Saxophone Maintenance - Cleaning your saxophone
At first glance the saxophone is a beautiful looking piece of kit, but if its not kept clean it can start to take away the charm from the instrument. It’s no good going to a gig with grime all over the keys and water marks on the bell. Everyone should have a clean saxophone, it looks smart and is a lot more pleasing to hold and play.
If your saxophone is badly maintained – Not only might there be long term health implication for the dedicated player but it’s well worth keeping up a cleaning regime for the good of the instrument (and it does have to be mentioned that saxes put back in their cases damp after playing will tend to develop a bit of a grim smell after a while- not conducive to an enthusiastic practice regime).
If it’s feasible, it’s always worth keeping your instrument out on a sax stand rather than being put away in its case. Air circulation will help it dry out better, they’re thing of great beauty & the psychological hurdle of getting the horn out of its case for a toot can be tricky, particularly after a days’ work….
Realistically this is the point which most requires cleaning and is going to get most moisture in it while playing. There are, however, a variety of pull-throughs and savers specifically for the job (including the Hodge Baritone Swab a much needed super long cleaner for the top bend of the baritone sax)
The part which is most obviously a hygiene worry is the mouthpiece. This can be easily addressed with a disinfectant spray (a word of warning here- ebonite mouthpieces can react badly to normal cleaning agents, anything abrasive or even hot water- it’s not recommended to use anything other than correct products here).
Its all well and good having a nice looking saxophone on the outside but it is even more important to make sure internally the saxophone is kept dry to help extend the life of your pads. I’m sure you’ve all experienced a sticky G# key and low C# key. For decades saxophonists have used the trusty Rizla paper to wipe the moisture off the pad to help stop this. Of course this isn’t the best way to combat this problem, as they tear, cant absorb huge amounts of moisture and you have to keep buying packs as they go missing. We like to use the Pad Dryer, its sole purpose is to prevent sticky key problems by picking up a lot more grime from underneath the pads compared to the rizla paper.
Another alternative to help prevent your saxophone keys from sticking is Key Leaves. These leaf shape props are made from silicoln and are placed underneath the C# and G# key when the saxophone is put away to stop them drying closed. It is aid the are meant to make your keys up to 98% less sticky. As it also increases airflow to trouble areas of the saxophone slows the growth of bacteria inside your sax!
PAD SAVERS & PULL THROUGHS
After playing the saxophone for a few hours, an accumulation of saliva will be saturating your pads and leaving a small puddle in the bow of the instrument. It is encouraged to rid your saxophone of this moisture as it can do some permanent damage to the pads, especially if you have particularly acidic saliva due to fizzy drinks, alcohol or sugar in general. Generally speaking there are two products which work well for this. The simple but effective Pull Through, or the really easy to use Pad Saver. Both of these work wonders when getting rid of excess moisture from inside the saxophone. Just remember after using the pad saver make sure it is aired on a radiator before being put back into the saxophone otherwise you’ll be putting the moisture back into contact with the pads, and they will be in danger of rotting.
Make sure you don’t try to clean the neck with this pull through as it will get stuck. Specific neck savers and pull throughs are availble within care products on our site.
I LOVE MY SAXOPHONE MITTEN
Microfibre cloths are of course the best tool to use when cleaning the exterior of the instrument, but our personal favourite at Sax.co.uk is the ‘I Love My Saxophone Mitten’. Of course it fits like a glove, its very easy to access all areas of the saxophone and will leave it looking brand new.
If you’re lucky enough to have a silver plated or solid silver saxophone, Yamaha have a brilliant silver cloth to help clear up any tarnishing. This is the most effective way to clean the outside of your silver saxophone.