How should I clean my harmonica and how often? Is it safe to use chemical substances on something I put in my mouth? Should I take apart the instrument or is there a way to clean it without disassembling it? All these are common questions asked by beginner harmonica players. In this harmonica teaching blog post, I’m going to share with you some tips about how to maintain your harmonica to keep it in perfect shape!
First of all, I want to say that it’s not necessary to disassemble your harmonica every day and be obsessed with its cleanliness. That said, we obviously want to keep the instrument in a clean and dry place and follow some simple rules of daily hygiene. Don’t eat sugary food just before playing, as saliva can become sticky inside the harmonica. In general, it’s good practice to wash out your mouth before using your instrument.
If you’re afraid of viruses and bacteria, know that if you leave the harmonica unused for a few days, once dry, the microorganisms cannot survive. You should worry more about things if you’re playing daily, because the harmonica comes into constant contact with your mouth and doesn’t stay dry enough to remain clean.
We distinguish different cleaning methods according to the type of harmonica (wood comb or plastic) and the degree of sanitization that we want to achieve. For a simple removal of residue from the holes without disassembling the instrument, we can use the tip of a toothpick to scrape the walls of each hole, keeping the harmonica with the holes facing down so that any residue falls to the floor. Be careful not to touch the reeds with the toothpick – just clean the walls of the comb.
To clean the outside of the harmonica, you can use a toothbrush and some warm water to rub the shells and the part close to the screws. While you can use soap and water, I don’t recommend the use of chemicals that can damage surfaces. Most of the time, hot warm on its own will be perfectly effective.
If you want to do a more thorough cleaning, you can completely disassemble the instrument and clean the comb with the toothbrush, being careful not to immerse it in water if it’s made of wood, as the material might swell and deform. You can clean the reed plates with water and vinegar, being careful not to move or damage them.
If you have a harmonica with a plastic comb, you can opt for an ultrasonic washing machine. I use one that cost about 35 dollars from Amazon, which works very well. I put in the harmonica without disassembling it, then add the water and a little baking soda. I then perform three wash cycles for a total of about 12 minutes, drying the instrument afterward with a cloth and tapping on it to remove any excess water from inside. To finalize the drying, I use a hairdryer, trying not to have any too hot air making contact with the surfaces. After this, the harmonica is nice and clean, brilliantly shiny, and positively smells of good hygiene!