Part of playing an instrument is maintaining it and making sure it’s kept in a hygienic condition. This is especially the case if your instrument comes into contact with your mouth, so today we’re going to be talking about how to clean a trumpet.
As the quintessential brass instrument, the trumpet has a mouthpiece that gets dirty over time, and so will need to be cleaned.
We’re going to go over the step-by-step process of cleaning your trumpet’s mouthpiece right here, from the gear you’ll need to the specific actions you’ll take.
What’s more, we’ve included tips for daily or regular mouthpiece cleaning so that you can keep your instruments clean, foregoing the need to perform a deep clean on them.
How To Clean
To start, we’re assuming that you want to perform a full clean on your trumpet mouthpiece. This should be the case if the mouthpiece has been in storage for some time or in full use without subsequent cleanings between performances.
Put simply, you should be able to see when your mouthpiece needs a full clean since it’ll be discolored on the inside and may even have tiny debris from the interior of your mouth.
This is unhygienic, as we’re sure you’ve figured out by now, but it also negatively impacts your performances too so you want to make sure your mouthpiece is clean before playing.
So, you’re about to start cleaning your trumpet’s mouthpiece. What are you going to need?
- Dish soap
- Drink glass
- A mouthpiece brush
- Cotton rag
- Alcohol-based sterilization agent
- Silver polish cloth
You’ll be using these items in this order across five easy steps:
- First, you should get the dish soap and the drinking glass. Fill the glass with an amount of warm water that’s proportionate to the size of your mouthpiece. Don’t use water that’s too hot as it’ll damage the mouthpiece’s finish. Add a drop or two of dish soap and leave to soak. This can be as short as twenty minutes or as long as the whole night.
- Take your mouthpiece brush and pass it through the mouthpiece. Do this through both ends to make sure you attack any dirt in there from both angles. Intermittently clean the brush if it gets too dirty and stop only when the brush stops producing dirt and debris on pass-throughs.
- Run warm water through the mouthpiece to clean anything else that could linger inside it. Now that it’s wet, you should take your rag and dry the mouthpiece with it. Cotton rags work best for this. Once rinsed, give the mouthpiece a minute to dry off.
- Once the mouthpiece is suitably dry, it’s best to sterilize it using an alcohol-based agent. These will come in spray or liquid form and should be allowed to dry for a minute after application, at which point you wipe it away. These are great for resisting the future development and bacteria and other harmful complications associated with a dirty mouthpiece.
- Though optional, we’d advise you to use a silver polishing cloth to restore your mouthpiece’s shine. If you don’t have one of these cloths handy or can’t justify purchasing one then it’s best to skip this part as using other metallic-based cloths will just cause damage. Rinse again after using a polishing cloth.
If You Haven’t Got A Brush
Now that we’ve been through the standard mouthpiece cleaning process, it’s time to discuss whether you have the right equipment for the job.
Without a doubt, the most important piece of mouthpiece cleaning gear is the brush, as this physically cleans the interior of your mouthpiece through frictional contact.
What happens if you don’t have a mouthpiece? First, get one. If you’re serious about keeping and playing your trumpet, you need to have the correct equipment.
This brushless method of mouthpiece cleaning is for temporary circumstances where a brush isn’t available, not a maintenance ritual to swear by.
Otherwise, you’ll want to start off by placing the mouthpiece in warm water mixed with dish soap, which is exactly how you’d start the usual cleaning process. For more thorough water cleaning, you’ll want to leave the mouthpiece in here for a few hours, if not overnight.
The next step can be tedious but consider it your punishment for not stocking a mouthpiece brush. Take a toothpick and use it to remove dirt from the interior of your mouthpiece.
This requires a technique that keeps the mouthpiece undamaged while still providing a satisfactory clean.
Hold your mouthpiece under warm running water and press the toothpick against a part of the interior.
Keeping the toothpick still, rotate the mouthpiece instead so that the toothpick stays at a consistent angle flush against the interior. Do this at both ends several times and rinse thoroughly once you’re done.
Daily Care Tips
Whether you’ve just cleaned your mouthpiece or it isn’t dirty enough to warrant a full clean yet, it’s important to learn the daily care tips that can keep you from having to clean your mouthpiece as often.
If the above cleaning methods are a visit to the dentist, consider this the same as brushing your teeth, which you’re also going to have to do if you want to keep your mouthpiece clean. By cleaning your trumpet’s mouthpiece regularly, you can save more time in the future for practice.
All you’ll need for this is your trusty mouthpiece brush, a cotton rag, and a spray bottle that you can fill with water. You’re also going to need your toothbrush because it’s advised that you brush your teeth before playing your brass instrument.
Why? Because a lot of the debris that builds up in your mouthpiece can come from material that’s left in the mouth after eating. Preventing this material from ever making it into your mouthpiece is a surefire way to keep it clean.
Once that’s done and you’ve played or practiced with your instrument, you should spray the mouthpiece with clean water. Once sufficiently wet, clean the mouthpiece cup with your cloth.
Pay special attention to any visible dirt and patches of residue from where your lips may have touched the mouthpiece.
Brushing before playing and wiping the mouthpiece down after playing ensures that each session adds less dirt and wear to the mouthpiece, pushing back the date you’ll have to give your mouthpiece a deep clean.