claim and it becomes someone else's problem.
    If you don't have insurance, do you want to deal with this yourself? If so, what technical skills do you have?
    If this isn't something you're comfortable with, pass it on to a repairer. Explain to him/her what has happened and instruction them to strip it, clean and repad it and return it to playing condition. They may charge a premium for the work due to its nature.
    I would suggest you discard the case and find a replacement.

    If you feel you can deal with this yourself then this is how I would set about it.

    Break the instrument down into its major components and wash them in a bucket of warm water. Not hot, only lukewarm. Add some disinfectant such as Dettol to the water.
    After several changes of water put the pieces on some kitchen paper and let it air-dry.
    When dry, strip the instrument, remove and discard the pads and wash the body and keywork again in warm water. This will deal with any residue trapped in hinges, screws, etc. I'd suggest putting the pieces in a fine mesh laundry bag for this to minimize the chance of losing screws. You may want to consider replacing the joint corks at this point, but if they're well greased this may not be necessary. The urine will have been washed away, but you may still feel uncomfortable with the situation. It's your choice.
    After this its just a matter of repadding the instrument, recorking if necessary and restoring it to playing condition. After this procedure your clarinet will be clean and free from contamination.
    Remember that urine in itself is almost sterile and doesn't present as much of a health hazard as, say, blood. It's the act that makes it particularly unpleasant.

    A few months back my elderly cat decided to pick a fight with my euphonium and peed all over it, so I do have some recent experience of this problem.
    Gandalfe likes this.
  4. Gandalfe

    Gandalfe Administrator Staff Member Administrator

    Dec 26, 2007
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    The case might just need to be replaced. If you do decide to have a repair tech redo the pads, etc. consider getting a new instrument. We have some very lovely clarinets for your consideration at Quinn the Eskimo Vintage horns. And we can put you in a new Buffet B-12 for ~$300. Good luck. Do let us know what you decide to do.
  5. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Jan 2, 2008
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    I read this when it was first posted and tried to think of a good concept for home cleaning with home cleaners.

    But due to the pads potentially getting soaked it would be best to take it to a tech.

    I'm going to assume you do not know how to take a clarinet apart. So these instructions are essentially based for someone doing this at home with no tools to do any work, and doesn't want to take it to a technician.

    Considering that it's plastic, then you'd probably would want to use a dish cloth/papertowel with a cleaner on it.
    Maybe initially a Lysol (no bleach), Mr. Clean or similar non-bleach cleaner. I mention those as you may already have them in the house.
    And wipe the clarinet down as much as possible, several times. Be careful of the needle springs and wipe away from them to prevent getting poked.

    Also use a thin stick with a small thin towel, such as the bore cleaner swab and use the cleaner with that too. Be careful of the upper joint as if you look up it you'll see the register tube sticking up there. Either clean up to it from the bottom and top or pull through it.
    And try to use a Q-tip to clean each tonehole with the cleaner.

    If it's a wood clarinet then immediately after you've dried the regular cleaner then put bore oil over the cleaned spots and let it soak in (outside, inside the bore and the toneholes). The pads getting discolored from the wood/oil is the least of the worries.

    Then I recommend you get some clarinet key oil. And oil, a little on the heavy side, each location where there is a pivot.
    Then wipe it down again with the above cleaner, then oil each pivot again, and clean the bore again.

    Essentially we're trying to clean as much as possible at home, and hope nothing got on the pads as they probably soaked the liquid in.
    If that is the case then I would recommend a pad replacement.

    With the case, it's normally some form of felt glued onto styrofoam.
    The easiest method here is to really get a new case. If you have a plastic case, it's plastic, styrofoam and felt. So .. you could try spraying the felt multiple times and paper towel to dry up.

    A tech is going to take the clarinet totally apart and wash each section, repad/recork and rebuild.
    They'd probably recommend a new case too.

    So maybe those instructions will work at home. If you don't think it's clean enough then repeat until that "icky voice in your brain subsides".
  6. Steve

    Steve Clarinet CE/Moderator Staff Member CE/Moderator

    Jan 2, 2008
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    I forgot, with the mouthpiece after cleaning it as above
    Then use an old plastc pill bottle of which the mpc will fit in
    and fill it up a bit with mouthwash, and let the mpc sit in it for 10 minutes. Be careful of too long as it could discolor it.

    You could also let it sit in vinegar too to take any calcium buildup off of it (but be very careful as it will discolor it if left too long). Then use a toothbrush to try and break off the calcium buildup - or carefully with other plastic/metal tools.
  7. Bloo Dog

    Bloo Dog Consider the plight of the boneless chicken.

    May 12, 2017
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    Re: Homeowners' Insurance have a $500.00 deductible on vandalism, so it looks like you'll be stuck for paying for the repair. However, there may be some sort of clause for breaking and entering that might cover the damage. In any event, report it to your insurance company so that you're covered if you have another event in the same insurance policy cycle.

    It sounds like an inside job to me. Have you had a run-in with anyone? This is pretty strange.

    One more thing: You say that the clarinet is plastic. Hard rubber is a plastic (rubber, linseed oil and sulfur). Urine could very well cause damage that won't show up for awhile.
  8. JfW


    Nov 8, 2008
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    I don't know what you've done but I do hope you are back playing the clarinet now.

    I'd have to agree with Gandalf, if he can get you in a tip-top-shape new B-12 for $300, that sounds like a really good direction to go. I personally got into repairs as a hobby and I know enough to be confident in saying that getting into it because you just want to save money is not likely to work out that well.
    Gandalfe likes this.

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