Have you ever been told to learn how to clean a trumpet mouthpiece and not see what the big fuss is all about? It sounds odd, but the thought has crossed trumpeters’ minds at least once during their playing days.
To clean a trumpet mouthpiece, simply wash and scrub in warm water to remove nasty bacteria before polishing it to remove any excess layers of dirt or debris. If you play daily, you should clean your trumpet mouthpiece weekly.
The mouthpiece is a key part of helping a trumpet make its iconic sounds. Repeatedly using your mouth to generate air leaves a whole plethora of different bacteria and germs to sit inside it after use.
So it’s why knowing how to clean a trumpet mouthpiece is crucial for both the instrument’s longevity and your health. So how do you go about tackling such a task?
How Exactly Should You Clean A Trumpet Mouthpiece?
When it comes to cleaning your mouthpiece, making sure you do a thorough job is your main priority.
Fortunately, it’s more simple to be thorough than you might think. It requires nothing extra than ordinary stuff in your home.
Why would you think this? The amount of times people go overboard in their sterilizing methods is surprising.
However, overcomplicating the matter can risk damaging the piece itself and the trumpet. So what’s the best way of doing this?
It’s simple – and only takes a few steps to get the job done.
Step-by-step guide on how to clean a trumpet mouthpiece
- Fill a plastic bowl with hot water and add dishwashing soap into the mix. Place the mouthpiece in there and let it sit for 15-20mins.
- Using the soft side of a sponge, gently scrub the outside of the piece, making sure everywhere has been scrubbed.
- Get a mouthpiece brush (or any thin bottle brush) and gently scrub the inside channel of the mouthpiece. It’s advisable to change the water between cleaning the outside and inside of the mouthpiece.
- Alternatively, you can wrap alcohol wipes around the brush and use them to clean the inside if you do not wish to use hot water. Leave it to sit for a few minutes regardless of how it was cleaned.
- Put a small amount of metal polish onto a microfibre cloth and rub gently across the dry
mouthpiece. This will remove any grit and give it a shiny finish to look as good as new.
And that’s all there is to it. This entire process only takes around 30-40 minutes to do properly. Doing this just once a week is enough to extend the lifespan of the piece and help maintain a great look.
Why Should You Clean Your Trumpet Mouthpiece?
As you might expect, the main reason for cleaning your mouthpiece is simple: it’s a haven for all sorts of germs and bacteria. Ones that are not exactly visible and won’t disappear overnight.
And leaving this over time can also prove costly to the actual longevity of the trumpet itself.
A haven for bacteria
Even though our mouths harbour plenty of different types of bacteria, many might not seem harmful when regularly active in the body.
But if those bacteria are left to fester outside the body in stable conditions, that’s when they pose a risk to our health.
The most common types of bacteria that will be found inside a mouthpiece are usually either streptococcus (strep) or staphylococcus (staph). These bacteria interact with the body every day – in your mouth, under your nails, and generally don’t pose a risk.
But left to grow and incubate in a warm, moist area, they can then mutate and potentially cause some health risks if you aren’t careful.
For example, if strep is inhaled and mutates, it can cause throat infections such as strep throat. And if staph gets inside a cut, it can cause nasty skin rashes and infections.
So regularly removing these threats reduces the risk of you letting bacteria grow and possibly enter your body.
Damaging your trumpet
If the risk of bacteria isn’t enough persuasion, not cleaning your mouthpiece can also potentially risk damaging your trumpet in ways you might not realize.
The biggest problem is excess spit and moisture corroding the metal inside of both the mouthpiece and your trumpet.
Most mouthpieces are made from brass – like the instrument itself. However, they will be silver/gold plated to avoid contact directly with the brass.
The plated layers wear away over time anyway, but not removing old moisture layers speeds up the process.
If this carries on and interacts directly with the brass itself, that’s when the risk of corrosion sets in. This then threatens the structural integrity of the piece. It’s the same process within the trumpet.
If you don’t regularly clean out the valves and water gets trapped inside the instrument’s body, the same process happens. Therefore, just basically maintaining it by doing a regular clean eliminates this risk.
Things To Avoid When Cleaning A Mouthpiece
When learning how to clean a trumpet mouthpiece, there are a few things that are easy to avoid. And it all comes from overthinking the task at hand.
Yet, making just one of these simple errors can lead to annoying and avoidable outcomes. So what shouldn’t you do?
Don’t use abrasive surfaces
The first thing is to not use anything abrasive for scrubbing the mouthpiece itself. So avoid using any type of hard-edged scour on the outside or any wire-tipped brushes for the inside.
It’s simply because they are going to risk scratching or leaving marks on the piece themselves.
Using hard surfaces will remove the plated outer layers of the mouthpiece and risk leaving irreversible scratches into the brass itself.
Therefore, using a softer surface like sponges or a nylon-tipped brush is always the better option. They get the job done without the risk of leaving permanent marks on the piece.
Don’t sterilize using chemicals
If people think of sterilizing something, it brings up the thought of using a strong chemical compound to remove all traces of bacteria.
That is simply not necessary in this case. You can clean a trumpet mouthpiece without needing to create an acid or alkali wash and soak it for 30 minutes.
Not only is this a waste of time, but it risks damaging the piece entirely.
Brass is a sensitive metal and engaging it in any solution that is too alkaline or acidic will severely risk corroding the piece. And that would render it unusable.
That’s why simply using a hot soapy water mix is the best approach. It’s quick and easy and the most effective way of getting the job done.
How long should I leave my mouthpiece to pre-soak?
It’s best to let your mouthpiece sit in a soap solution for around 15-20 minutes. This gives enough time to lift off any dirt and grime on the surface.
That way it makes it much easier to clean once it’s taken out of the soaking solution.
Is it best to use a soft-tipped brush on the inside?
Yes – it’s always advised to use a soft brush to scrub the inside channel of a mouthpiece. Brushes that have nylon or felt tips are flexible enough to move within the circular channel yet are firm enough to lift off any debris that might be inside without marking it.
It’s a common oversight many people make when learning how to clean a trumpet mouthpiece.
Should I polish my mouthpiece after cleaning?
Yes – polishing your mouthpiece is always a worthwhile way to finish off the cleaning process. Not only does it make it look shiny, but it also removes any dirt spots that might remain after it has been cleaned. It’s worthwhile doing this no matter if it is a gold or silver-plated mouthpiece.
In the end, learning how to clean a trumpet mouthpiece might not be difficult, but it is still an essential part of looking after your instrument.
The job itself doesn’t take too long and can be done using everyday items you have at home. Not only does it remove any festering bacteria, but it also helps improve the longevity of the piece itself. And that helps get a better sound as you play.