How to clean a saxophone

Cleaning your sax regularly is a great way to prolong the life of the instrument.

How to clean a saxophone Saxophone Cleaning Kit

It keeps you and your sax healthy, and also prevents you from spending a lot on costly repairs. Come to think of it, cleaning the saxophone is not as difficult as it seems.

Once you know how to clean your saxophone the right way you will realize how simple it is and if your saxophone is the standard half-bell shape type, you have no problem.

Ensure you get the saxophone cleaning kit to save you time and effort.

HOW TO CLEAN A SAXOPHONE MOUTHPIECE

Many people ask me how to clean a saxophone mouthpiece without damaging it? This is a question that comes up often as many beginners seem to be unsure of which is the best way. The simplest way to clean the mouthpiece is with water, it is also the most effective way to do so.

Take a long glass and add a few drops of dish soap to it, add lukewarm water to it and leave it standing for about 20 minutes. This will thoroughly clean the mouthpiece and disinfect it at the same time.

Wash it and remove all soap from it (you don’t want the taste of soap in your mouth while playing) and dry with a dry cloth. That’s it.

How to Clean a Saxophone – The Interior – Video Review

SWABBING THE BODY

if you have a saxophone cleaning kit, it should come with a brush and cloth that you can use. The brush and cloth are attached to a long string with a weight at the opposite end. Put the end with the weight into the bell and remove it through the narrow end.

Repeat this several times to get the best results. The process of swabbing helps to dry the interior pads from saliva and other fluids that can lead to bacteria growth. It also removes the buildup of particles like foods and beverages.

If you see a slight green color on the pad, do not be alarmed as this is normal.

SWABBING THE NECK

Use a flexible swab through the larger base of the neck opening, and then push it out the narrow side. Brush out the inner parts to remove foreign particles. You can run water through the neck if you don’t have a flexible brush, but ensure that water does not touch the cork. Water causes the cork to swell or deform.

Use vinegar or detergent to get rid of excess buildup instead.

USING A PAD SAVER

Pad savers remove moisture residues. They are best used after swabbing. Insert it through the narrow end of the saxophone, and leave it to absorb moisture for a few seconds then remove it completely. There is other equipment such as bell brushes and neck savers that allow you to clean the other parts of the saxophone.

They are great accessories but not necessary.

THE KEYPADS

Try to check your saxophone for sticky pads as much as possible. You can also inspect the pads visually for wears and tears. With a wet cotton swab or thin piece of paper, you can clean the pads at the point where they meet the tone to remove any sticky residue.

Rinsing with clean water would get the job done.

Adding the Finishing Touches

POLISHING

You can add some shine to your saxophone with a brass lacquer polishing cloth and a small amount of spray furniture wax. Try not to use wash clothes, toilet paper, and all other cleaning products that are not made for brass instrument care specifically.

TIGHTENING LOOSE SCREWS

This is something you can get done with a screwdriver, but ensure not to over tighten them. Over tightening the screws can damage the screw heads.

CLEAN THE CLEANERS

As awkward as this sounds, try to keep your sax cleaners clean at all times. Your specialty swabs, pad savers, and other accessories must be clean before using them on the saxophone. You can use soap and water to clean them lightly after each use, and keeping them in good condition could make them last years.

CONCLUSION

It is as simple as that to clean your saxophone and it is very important both your health and the sax’s preservation over time.

A clean sax will serve you well for years to come so, take care of it.

Now all that is left is to start making music.

You can also read our very detailed and comprehensive post on all the Saxophone Types both new and old, you will get a better understanding of the sax family musical instruments and see which one suits your needs best.

Now that you know How To Clean A Saxophone, you can move on and read all about the different Saxophone Parts, what their functions are and where they are placed on the sax itself.

It is important to remove dirt and moisture!

1. First take care of the mouthpiece and neck

Remove the reed and use a cleaning swab (S) to remove dirt from the mouthpiece. Be careful not to damage the tip of the mouthpiece when cleaning. Next, remove the moisture from the inside of the neck using a cleaning swab (S).

How to clean a saxophone

2. Completely remove the moisture from the pads

If the pads are damp, use a cleaning paper to remove the moisture completely from the pad and the tone hole opening.
The keys need to be removed in order to clean the tone holes. We do not recommend disassembling your instrument on your own. Instead, take it in to a music shop for maintenance.

How to clean a saxophone

Put a piece of cleaning paper between the pad and the tone hole and lightly press the key several times. Change the position of the paper and repeat this process two or three times.

*Do not pull the paper out while depressing the key.
*If the pad is sticky, use powder paper.

How to clean a saxophone

3. Clean the inside of the tube with a cleaning swab.

Insert a saxophone cleaning swab into the bell and pull it through the neck joint to clean.

4. Remove dirt from the surface with a polishing cloth.

Use a polishing cloth to remove finger prints and dirt from the surface of the instrument.

5. Carefully clean the octave key

The tone hole of the octave key is small and easily clogged, so clean it with a tone hole cleaner. Be careful not to damage the tone hole with the metal tip of the tone hole cleaner.

As a saxophone player, you should expect to take your instrument to the repair shop every now and then- it’s part of owning and playing an instrument, and accidents are bound to happen. But did you know many of those costly repairs can be avoided if you take proper care of your instrument from the get go? Whether you’re new to playing the saxophone or have neglected it for far too long, saxophone maintenance is actually quite easy. From oiling the keys to cleaning and polishing the outside, this guide will help you keep your saxophone in tip-top shape.

Brush Your Teeth

If you don’t already brush your teeth before you play, it’s best to get into that habit as soon as possible. Why? Sugar in certain food and drinks can mix with the saliva in your mouth and form a nasty solution that can accumulate on your pads and cause them to stick. While sticky pads aren’t super difficult for a repair technician to fix, isn’t it better to take the necessary precautions to avoid the issue in the first place? Plus, some saxophonists who go a few days without playing their instrument may notice a funky smell the next time they pick up their instrument- this is usually attributed to old food and drink particles that have accumulated on the pads. Yuck!

Oil the Keys

Occasionally, your keys will need oiling. Key oil can be purchased at music stores and online, and remember: if you take music lessons at a Music & Arts center you may be eligible for special in-store discounts. If you can’t find key oil, valve oil can be used a substitute- just don’t use any other kind of oil! Also, make sure not to add too much oil to your keys, as excess oil will just collect more dirt. A good rule of thumb for applying key oil is the old cliche: “the squeaky wheel always gets the grease.” If your keys aren’t clunky, stuck, or impacting your playing in any way, then it doesn’t need oil. When oiling your keys, it’s best to do so privately. If you oil your keys in a busy room and someone bumps into you, this could cause you to drop, dent, or otherwise damage your instrument.

Temperature & Humidity

Although the saxophone isn’t as sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity as the clarinet or violin, it’s still not a good idea to keep it in the car during the cold winter months or in direct summer sun. (Note: instruments should never be kept in cars for an extended period of time, as this increases the likelihood they’ll be stolen. If you do need to keep your instrument in a car, keep it in a locked trunk instead of the back seat.) If you’re part of a marching band or otherwise play your instrument outdoors and have a “backup” saxophone, consider playing this one while outdoors. There are a lot of risks involved in playing instruments outdoors, and if you have the luxury of a backup instrument it should always be used these situations.

Clean & Polish the Outside

Unless your saxophone is in especially poor condition, you won’t need to clean or polish the outside of your saxophone on a consistent basis. Instead, keep a clean, dry microfiber cloth handy and wipe your instrument down after each use. Although there are lacquer polish cloths on the market that are OK to use from time to time, if you can overuse them or aren’t careful the wax on these cloths can lead to unsightly build-up. If you’re new to playing the saxophone or aren’t comfortable with it yet, it’s best to avoid these. If you do decide to polish your saxophone, wipe it down first with a cloth that’s lightly dampened with rubbing alcohol. This will remove any oil or dirt that’s accumulated on the outside of the instrument.

Learn How to Disassemble It

Before you ever attempt to disassemble your saxophone on your own, make sure you’ve run through the process a few times with your teacher. Since disassembly is a crucial part of saxophone maintenance, you should be able to take it apart and put it back together again with your eyes closed. Fortunately, disassembly isn’t super difficult. If any part of your instrument is stuck or difficult to take apart, don’t use pliers or other household tools. If you use the wrong tools you could accidentally damage your instrument. If you can’t pull something out with minimal effort, finish cleaning the rest of your saxophone and take it to a repair technician. Not only do repair technicians have years’ of experience, but they have access to a variety of professional tools.

Dents & Scratches

No matter how careful you are with your instrument, your saxophone WILL get dents and scratches. Most dents and scratches have zero impact on the way the saxophone sounds, and shouldn’t be stressed over. However, a really bad dent (such as one that happened when your case wasn’t secured properly and your saxophone tumbled out onto a brick walkway) can affect the horn’s playing. If dents are high up on the body of the saxophone or if it alters a key position or otherwise interfered with the operation of your saxophone, take it to a shop and have it repaired. Never try to fix a dent yourself unless you’re properly trained. Doing so will probably damage the saxophone even more, adding to your bill.

Other Tips

  • Never lift your saxophone from the keys or neck.
  • Always swab your horn from the bell to the top.
  • Don’t place your saxophone in a closed case after playing, as there will still be a little bit of moisture lingering in the horn.
  • Always keep your mouthpiece in a bag; never place your mouthpiece directly in the accessory compartment of your case.
  • Take your instrument to a repair technician once a year for a tune-up; if you play less often, this might not be necessary. Speak with your music teacher about setting up a tune-up schedule that works for you.

How to clean a saxophone

It’s so important to keep your saxophone clean and hygienic – now more than ever! Here I show you step by step how to clean your sax after each practice session.

We’ve all heard stories of sax players becoming ill because they never clean their saxophones. So it’s important to do some basic maintenance to keep your sax clean and safe to play.

Plus, cleaning your sax will help to keep it working properly and sounding great!

A Warning

Don’t be tempted to take your sax apart to clean it. Even if you can put it back together, it might not play as well. Leave that to the experts.

When should you clean your sax?

It’s a great idea to get into the habit of cleaning your sax after each practice session or rehearsal, before you put it back into its case.

What You Need

I like to use a pull-through swab like this one. There’s a smaller cloth for the mouthpiece and neck, and a larger one for the body. They come in two sizes, for alto or tenor. They’re great for absorbing moisture inside your sax, and you can also use it to polish your sax. Throw the swabs in the washing machine when they need freshening up!

Some people use a padsaver which you leave inside your sax when you’re not playing it. Make sure you choose a good quality one so it doesn’t shed fibres inside your saxophone. The disadvantage with these is that they keep the moisture inside your sax which isn’t good for the pads.

How to Clean Your Sax

It’s the same process for tenor and alto saxophones.

Watch my video to see how I use my cleaning swab to clean the body of the saxophone. Take care that your swab doesn’t get stuck inside! It should pull through easily.

To clean the mouthpiece and neck, start by taking off the ligature and the reed. Watch the video below to see how I use the smaller swab to clean the mouthpiece and neck.

Use your swabs to polish the outside of your sax and neck too to keep it looking great.

You can give your mouthpiece an extra deep clean by running it under cold water and cleaning it with an old toothbrush. Never use warm or hot water on your mouthpiece.

Ideally you should leave your mouthpiece off your sax to let your neck cork expand.

Make a Great Start on Saxophone

If you’re starting out on sax, you’ll also need some great lessons and practice tips. Grab my Ultimate Saxophone Toolkit lesson bundle for FREE!

Nikki

Formerly SaxyNikki
  • Mar 29, 2020
  • #1
  • After you’ve played your saxophone, how do you clean it?

    What to you use to clean it?

    Do you have any good maintenance tips you’d like to share?

    Did you purchase a clarinet cleaner with a weight at the end for your soprano and does it work well?

    The one I have is pretty useless so I’m looking for ideas.

    CliveMA

    Member
    • Mar 29, 2020
  • #2
  • After playing, I wash the reeds in water and store them in a Vandoren case that maintains humidity (tenor) or a Rico case (soprano).

    I wash mouthpieces with liquid soap and water and dry with my soprano sax swab.

    I then swab my saxophones 2-3 times with weighted swabs (BG brand). The soprano one has a slender weight that even fits through my mouthpieces. I use an Alto swab for my Tenor. The Tenor neck is the trickiest but I have a special swab for that with a double weight so it can bend thru the neck ok.

    I use a padsaver cloth to remove moisture from all normally closed pads. I have Key Leaves padsavers ordered but they have not arrived yet for the Tenor. I’m having difficulty sourcing same for soprano.

    Every 6 months, the Yamaha manual advises a special cleaning process for the neck but I haven’t done that yet.

    Then I carefully polish the lacquer with a microfibre cloth to remove all human contact. Holding the sax only through the cloth I carefully put it back in its case.

    Reactions: GCinCT and Nikki

    CliveMA

    Member
    • Mar 29, 2020
  • #3

    Reactions: Nikki

    CliveMA

    Member
    • Mar 29, 2020
  • #4
  • This is my Soprano Sax swab BG A33:

    And this is my Alto swab I use for Tenor BG A30:

    Reactions: Nikki

    CliveMA

    Member
    • Mar 29, 2020
  • #5
  • And this is my versatile Protec 3-in-1 Tenor Swab A124:

    Reactions: GCinCT and Nikki

    CliveMA

    Member
    • Mar 29, 2020
  • #6

    Reactions: Nikki

    CliveMA

    Member
    • Mar 29, 2020
  • #7

    Reactions: Nikki

    CliveMA

    Member
    • Mar 29, 2020
  • #8
  • Yamaha’s official Maintenance Guide recommends more than what I suggested. They also clean the Octave tone hole with a special tone hole cleaner. I don’t do that but I do use my pad dryer on the Octave tone hole.

    Yamaha recommends cleaning the smaller parts once per week. I have not done that thoroughly but I superficially do it after every practice.

    Yamaha also recommends applying key oil every 2 to 3 months. I don’t do this but I do plan to get my instrument serviced regularly (every 12 months?)

    I searched but can’t find an article on cleaning the neck but it is in the Yamaha booklet that comes with every new Yamaha sax (whether that sax has a neck or not). Briefly, once every 6 months, make a lukewarm soap solution mixing brass soap with warm water. Remove the Octave key from the neck. Wrap the cork with adhesive tape to avoid it getting wet. Apply some of the soap solution to a sax neck brush and scrub the interior of the neck. Then apply clean water. Then dry with cleaning swab. (Whoa, that reads a bit scary to me! I might damage something in my ignorance).

    Reactions: Nikki

    Wonko

    Member
    • Mar 29, 2020
  • #9
  • Yamaha’s official Maintenance Guide recommends more than what I suggested. They also clean the Octave tone hole with a special tone hole cleaner. I don’t do that but I do use my pad dryer on the Octave tone hole.

    Yamaha recommends cleaning the smaller parts once per week. I have not done that thoroughly but I superficially do it after every practice.

    Yamaha also recommends applying key oil every 2 to 3 months. I don’t do this but I do plan to get my instrument serviced regularly (every 12 months?)

    I searched but can’t find an article on cleaning the neck but it is in the Yamaha booklet that comes with every new Yamaha sax (whether that sax has a neck or not). Briefly, once every 6 months, make a lukewarm soap solution mixing brass soap with warm water. Remove the Octave key from the neck. Wrap the cork with adhesive tape to avoid it getting wet. Apply some of the soap solution to a sax neck brush and scrub the interior of the neck. Then apply clean water. Then dry with cleaning swab. (Whoa, that reads a bit scary to me! I might damage something in my ignorance).

    hellas

    Registered

    In fact, the sax is in a good condition but with some rusting inside the bell and the body. So, there’s smell of brass coming out from the bell. Any idea on using which cleaner to clean the interior of the horn and also the neck?

    Furthermore, it’s about 50 years old and I think it should have many germs or bacteria inside, any good way to cope with that?

    Lastly, any advices on how to clean the pads? I just know that alcohol is a forbidden substance, any others?

    hellas

    Registered

    hornimprovement

    Registered

    hellas

    Registered

    hornimprovement

    Registered

    markVIinNorway

    Registered

    your vintage horn is supposed to stink, and look really “bad”
    its cool..hehe
    My mark VI has’nt got any lacqer left at all..it doesent “stink” but it sure smells kinda funky. i like it.

    Gange

    Registered

    SILVERxSAX

    Registered

    if you dont have time to take apart all the pieces and what not. get a trashbag and put a few newspaper balls at the bottom. make some more paper balls and stuff them into the bell of the sax. you can make a small tube out of a piece and put in in the top and the neck. after all that put it inside the bag and seal it up TIGHT. leave it there for a few days.

    i bought a sax from a hevy smoker and i did that. worked like a charm ( i know this is 3-4 years to late, sorry)

    SILVERxSAX

    Registered

    :treble: if you dont have time to take apart all the pieces and what not. get a trashbag and put a few newspaper balls at the bottom. make some more paper balls and stuff them into the bell of the sax. you can make a small tube out of a piece and put in in the top and the neck. after all that put it inside the bag and seal it up TIGHT. leave it there for a few days.

    i bought a sax from a hevy smoker and i did that. worked like a charm ( i know this is 3-4 years to late, sorry)

    Gordon (NZ)

    Distinguished Technician & SOTW Columnist. RIP, Yo

    What might work to clean pads depends entirely on what is actually ON the pads. If it is grease, then yes, WD-40 may do something. For certain pads, that have a very thin membrane laminated to cheap leather without a surface, the WD-40 may well attack the membrane.

    If the pad pollutant is largely mineral deposits from saliva, then WD-40 is not likely to do much. A soak in vinegar might, but I have no idea what that would do to to the leather! (or brass?)

    Often the pad pollutant is one of the many types of copper corrosion, from the tone holes. Sometimes I think it might be produced by reaction with a tanning chemical residue left in the pad leather.

    In general, when pads are a mess, they need replacing. IMHO

    Henning1

    Registered

    For cleaning the pads, I´d recommend lamp oil. The non-smelling-variant, meant for the old oil lamps, carocene I think it is, smells a little like C. it´s not oil, but lamp oil. Bought at the supermarket or gas station (cheaper at the supermarket!)
    Preferably on some keys, where it is difficult to softly stroke the pads with a pipe cleaner or a tops, remove them. Otherwise it is possible to clean the pads with the keys on the horn, removes stickin´ alright!
    This process, gently removing dirt with a soft cloth or a pipe cleaner just lightly humidified with lamp oil, will (hopefully) seal the pad in a shorter time (some fortnights or so) and also soften the leather. But, this will unfortunately not remove the dirt eventually clogged in the tone holes.
    I´d never put WD-40 on the pads. That would do the opposit, i.e. harden them. The keys can be cleaned out with WD-40, but avoid to get it on the pads or the cork.

    hornimprovement

    Registered

    Dave dix

    Distinguished SOTW Member

    sonnymobleytrane

    Distinguished SOTW Member/Forum Contributor 2009

    Chris Peryagh

    Distinguished SOTW Technician

    Take all the keys off, take the bell off (if it comes off), take all the screws and springs out (and stick them in a wine cork in their relative positions on the sax as you go so you know which goes where) and if the lacquer is pretty much gone and you don’t mind more coming off, wash it well in a bath of hot water and washing up liquid, and use a wide paint brush with the bristles cut short to scrub the dirt off with.

    If you want to preserve what lacquer is still left, use a damp cloth dipped in soapy water to wipe the outside clean with (but do this gently), and also to scrub the bore with. You can pour some water inside the bottom U tube and use a rag or your fingers to clean the inside.

    To clean inside the bell and the bore, use a rag and your fingers – push the rag into the bore and scrub it around inside using your fingers poked through the toneholes. It’s not pleasant if it’s an old sax that’s never been cleaned, so a strong stomach helps as it gets pretty slimy!

    But if it’s smelling, the chances are the pads, corks and felt will retain the smell so you may not get rid of the smell completely. If you can find a new case to fit it, then get one.

    Clean the mouthpiece and crook in kettle descaler (or formic acid) to get rid of the calcium deposits, and rinse the mouthpiece thoroughly in cold water afterwards to neutralise the acid (if the mouthpiece is ebonite – hot water will make the ebonite turn green) – the crook can be rinsed in warm or hot water as the brass will warm up and dry quicker.

    How to clean a saxophone

    This article was inspired by a great question from reader in the UK, Peter (“reader”, “Peter” – that sounds kind of funny, doesn’t it?). Peter writes:

    Regardless of your horn, mouthpiece, or reed, the truth is, to the outside listener, you sound pretty much like. you. It’s not that gear doesn’t affect your sound at all, but your biggest and richest sound will only come by developing the skills within both your body and mind to sound great on any setup.

    So if you’re willing to move beyond having your day ruined by a lousy reed, then sax legend David Liebman’s course, Ultimate Guide to Saxophone Sound Production is where you’re going to want to go next.

    Broken down into bite-sized lessons, this streaming video program covers just about every single aspect of saxophone sound production. It represents his entire life’s work teaching the techniques and concepts that were handed down to masters such as Michael Brecker, Bob Berg, and Harvey Pittel (among many others), and then refined over the course of decades teaching countless lessons and masterclasses worldwide. Click below to see for yourself why so many professional saxophonists consider David’s thorough, methodical, and practical approach the “real deal” for players at any level.

    How to clean a saxophone

    The Ultimate Guide to Saxophone Sound Production

    First of all let me say what a great site you have, a fantastic resource. Thank you.

    I have just bought my first sax (alto) and I have a question about cleaning it. All the information I read stresses the need to clean after every use. I can understand and appreciate the need for this from a hygene point of view and for the sake of pad preservation. What none of this information tells me is, how do I do it. OK, I have a pad saver, but is simply inserting this in my Sax, good enough? I would just like somebody to tell me the proper way to dry and clean the inside of my sax after I have used it and I just wondered if you could help.

    Very many thanks
    Peter Nicholson

    When I first learned how to play the sax the horn, I don’t remember anyone telling me how to clean the thing other than running a swab through the horn and calling it a day. While there are a gaggle of sites with great saxophone maintenance tips out there, I thought I pluck out some of the important, tips that might have slipped by many of us in our early days.

    1. Brush your teeth before you play.

    This is particularly important if you’ve been taking in sugary food and drink. Sugar plus saliva makes for a nasty solution that accumulates on your pads and can cause them to stick, which is no fun when you’re rattling off inadvertent wrong notes.

    2. Check your low Eb pad to see how much moisture you’ve got in your instrument.

    Since your Eb pad is located at the bottom of the horn before it starts curving upwards into the bell, the curve at the bottom of the horn is where just about all of the saliva and breath water ends up. If you take a look at your low Eb pad and see that it looks black with a green ring around it, then it probably means that you’ve got too much moisture in the horn and really need to start getting more proactive with your swabbing – which brings us to our next tip…

    3. Always swab your horn from the bell to the top

    The wettest part of your horn is the top, so why would you want to drag all of that moisture down through the body of the horn? Make sure to swab from the bell, which is the driest part of the horn to minimize unnecessarily spreading more moisture through the instrument. If you’re having a tough time getting the weight at the end of the swab’s string to come all the way down through the top of the horn, give gravity a hand by adding some additional mass to the skimpy weight that comes with most of these swabs. You can bulk up that weight using heat shrink tubing fused onto the weight using a lighter.

    4. Don’t use your padsaver as a swab

    After a playing session, when the top of the horn is still wet and icky, pushing a pad saver down the body of the horn does nothing but spread that wet and ickiness throughout the sax – which is no good for your tone holes, and really just about any part of the horn. The pad saver is there to use only after the bulk of the moisture has been removed by a large cleaning swab.

    5. Always hold your saxophone by the bell

    This one should be pretty obvious as the bell is the sturdiest part of the instrument, and making a habit of squeezing down indiscriminately on the rods and keys is bound to mean trouble down the road.

    6. Don’t close your case right after playing

    Even after swabbing your sax and mouthpiece, make no mistake – there will still be a bit of moisture lingering in the horn. By closing the horn and depriving the horn of fresh air, you’re rolling out the red carpet for damaging bacteria to grow. Obviously, this is not something that’s practical to do after playing a gig, but any time you practice at home- leave that thing open for a bit!

    7. Clean that octave key tone hole

    This tone hole is absolutely crucial to the proper function of your horn, and unfortunately has a tendency to clog up with all sorts of sax ick. Go grab yourself a
    tone hole cleaner such as the one made by Yamaha and keep that hole free and clear for crisp and clean octave action!

    8. Bag that mouthpiece

    Many of us – yours truly included, have allowed our mouthpieces to bounce around in the accessory compartment of our cases like shoes in a dryer. Not good – especially if you’ve got a hard rubber mouthpiece. Make sure to store your beloved piece inside a nicely padded mouthpiece pouch to keep it from being tragically damaged.

    See How it’s Done

    Much of what I’ve learned has come from this great video which really steps you through the whole sax cleaning process from start to finish.

    Making it Last

    So hopefully some of these tips will help you hold on to that horn much longer. With daily care and at-east-yearly maintenance, there’s really no reason that your shouldn’t last a lifetime and then some, so stop making excuses and start swabbing!

    Beginning to advanced and All Ages Private Music Lessons on Saxophone, Clarinet, and Flute with Saxophone Teacher Ken Moran. Areas include Mountain View, Los Altos, Atherton, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Cupertino, Saratoga, Los Gatos, South Bay, and Silicon Valley. With an emphasis on fun, students will learn a solid basic foundation of warm-ups, scales, technical studies, and appropriate repertoire on their instrument.

    June 12, 2020 Ken Moran

    How to clean a saxophone

    One of the most common questions I get asked by students is, “Do I need to clean my saxophone?” OF COURSE YOU DO! Especially now with everyone’s increased awareness of germs it is more important than ever to routinely clean and maintain your saxophone. Luckily, it only takes a few seconds every day to clean your saxophone and it will thank you in the long run.

    Cleaning The Inside Of The Saxophone

    The goal of cleaning the inside of your saxophone is to get the moisture out. The moisture from your saliva will collect and wear down your leather saxophone pads much more quickly if you don’t swab out the body and neck after every use. For the body, the ANFREE Saxophone Body Swab is one of the best I have found. They also make one for the neck.

    How to clean a saxophone

    ANFREE Saxophone Body Swab

    Other swabs include the BG saxophone body swab for tenor and alto, the BG saxophone neck swab. You can also purchase entire cleaning kits like this. Another good thing to do is clean the swab every few months or so. You can do this by soaking the swab in a mild detergent or dish soap for a few hours. Rinse with warm water and hang to dry. Doing these things will help keep the inside your saxophone clean and in top playing condition.

    Cleaning The Mouthpiece

    If it starts to stink, then it’s time to hit the sink! Mineral deposits and moisture can buildup in your saxophone mouthpiece causing discoloration and unpleasant odors. This can be a breading ground for bacteria. I wash all my mouthpieces out several times a week. Scrub your mouthpiece out gently with an old toothbrush, a small amount of toothpaste, and warm water. Yes…toothpaste! It is mildly abrasive and also disinfects.

    For something so clean the mouthpiece on the go, you can use a spray bottle filled with 70% isopropyl alcohol. You can also buy a solution similar to this online by Roche Thomas. While we are talking about mouthpieces, just a reminder that it is a good idea to rinse your reed off as well. Rinsing the reed and soaking it under water for a few seconds will allow water to more effectively soak into the reed pores and thus making it play much better! I do this every time before I play. Some people even keep their reeds constantly soaking in a solution.

    Cleaning the pads

    How to clean a saxophone

    The pad of a saxophone.

    How to clean a saxophone

    The pads of the saxophone are a leather material on the keys that seals the tone hole (see above). Over time, these can become sticky from accumulation of moisture from your saliva. It’s a good idea to routinely clean these, especially pads that are more prone to this like the left palm keys, G#, Eb, and low C#. I use Yamaha Cleaning Paper. This fabric like paper is specially designed to pull buildup off saxophone pads (and ANY woodwind instrument). Simply take a paper and place between the pad and tone hole. Close the key with a light amount of pressure and pull the paper out. Do this at least 4 times for each pad.

    Cleaning the saxophone body

    Not much maintenance is needed here. Lacquered saxophones are designed to protect the metal and will last a very long time. Wipe the body down with a microfiber cleaning cloth after every playing session. The goal here is to prevent spit buildup on the surface and keep it looking nice and shiny! If buildup gets excessive, use a damp paper towel to wipe the saxophone down and a q tip to get inside those hard to reach areas.

    This routine maintenance will help your saxophone play better and look great over the years. Keep in mind, you local repair tech can do a professional cleaning job, but this may cost you $150-200. Until next time!