How to Clean a Recorder Instrument

Things You'll Need

  • Rod
  • Soft cloth
  • Container
  • Lukewarm water
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Bottle brush or swab
  • Dry towel

A recorder is an instrument in the flute and oboe family that was particularly popular from the medieval to the baroque times and has been revived in the 20th century. They come in all different sizes and are usually made of either wood or plastic. With use, recorders can become difficult to play because they become blocked. Cleaning a recorder and keeping it clean is the key to a sweet sounding instrument. With knowledge, you can safely clean your recorder and improve your playing sessions.

Maintain your recorder, drying it after every use. Most companies will provide a plastic or metal rod that looks like a large sewing needle for this purpose. Stick a soft cloth through the needle and push it carefully up through the recorder. Be gentle, however, and do not hit the block at the top end too forcefully.

Clean your instrument when it seems blocked. Cover the window with your index finger and blow hard through the mouthpiece. This will dislodge any loose dust in the instrument.

Fill a container with lukewarm water, mixed with dishwashing liquid. If you own a plastic recorder, you can just soak it in the solution, allowing dirt to dislodge. You may also use a soft bottle brush to help remove dirt. Do not soak a wooden recorder. Clean the inside of the main section, which is called the bore, by using a swab or soft bottle brush to apply the soap and water. Try not to get the cork or any joints wet.

Rinse the recorder in lukewarm water, again, avoiding the cork or any joints on the wooden recorder. Use the towel to dry the wooden recorder, carefully, as soon as possible. According to the Prescott Workshop, as long as the wood is wet for less than 15 minutes no damage will be done. You may just allow a plastic recorder to air dry.


  • You can take the block out of some recorders for a deeper cleaning. Ask a professional to show you how to do it the first time so you won't damage the instrument.