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How to Disinfect a Clarinet

Sterilize the clarinet's mouthpiece with vinegar and mouthwash.
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The clarinet is a complex instrument composed of many materials and with many moving parts. Its wooden interior collects germs as musicians play it, and its delicate pieces can be difficult to clean. Fully sterilizing the instrument requires ethylene oxide, a toxic substance that only professionals use, but clarinet players should make basic disinfection a part of their regular instrument-cleaning regimen. It helps prevent illness and keeps the clarinet functioning properly.

Things You'll Need:

  • Vinegar
  • Mouthwash
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Vial Or Glass
  • Cleaning Rod
  • Toothbrush
  • Cleaning Rag

Fill a vial or glass partially with vinegar. Put the clarinet's mouthpiece in it, with the part that contacts the player's lips at the bottom. Make sure that there is not enough vinegar in the vial to reach the cork, which should stay dry. Leave the mouthpiece in the vinegar for five minutes.

Remove the mouthpiece and scrub it gently with a toothbrush to remove any built-up calcium or sugar deposits.

Rinse the vinegar out of the vial and replace it with the same amount of mouthwash. Put the mouthpiece back in the vial for 30 seconds, then remove it and rinse it clean. Keep the cork dry. Put the mouthpiece away.

Dampen a soft cleaning cloth with rubbing alcohol and thread it through the clarinet's cleaning rod. Disassemble the clarinet, and pull the cloth through each piece, twisting it gently to spread the rubbing alcohol across all the interior surfaces. This removes bacteria from the inside of the instrument.


  • Keep any silver parts of the clarinet away from the vinegar, which oxidizes silver.
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