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No instrument can match the harmonica when it comes to versatility and the soulful sound that is perfect for the Blues. Taking care of your woodwind instrument would make this highly portable musical instrument last longer and sound fresh for years.
If you own a harmonica or are thinking of getting one, learning how to clean a harmonica can be easy. Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to keep it playing like new.
How To Clean a Harmonica
What are the signs that your harmonic needs cleaning?
To determine whether your harmonica needs a cleaning, check whether it sounds clear as you expect it to be. How to do it:
1. How does your harmonica sound these days? Are the tones brighter than they used to be?
2. Is there any history of you using my harmonica after eating or drinking, even briefly?
3. Does the harmonica have any corrosion inside?
4. Is there anything building up on your harmonica?
How to clean a harmonica without taking it apart
Do you want to clean your harmonica but do not have much time to disassemble it? This method is for you! You can complete this cleaning routine in very little time. Just follow these steps and remove the saliva build-up, dust, and debris.
1. Set up a bowl of lukewarm water.
2. Wash the harmonica with water. Hold the mouthpiece upside down and tap it against your hand.
3. Allow it to dry in natural air.
This quick cleaning procedure can be used on alloy, plastic, and heavily sealed harmonica combs. Using this method is not safe for harmonicas with unsealed combs.
How to clean Harmonica Hohner
Cleaning the Hohner is no fun until you reach the end. Due to the lack of comb sealing in Hohner harmonicas, regular washing is not recommended. We recommend brushing it gently with a dry brush instead.
You must remove the chromatic first before you start cleaning. This means that sanitizing the device requires more time and effort. However, the results are worth the effort.
Cleaning the Hohner should be easy if you follow the steps below:
1. Take the instrument apart. The instrument consists of several parts, such as a comb, pivot, reed plates, mouthpiece, and reeds.
2. Remove the reed plate and clean the edge of the cover.
3. Take out reeds and slots, then clean everything up.
4. Reeds are easy to damage. To ensure that they do not go out of alignment, pat them gently using long strokes rather than side-to-side.
5. Reassemble each part after cleaning it.
6. In the beginning, the pieces may be hard to reassemble. Check out this video for disassembling and reassembling:
How to clean a wooden harmonica
Wooden combs on harmonicas require special attention. Water and soap aren’t recommended as cleaning methods, so you need to know what you need to do to keep an instrument clean.
The only tool you need to clean wooden harmonicas is a dry brush. Below are the steps you need to take:
1. Take the cover plate off the harmonica and remove the screws.
2. Pour vinegar solution into reed plates and let sit for 30 minutes.
3. The wooden comb merely needs to be brushed or wiped with a microfiber cloth to be clean.
4. Reassemble the parts after they have been air-dried.
5. Ensure that all screws are properly tightened before reassembling the components. Be careful not to overtighten screws.
How to clean a metal harmonica
The easiest harmonicas to maintain are metal ones since they can withstand some cleaning procedures. Simply running water under the harmonica will quickly get rid of saliva buildup. When you have the time, deep cleaning the instrument is a good idea.
You must follow this guide if this is the first time you have ever cleaned a harmonica:
1. Take the components apart carefully. Remove the cover gently with a pocket knife.
2. Fill a container about halfway with alcohol. After an hour, place everything inside, except the comb.
3. For plastic combs, use lukewarm water and soap to clean them.
4. Afterward, remove the metal reeds and rinse well. With a dry cloth, apply some metal polish onto the plate.
5. Place everything back in its rightful place.
Clean your harmonic with the ultrasonic cleaner
This method works if you have a harmonica that can be submerged in water.
1. Unscrew the harmonica and disassemble the cover plate and reeds.
2. If the comb isn’t sealed, brush off the saliva and dirt gently.
3. Place the other parts in the water of the harmonica cleaning machine.
4. Press the button and run the cycle for 3-4 minutes.
5. After that, dry all the parts with a tea cloth. Don’t rub the cloth along the reeds, it will disrupt the alignments.
6. Reassemble everything in place and you are good to go!
How to increase the life expectancy of your harmonica
1. Put harmonicas in a harmonica case for transportation. Prevent coins and lint from touching your harmonica. If you do not have a case, keep your harmonica in a Ziploc bag.
2. The harmonica should only be filled with water (and the natural moisture from your lungs and mouth as well). So be careful not to eat sugary foods right before playing, as sweets can get stuck inside the harmonica.
3. Air-dry your harmonica after playing. You can place the harmonica in a dust bag after playing to avoid any dust trap.
4. There is no need to disassemble your harmonica everyday. Simply follow some basic hygiene guidelines for the instrument and keep it clean and dry.
How to sterilize harmonica with hydrogen peroxide
1. For the best results, soak harmonica for 3 to 5 minutes in three percent hydrogen peroxide. Please be aware that some bacteria may be resistant to 3% hydrogen peroxide.
2. Put it under running water and rinse.
3. Shaking your harmonica vigorously in a towel held in your palm will remove excess moisture.
4. Quick drying is required for this method. Place the harmonica close to a fan, or low heat hair dryer, and somewhere air can flow quickly.
How often should you clean a harmonica?
Generally, you can clean your harmonica every few weeks or months. However, harmonica players have different playing habits, so it also depends how often you play and how clean the playing environment is. Because of the mouth contact, if there’s a noticeable taste or smell, it certainly is a good time to give the harmonica a wash.
To ensure that your harmonica stays consistently clean, it is a good idea to clean it with lukewarm water regularly, if the harmonica is the type that can withstand water cleansing. Every few weeks or months, inspect your harmonica closely and clean it based on the frequency with which you play.
You should regularly maintain your harmonica by cleaning it. The residue from playing can settle on the harmonica. You can keep some types of harmonicas in good condition by washing it with lukewarm water. In any case, it’s not a bad idea to try different cleaning techniques to see which work well for your playing habits.
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