If you notice a strange smell coming from your clarinet, this is likely because your instrument has not been adequately cleaned. When you play, moisture from your breath collects inside your clarinet’s mouthpiece. This warm, dark space provides an ideal environment for the growth of bacteria, making the instrument smell. Fortunately, the odor can be removed through proper cleaning.
Pour a small amount of vinegar into the glass. Place the mouthpiece of your clarinet tip-down into the vinegar. The level of the vinegar should be high enough for the tip to be submerged but low enough for the cork to remain dry.
Remove the mouthpiece from the vinegar after five minutes. Rub it with an old toothbrush to remove any grime and buildup that is still visible. If the mouthpiece still appears dirty, you can return it to the vinegar for another five minutes and repeat the brushing process.
Wash the glass and fill it to the same level with mouthwash to kill any bacteria that may have entered the instrument through your mouth. Return the mouthpiece tip-down into the glass. Remove it after 30 seconds and rinse it with water without wetting the cork.
In addition to the bacteria that results from the moisture in your breath, germs are also introduced to the mouthpiece through your lips and tongue. For this reason, you must pay special attention to sanitizing the mouthpiece.
If your clarinet mouthpiece has any parts that are plated in silver, do not to exceed five minutes of dipping time in the vinegar as excessive exposure will cause the silver to oxidize.