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Amid the growing concern of COVID-19, we feel it is both helpful and necessary to share information regarding the cleaning and disinfecting of musical instruments.
Sterilization vs. Disinfection
More and more our society is pushing for products that are anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Some even aim to achieve total sterilization (elimination of all microorganisms). Keep in mind that total sterility is nearly impossible. Once a sterile object has been handled or exposed to air, it is no longer sterile. It can, however, remain disinfected (elimination/reduction of most microorganisms) until used.
Most viruses cannot live on hard surfaces for a prolonged period of time. Some die simply with exposure to air. However, certain groups are quite hardy. Therefore, musicians must be concerned with instrument hygiene. Users of school owned and rented musical equipment may be more susceptible to infections from instruments that are not cleaned and maintained properly.
If the cleaning process is thorough, however, musical instruments can be disinfected. Basic soap and water can be highly effective in reducing the number of harmful bacteria and viruses simply by carrying away the dirt and oil that they stick to.
Since the transmission of bacteria and viruses is a real consideration and concern, it is apparent that there should be a protocol with regard to shared musical instruments. Sharing of instruments is routine in music classrooms, where students practice and perform on borrowed instruments throughout the year. Therefore, certain basic considerations and recommendations for standard operating procedures regarding shared instruments are recommended as follows:
When renting or using a school-owned musical instrument, each user must understand that regular cleaning of these musical instruments is required in order to practice proper hygiene.
Before using a shared instrument for the first time, use of alcohol wipes, swabs, or disinfectant solution to thoroughly clean both the outside and the inside of the mouthpiece is highly recommended. It is also essential to maintain overall cleanliness via the use of cleaning rods, swabs, mouthpiece brushes, etc., as this is necessary to prevent buildup of residue within the instrument.
Mouthpieces (including flute headjoints, english horn and bassoon bocals, and saxophone neck crooks) are essential parts of wind instruments. Since these components are placed in or near the player’s mouth, they (reeds included) harbor the greatest quantities of bacteria.
Adhering to the following procedures will help to keep mouthpieces and instruments clean and safe for continued use.
Cleaning the Flute Head Joint
Cleaning Hard Rubber (Ebony) Mouthpieces
Cleaning Saxophone Necks (Crooks)
Cleaning Brass Instrument Mouthpieces
Choosing a Disinfectant for Musical Instruments
While other potential disinfectants, including alcohol, boiling water, and bleach can be used as general disinfectants, they are not typically recommended for use on mouthpieces or instruments due to their potential effect on skin, plastics, and metals.
UNLV School of Music: https://www.unlv.edu/music/instrument-hygieneOklahoma State Department of Health: https://www.ok.gov/health2/documents/Infection%20Control_Keeping%20Your%20Musical%20Instruments%20Clean%20and%20Safe.2014.pdfNational Association of Professional Band Instrument Repair Technicians: https://napbirt.org/page/InstrumentCleanliness
Taking COVID-19 public health concerns into consideration, we have instituted the following procedures in the handling of all of our rental instruments. We believe that transparency is key in giving our students, parents, and teachers peace of mind so that students may continue to participate safely in their musical endeavors, classes, and organizations.
WOODWIND CLEANING AND DISINFECTING PROCEDURES
(FLUTES, PICCOLOS, CLARINETS, OBOES, SAXOPHONES)
List of active cleaning and disinfecting agents used:
BRASS CLEANING AND DISINFECTING PROCEDURES
(TRUMPET, FRENCH HORN, TROMBONE, BARITONE)
All incoming rental instruments are quarantined for a minimum of 5 days before beinghandled, cleaned, or repaired. Instruments are completely disassembled all components are individually repaired, cleaned and disinfected. The following is a step-by-step procedure that is completed by our technicians. A list of cleaning agents and/or their active ingredients can be found below.
STRING INSTRUMENT CLEANING AND DISINFECTING PROCEDURES
(VIOLIN, VIOLA, CELLO, BASS)
PERCUSSION INSTRUMENT CLEANING AND DISINFECTING PROCEDURES
(DRUM KIT, PERCUSSION KIT, PERCUSSION COMBO KIT)