How to Clean a Harmonica
Unlike instruments like guitars, where a lack of cleaning will have few effects on playability or functionality, at least in the short term, harmonicas by their very nature require regular cleaning. Follow our guide to ensure that you know how to clean a harmonica in the correct way.
This process should be part of your regular routine of instrument cleaning, as it’s simple and quick, and will help to limit saliva buildup in the harp.
- Rinse the harmonica with lukewarm water, then tap it against your hand, with the mouthpiece facing down, to remove any residual water. Leave it out to dry thoroughly afterwards.
- NOTE: this step only applies to harmonicas with plastic, alloy or heavily sealed combs. Harmonicas with limited or no sealing on the comb (such as the Hohner Marine Band Classic) should not be subjected to this step, but should be cleaned with a soft, dry brush
This process is more involved than washing, and involves disassembling your harmonica, so should be performed after a significantly greater number of playing hours than the washing process.
- First remove the screws holding down the cover plate with the appropriate screwdriver. Keep these in a safe place. Clean the cover plates with an alcohol spray and a clean cloth.
- Soak the reed plates from about 30 minutes in a solution of lukewarm water and a few drops of vinegar or citric acid.
- Whilst the reed plates are soaking, wash your metal or plastic comb with soap and lukewarm water and brush any deposits off with a soft brush. If your harp has a wooden comb avoid using water or soap – just use the dry brush to clean it.
- Once the reed plates have soaked for a sufficient time, brush them with a soft toothbrush or similar implement, ensuring that your brush strokes are up and down the reeds, not across them. Rinse with water then dry.
- Dry all of the components thoroughly and reassemble, making sure that you tighten the screws sufficiently to ensure airtightness, but not so tight that you risk damage.
This process works for diatonic, tremolo and octave harps. Chromatics are slightly more involved, so these will be covered in a separate post.
As ever, any questions or suggestions, just drop us a line via the comments section or by email.