The mouthpiece of a saxophone is the most used part of the instrument, one of the few points where the instrument connects with the human body.
However, we all know that the human mouth is prone to a significant number of bacteria that can start to corrode the tip of your sax over weeks and months of use.
However, there are many easy methods of maintaining your mouthpiece in a manner that won’t result in you having to completely refurbish it due to bite marks and other damages. Taking care of your mouthpiece every week could improve its lifespan by several years.
You might already have a sax mouthpiece that is in a very sorry condition. Luckily, we have several tips and tricks that you can try to restore your aging mouthpiece to its former glory.
These days it is much more difficult to find a music store where you can try out your mouthpiece before using it. Once you have found a great mouthpiece, you’re going to have to do your utmost to try and clean it to prevent the rigmarole of having to secure a new one from an online store.
But how can you clean a saxophone mouthpiece effectively? What materials and cleaning items do you need to give your mouthpiece that thorough clean? How can you clean it in a way that won’t damage it even more?
Well, don’t worry, sax fans, we’ve provided you with an in-depth how-to for cleaning your saxophone mouthpiece, allowing you to produce the same loud and clear notes that you were churning out when you first purchased it.
How To Clean A Sax Mouthpiece
When it comes to saving on wear and tear for your favorite saxophone friend, prevention is always better than wholesale replacement. Repairing and replacing your mouthpiece can be very expensive.
You can simply clean it with items that you might already have in your cupboards or under your kitchen sink.
Here is an in-depth guide to cleaning your saxophone mouthpiece, as well as what materials and tools you’ll need to finish the job with that professional level of sophistication.
Tools and materials
- Cold running water
- Mild soap or neutral pH cleaning gel
- Small cup of white vinegar
- Small cup of cooking oil
- A used soft toothbrush - using a hard-bristled brush will cause further damage to the mouthpiece.
- A clean soft microfibre cloth or paper handkerchiefs - avoid using kitchen towels as they will be very abrasive and could also damage the sheen of the mouthpiece.
- Adhesive tape and cork grease for a clarinet mouthpiece - these items are specifically adapted to clean delicate instrument mouthpieces.
Make sure that you obtain these products first before attempting the following guide, as nobody wants to be stuck halfway through a job and then find out they don’t have the right materials to hand.
- First, disinfect your hands by washing them firmly with soap and water. This way you can be sure no additional grime will get on your mouthpiece.
- To protect your eyes and hands, put on a pair of protective glasses and some rubber gloves. This will also protect your mouthpiece from getting scuffed.
- Using a toothpick or an old saxophone reed, remove the mouthpiece cushion. These materials are disposable and you can bin them immediately.
- Wet the mouthpiece with some cold water, making sure that it gets on the inside and the outside.
- Wet your gloves with cold water and soap, but do not rinse the final mouthpiece.
- Using the soap, gently clean around the outside and inside of the mouthpiece, making sure you’re being particularly gentle around the baffle and the facing.
- Rinse off all the soap from the mouthpiece, making sure all the excess soap and grime has been removed.
- If you have to remove any lime deposits around the beak or the baffle, then start by dipping the toothbrush in the white vinegar and rubbing gently over the affected parts. You might have to repeat this numerous times if the stains are particularly stubborn.
- If there are traces of glue that you have to remove from the break of your mouthpiece, then dip the toothbrush in the cooking oil and rub over the affected areas gently.
- If you have to do these steps, then rub soap gently over the mouthpiece one more time to ensure that all the oil and vinegar have been removed. Then rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of soap.
- Using paper handkerchiefs, dry the mouthpiece as well as your gloves to avoid more moisture transferring from one surface to another. Throw these tissues in the bin after you’re done.
Once you have done these steps, then your mouthpiece should be completely clean.
Using A Mouthpiece Patch
If you have any scratches or bite marks on your mouthpiece, then you can try using a mouthpiece patch.
These handy patches are made from spongy materials and come in a variety of different thicknesses. You use them to prevent your teeth from biting too hard into the plastic of your mouthpiece.
You can buy a thinner mouthpiece patch if you want to still have the feel of your mouth around the mouthpiece. Some players still like to feel that connection with their instrument to give them better articulation of the notes.
You can also wrap your mouthpiece in electrical tape, although this will soon perish once exposed to the buildup of saliva from your mouth and won’t last as long as a proper mouthpiece patch.
You can also put this electrical tape under the ligature to prevent scratches on the underside of your mouthpiece.
Sandpaper And Other Cleaning Tricks
If you have very deep scratches in your mouthpiece, you can always use sandpaper to smooth off some of the rough edges.
If you use sandpaper of around 240 or 300 grit, then you can remove the deep scratches without affecting the smoothness of the mouthpiece itself.
Once you have done this, move on to less coarse sandpaper of around 600, followed by 1200 grit to smooth out the surface.