6 December 2021

How to clean your saxophone

By Lark Music

Cleaning your saxophone regularly is vital. Why? Because when you play, you blow a lot of warm and moist air through the reed, mouthpiece and tube, which gets trapped inside. If you don’t clean it, this can lead to mould forming inside your saxophone, which could impact your health. Luckily, cleaning your saxophone is straightforward and there are specialist tools to help. Let’s run through everything you need to know.

What you need

First off, there are certain tools you’ll need to help keep your saxophone clean after playing and protected during storage. We recommend:

  • A pull-through (a.k.a. the cleaning swab)

This is a must-have cleaning tool to keep your saxophone in good condition. It’s a cloth attached to a long piece of string with a small weight at the end that you can buy or even make out of a piece of chamois or silk, and which slides through your instrument to remove moisture from the inside. It helps to have different sized pull-throughs for your mouthpiece and the main body of your saxophone so you can clean them separately.

  • Pad savers

The best way to describe a pad saver is like a fluffy cone which you place inside the bore of your saxophone after you’ve finished playing to absorb any residual moisture and stop the pads sticking. The best way to use your pad saver is after you’ve already cleaned your saxophone and allowed time for it to dry out, so the pad saver isn’t damp while your sax is stored.

  • Cleaning paper

Sticky pads are a frustrating problem for sax players – causing all sorts of problems if the keys don’t release properly. That’s why you can buy a range of cleaning papers that help keep pads in good working order and free of any debris underneath, while powder paper is excellent for stubborn sticking pads. Cigarette papers also work well for this task.

  • Polishing cloth

For that extra shine, polishing mittens or silver cloths are great for taking off any surface dirt and preventing any tarnishing. However, you can use the cloth on your pull-through to polish the outside of your saxophone too.

How to clean your saxophone

Now you have your essentials, make sure you stick to a regular and thorough cleaning routine following each play.

  1. Firstly, remove the mouthpiece and neck so you can clean the body of the saxophone. Use your pull-through by placing the weight in the bell, then turn your sax upside down so the weight comes through the opening at the neck. You might have to give it a little jiggle to get the weight all the way through and make sure the cloth end is lying flat, not all bunched up, so it doesn’t get stuck inside. Then pull it carefully all the way through.
  2. Next pay attention to the pads. If they’re damp, use your cleaning paper to remove the moisture by sliding it between the pad and the tone hole and lightly pressing the key several times so the paper absorbs the moisture. To be thorough, change the position of the paper several times and repeat. Just remember not to pull it while pressing the key and to use powder paper if the pad is particularly sticky.
  3. Give the body a quick polish to remove fingerprints and any dirt then, once it’s all dry, pop in your pad saver and put it in its case.
  4. Next, clean your neck and mouthpiece. Remove the reed and store it in a reed guard to prevent it drying out completely. Then use a small pull-through to clean the neck and the mouthpiece, taking care not to damage the tip.
  5. Lastly, if you want to give your mouthpiece a deep clean to prevent build-up of dirt inside, just run it under cold water and use an old toothbrush to gently clean it. Never use warm or hot water in case it warps the mouthpiece.

As long as you keep up a regular and careful cleaning routine, your saxophone should stay in tip-top condition and you will have many happy hours playing it. Remember, if you want to make sure your instrument is completely protected, it’s always a good idea to take out saxophone insurance – especially if you take it to gigs. And if you come up against an issue with your saxophone that cleaning doesn’t solve, always take it to a professional for a proper service.

Saxophone Insurance

If you’re looking for saxophone insurance our team are happy to help. You can get in touch by clicking here or alternatively, you can get a quote online for your saxophone, or any type of musical instrument insurance.