IS YOUR INSTRUMENT RENTED? If so, first check carefully the terms of the rental agreement and, if needed, contact the rental company. Some rental companies state that only the company repairmen will handle any and all cleaning. Damage incurred while you are attempting to clean may not be covered under the terms of the contract. Contact directly the rental firm if you have questions.
FLUTISTS: can wipe down the head joint mouth plate with isopropyl alcohol. You can also use a pad saver instead of swabbing. Use a silver-surface polish cloth to remove fingerprints and tarnish.
CLARINETS: Best cleaning occurs when you swab out the full length of instrument after each use. Clarinet swabs are sold at all music stores or suppliers on the internet such as www.wwbw.com. Replace swabs once or twice a year. Use hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol once a month to wipe down the mouthpiece. Do not submerge any part of the instrument in water. Low levels of humidity common in cold weather months often cause pads to loosen and fall out. I may be able to re-seat the pads if you save them but the rental company will perform the best repair and check for other problems at the same time.
OBOES: the bottom joint can be swabbed; use a large feather or silk swab to clean the top joint.
SAXOPHONISTS: should swab periodically wash the mouthpiece with warm (not hot) water. It is alright to use a pad-saver, but DO NOT store it inside the instrument when not in use. See clarinet care above for other cleaning tips.
TRUMPET/BARITONE HORN/TUBA: valves should be taken out and carefully set aside by laying them on a soft cloth. All slides should be pulled out and submerged along with the body of the instrument in a tub of cool water. Clean with a mild hand soap using a “snake” that can be purchased from any music store. You may use a soft cloth to hand-clean the valves and cylinders but allow neither metal nor abrasive material to come into contact with either the valves or interior of the valve cylinders. Grease all slides and over-oil the valves when reassembling. Mouthpieces should be wiped down with rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide once a week. The mouthpieces can be boiled after an illness. You can purchase a mouthpiece brush to assist in cleaning.
HORNS: Follow same cleaning advice listed for trumpet and mouthpiece however you will skip the section on valves. Use motor oil (several drops of 5W-30 or 10W-30) on front and back bearings (the rotating portion of the valves located under the screw caps on front and the strings in back). Use the clear valve oil to flush out the valves once a month by squirting three to four times into the lead pipe where the mouthpiece fits. Be sure to take the mouthpiece out before you do so. Excess oil should be emptied from the horn into a trash receptacle.
TROMBONES: disassemble the instrument, submerge all parts in cool water and flush all parts using mild hand soap and water. Use a trombone snake that can be purchased at any music store to clean all parts with the exception of the outer playing slide. Allow neither metal nor abrasive material to come into contact with that part of the instrument. Regarding the inner portion of the playing slide assembly: use slide cream and a water spray bottle or another synthetic lubricant instead of slide oil. This will allow the outer playing slide to move smoothly and quietly. You may use a snake to clean inside the tubes of the inner playing slide (NOT the inner tubes of the outer playing slide).
Woodwind and brass performers should floss and brush their teeth before playing an instrument. If this is not possible during the school day, use water from a drinking fountain to swish out your mouth before reporting to class.