How To Clean A Clarinet

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Learning how to clean a clarinet is an important skill for all clarinetists. Here’s everything you need to know to keep your mouthpiece, ligature and clarinet body clean and healthy.

If you’re a clarinet player, you’ll know the importance of cleaning your clarinet. You should be cleaning it every day after you finish practising. This will keep it sanitary and in good shape (which will help maintain the quality of its tone!).

If you weren’t aware of this, not to worry! We’ve compiled a 7 step guide that will help keep your instrument squeaky-clean and will ensure the quality of your clarinet sound.

1. Disassemble the clarinet with clean hands

Carefully dismantle your clarinet. While doing so, it’s important to avoid over-handling the clarinet (particularly with your finger-tips) to avoid transferring oils from your hands onto the clarinet’s wood, which could cause damage.

Ensure you don’t bend the keys while you take the clarinet apart. It’s quite delicate and should be treated with caution!

Place each piece of the clarinet in a safe place where they won’t be damaged, that means out of reach of children and pets!

2. Remove the reed from the mouthpiece

Unscrew the ligature until it is loose enough to remove from the mouthpiece.

Remove the reed from the mouthpiece and store it in a reed holder. Be very careful as you do this to avoid damaging the read. Make sure you pick it up by its base, rather than the delicate top end.

Hold the reed at the bottom, taking care to avoid touching the delicate end

Put the rest of the clarinet in a safe place, which isn’t too hot or cold. It helps if you have a clarinet stand.

Wrong kind of reeds…but you get the picture.

Helpful hint – Your clarinet reeds will last a lot longer if you play a few on rotation, rather than one constantly.

3. Polish the clarinet with a polishing cloth

With a polishing cloth, polish the body of the clarinet, paying close attention to the ligature and keywork to remove any fingerprints. Be gentle!

Don’t use any kind of metal polish on your instrument, except for key oil and cork grease.

Ensure you give the ligature a polish too!

Make sure you inspect the tone holes that your finger cover as they can often collect grime from your fingers!

Give the tone holes a good clean too!

4. Clean the mouthpiece

A clarinet mouthpiece can become very unhygienic if not regularly cleaned. It may also shrink, which will affect the clarinet’s tone.

It’s not hard to learn how to clean a clarinet mouthpiece. Simply get an unused toothbrush and some warm water (not too hot or it may discolour) and gently remove any build-up formed around the mouthpiece. When you’ve finished, dry it on a (clean) tea towel.

5. Clean the inside of the clarinet

First, reassemble the clarinet.

Then, take your clarinet cleaner and pull it through the inside of the instrument to remove any moisture.  You should pull it through the whole instrument (from the mouthpiece to the bell) to ensure you’ve cleaned everything.

Pull your cleaning cloth through to remove moisture inside the clarinet.

Don’t worry if the cloth gets stuck, just pull harder until it eventually comes out.

Try and remember to wash these clothes regularly, otherwise they’ll just end up getting the clarinet even dirtier.

In the mood for a jam session? Download our huge range of clarinet sheet music at! Check out our sheet music for Hallelujah, the Game of Thrones theme tune and Happy Birthday!

6. Place the clarinet back in the case

If you’re not playing or cleaning your clarinet, it should be kept stored in the clarinet case to avoid any damage.

Avoid keeping sheet music or pencils in your clarinet case as it can damage the wood once the case is closed.

Tip: if your clarinet case is too large and the clarinet moves each time you transport it, place a thin layer of foam over the clarinet to keep it in place.

7. Follow these general maintenance and hygiene tips

Here are a few things to remember to keep your clarinet in good shape:

  1. Regularly use cork grease on the corks to facilitate the assembling of the instrument.
  2. Look after your reeds! They’re very fragile and if they’re even a tiny bit damaged, you won’t be able to play your clarinet!
  3. Wash your hands and brush your teeth before you practise each day.

Now, go forth and clean that clarinet! Squidward would be so proud!

Looking for clarinet songs to play? All our sheet music is available to download at Whether you’re a clarinet beginner or the next Benny Goodman, we’ve got you covered.

Happy cleaning!

The Jellynote Team x

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