How to Make Your Harmonica Better

How to Clean a Harmonica

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.

How to Clean a Harmonica
Wash with lukewarm water
  • 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

Full Clean

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.

How to Clean a Harmonica

  • Soak the reed plates from about 30 minutes in a solution of lukewarm water and a few drops of vinegar or citric acid.

How to Clean a Harmonica

  • 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.

How to Clean a Harmonica

  • 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.

4 comments on “How to Clean a Harmonica”

I’ve been playing semi-professionally for 43 years and have always wondered how to properly clean my harps.
Thanks for the tips using some vinegar or citric acid to clean them. I may be able to bring back a lot of my old harps to a usable state with this process.
Greatly appreciative, Warren

Hi, Jonathan. I recently purchased a Seydel Harp from you. As my preferred harmonica shop I looking to purchase a Special 20 in b flat. You suggested dealing directly with yourselves overcame Online fees. You kindly sent me a voucher with my recent purchase which I was to include with my next purchase ; unfortunately I have mislaid the Voucher. Will you offer a discount on the Hohner Special 20 in B FLAT.

Is it possible to effectively clean a harmonica with vinegar solution after you find mold in your house?

A small amount of vinegar diluted with plenty of warm water should be fine for most harps. Be careful if it has a wood comb, though.

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