Regular maintenance of a saxophone will keep both you and the instrument in good condition, and can help prevent costly repairs. Cleaning a saxophone is a relatively simple process, as long as it has the standard half-bell shape. A saxophone cleaning kit is a good investment that will save you a lot of time and effort.
Part 1 of 3: Cleaning the interior
Step 1. Clean the body of the saxophone
Most saxophone cleaning kits come with a brush or cloth on a long string weighted at the other end. Place the weighted end on the bell of the saxophone and flip the saxophone over. Pass the weighted end through your body and out the narrow end. Gently run the rope across your body several times.
- This cleaning helps to dry the inside of the saxophone so that the pads are not damaged, to prevent the growth of bacteria and to remove any accumulation of food, drink or saliva particles on the instrument.
- It is normal to see a slightly green color on the pad after several passes. This does not indicate signs of rust or damage to the metal.
Step 2. Clean the neck
Insert a flexible swab through the larger opening at the base of the neck, and stick it out the narrower side where the cork is attached. Rub the inside well to remove any foreign particles.
- You can also pour water on the neck; just make sure the water doesn't come into contact with the cork as it can swell and warp.
- Wetting the interior with vinegar or brushing it with detergent can help remove excess build-up.
Step 3. Use a pad cleaner
These are helpful in removing any residual moisture. Make sure to use them "after" the first cleaning. Insert the cleaner through the narrow end of the body. Let it soak up the moisture for a few seconds, and then take it out.
Some manufacturers make similar products, such as "bell brushes" or "neck cleaners" for other parts of the saxophone. You can also use them if you have them, but they are not necessary for regular maintenance of a saxophone
Step 4. Check and clean the keys
Check for sticky keys as you play the saxophone, and look underneath them for wear. Use damp cotton swabs or a thin piece of paper to clean where the keys meet the tone, and remove any sticky residue. A little clean water is enough to get the job done.
Part 2 of 3: Cleaning the mouthpiece
Step 1. Clean the inside of the mouthpiece
You will need to clean the mouthpiece frequently, as it always comes in contact with your mouth. Start by removing the reed, and then use a nozzle brush to remove debris inside the reed. You can substitute the nozzle brush with a bottle brush or even a small toothbrush. Wet the nozzle with cold or lukewarm water, then wipe it with a clean, lint-free cloth to dry and remove any particles that the brush did not remove.
Soaking the nozzles in antiseptic mouthwash or detergent is very useful when they are very dirty
Step 2. Sand the scratches
If you want to salvage a rubber or resin nozzle that has marks, use sandpaper or a nail file. Start with the coarsest grain to remove the scrape. Follow with finer grains to soften the nozzle.
Step 3. Clean the reed
The warm air that you blow into the saxophone contains saliva, creating a moist space for bacteria and fungi to collect, as well as food particles that damage the instrument. Clean the reed well after each use with a clean towel or cotton swab. This will prevent bacteria and chemicals from hardening.
Step 4. Do a deep cleaning if necessary
Wet very dirty nozzles with water and a small amount of detergent or malt vinegar. The reeds can be slightly wetted with antibacterial fluids such as alcohol, mouthwash, or mild hydrogen peroxide. Let the reed dry before using it again.
Part 3 of 3: Finish the cleanup
Step 1. Polish the body of the saxophone
You can use a polishing cloth with brass lacquer. If you want, add a small amount of spray furniture polish. Avoid using damp cloths, paper towels, or any other cleaning product that is not specifically made for the care of brass instruments.
Step 2. Tighten the loose screws
You can safely tighten loose screws, but be careful not to over-rotate them.
Step 3. Clean the cleaners
Specialty swabs, pad cleaners, and hood brushes can be cleaned by hand with a small amount of soap. They should last for many years if cleaned frequently.
Step 4. Put the saxophone back together. It should look, feel and sound perfect. If in doubt, consult a professional.
- Clean the saxophone every time you play it. Leaving your saxophone wet will increase the likelihood of mold, rust, and debris build-up.
- It is recommended to have at least two cleaners for the saxophone, one for the neck and one for the body.
- The saxophone is a delicate instrument. Remember to treat it with care. Don't force anything. Never use potentially corrosive materials.
- Do not try to lubricate, remove dents, replace pads, or use products to remove scratches on the finish of the saxophone. Let these things be handled by a professional. If you have a rented instrument, in most cases these services are performed free of charge.
- Never try to apply key oil on your saxophone or any other wind instrument. If you need the keys to be lubricated, take the saxophone to a professional.
- Never put the saxophone in water. Doing so can ruin the pads and cork.