Cleaning a Saxophone

Cleaning Inside
Remove water, especially from the bow, before you put your saxophone in the case. This will prolong the life of the pads and the life and appearance of the lining in the case. The saxophone lies on its back in the case and water runs down the body past the Eb hole. For this reason the Eb pad is one of the first to go bad. Some makes of saxophones have a raised rim or watershed around this hole to prevent water from soaking the Eb pad but this device, while it does protect the Eb pad, routes the water around the hole and allows it to run down into the bow and collect. If the position of the case is changed, the water is liable to run out of the bow into the body and wet other pads. The only sure way to protect the pads is to remove all water from the body and bow.

Occasionally swab out the inside of body, bow and bell, and wash the mouthpipe. Don’t attempt to wash the body, bow, or bell with soap and water, as obviously you will get the pads wet and ruin them. To loosen the dirt in the mouthpipe, use warm water and castile soap. Be careful to avoid getting the octave hole pad wet, and be sure the octave hole is cleaned out. Pipe cleaners or feathers are often used for this.

Keep your mouthpiece and reed clean and sanitary. A small amount of dirt in the chamber of the mouthpiece or in the grooves and corners affects its blowing qualities. The best cleaner for the mouthpiece and reed is lukewarm water and castile soap. Don’t use hot water except for the metal mouthpiece as it is liable to warp and discolor the mouthpiece if it is made of rubber or of plastic, and it is liable to crack a “crystal” mouthpiece made of glass.

Acids and chemicals are not recommended for cleaning and for sanitary purposes. If the mouthpiece and reed are washed regularly, ordinary soap and water will keep them fresh and clean. However, to clean a mouthpiece which through neglect has become very dirty and “crusty,” mix one part of muriatic acid with four parts of water and soak

the mouthpiece in this solution for ten minutes; then rinse in clean water and swab out with a cloth. DON’T put a metal mouthpiece in this solution.

Cleaning Outside


For lacquer finish, liquid wax is also used as a preservative but be sure to rub with a soft cloth until all sticky feeling is removed. Mild soap and lukewarm water or simply a damp chamois can also be used. Avoid using hot water or special cleaners with alcohol in them, for they are liable to take the lacquer off. Avoid use of abrasives.

For plain polished brass (not lacquered), chromium, nickel silver, or nickel plated finish, a simple but satisfactory cleaner can be made by mixing a tablespoonful of fine grade whiting in a half glass of denatured alcohol. Stir the whiting well, apply lightly, and rub off carefully when dry. Be sure to use a soft piece of flannel for this purpose, as other cloth is liable to scratch.

For silver, use a high grade silver polish, in paste or liquid form, or the whiting mixture described above.

For gold, use rouge and a piece of so/t flannel. Gold is easily scratched, so be especially careful in cleaning an instrument in gold finish. Any polish used on gold finishes should be used sparingly.

Be careful to keep all cleaning materials off the pads, as they are liable to make the pads hard. Keep cleaning materials off critical working mechanism, as they are liable to clog these moving parts. Also see that no cleaning materials are allowed to stop up the small octave holes.

Lacquer is a good preservative for all metal finishes. Clear lacquer applied over silver, gold, nickel, nickel silver, or chromium protects the plating or metal from the attacks of acids in perspiration without changing the color or appearance of the finish. “Gold” lacquer is usually applied over brass so it looks like gold. Lacquer has been improved until it ordinarily has quite a long life. This does not apply to certain individuals who “go through” lacquer in a few days. There is so much acid in their system that it eats the lacquer away quickly and even eats into the metal.