How To Clean A Saxophone In 5 Easy Steps In 2022

You’ve been playing your saxophone for a while now, and it sounds like you need to get it cleaned. The saxophone is an instrument that requires regular maintenance. And you may want tips on how to clean a saxophone.

For your information, irregular cleaning sessions will increase the dirt, debris, and bacteria, resulting in many problems for the saxophone. In the worst scenarios, it will detriment the musician’s health.

Therefore, we want to write this article introducing five steps to clean a saxophone and some tips related to this situation.

Although you still need to seek professional help at least once a year; however, if you carefully follow our instructions, you will save yourself a lot of money and effort for not going to the store for maintenance.

Now, let’s dive into the article and find out the answer!

Firstly, we will still briefly tell you why you should clean your saxophone.

Why You Should Clean Your Saxophone

how to clean a saxophone

The brass instruments are not the only ones that need cleaning. Some delicate woodwinds need a little upkeep too. One of these is the saxophone, which can be found in many concerts and orchestras worldwide.

This instrument’s popularity is because it can produce so many different sounds to create music with.

But if you don’t take care of your saxophone, it may start to sound off-key or out-of-tune when played or, even worse, fall apart entirely!

The keys on your saxophone could get stuck together if they’re not appropriately lubricated; pads could wear down over time; corks inside valves could detach from their seats, and metal parts like screws might rust due to moisture.

All of these could cause problems with your saxophone and would need fixing by a qualified person to get it working again. 

If you don’t clean your saxophone, the dirt and grime that collects inside the tubing will affect the sound quality as well as cause damage to the instrument.

If you have been playing your saxophone regularly, the metal parts will become tarnished and need cleaning with a soft cloth to remove dirt and fingerprints.

Also, if you have been playing in smoky clubs or places where there is a lot of dust and cigarette smoke around, your instrument could be badly stained.

Secondly, we want to list some of the essential tools and equipment that you may need to clean your saxophone successfully. Let’s check to see if you have fully acquired all of them.

Essentials For Cleaning The Saxophone

To maintain a well-functioning saxophone, you must take care of your instrument. The best way to do this is by giving it a thorough cleaning regularly.

Here, we will be discussing all of the essential items that may benefit you in your quest for cleanliness. Let us begin by looking at some of the most common things people use when they decide to give their saxophone a good scrubbing down.

Soft Cloth

how to clean a saxophone

The first thing that we recommend is a cleaning cloth of some sort. This could be any piece of cloth that’s made of a soft, delicate fabric.

Whether you use an old shirt or any other type of apparel that’s clean and unworn, it must be something along these lines to get the results you want.

Cleaning Solution

how to clean a saxophone

Next up is some sort of cleaning solution. You can choose from several homemade options or go for a company-made product such as Selmer’s Perma-Fluid.

One such solution that we recommend is to use a combination of dish soap and water. Mix equal parts white vinegar and warm water to eliminate any odors, then add just a drop or two of dishwashing liquid into the mix.

Saxophone Swab

how to clean a saxophone

Saxophone swabs are a must-have for any saxophonist. They allow you to keep your instrument clean and in perfect playing condition.

A saxophone swab is a small piece of cloth that attaches at one end with adhesive backing and has an open end that can be inserted into the instrument’s bell or wrapped around the neck.

You should permanently remove excess moisture from your instrument before putting it in your swab. Otherwise, you might end up with a “wet” sound in your playing that will result in less projection and sustain than usual.

When using the swabs to clean the instrument, simply remove any dirt, dust, or other debris from it with an appropriate cleaner. Gently pat out any excess moisture (do not rub!) with a terry cloth towel.

Mouthpiece Brush

A mouthpiece brush is a tool for cleaning the inside of your saxophone. It has bristles on one side and rubber on the other.

The bristles can be used to remove any stubborn deposits from the instrument, while the soft rubber protects your instrument’s delicate interior surfaces. 

Cleaning with a mouthpiece brush is an essential part of caring for your saxophone.

Cotton Buds

how to clean a saxophone

Saxophone players are always looking for ways to improve their sound. But they may not know that there is a simple solution right at their fingertips: cotton buds!

Cotton buds can be used as swabs or pads on the mouthpiece, which will help remove excess moisture and saliva from inside the instrument. They can also be used to clean out any gunk in the keys of your saxophone.

And if you’re playing outdoors or somewhere dusty, just put one end into your mouth and blow through it as a trumpet player would with his horn–this will keep dust particles out of your mouthpiece while you play!

Cotton buds are an inexpensive way to make sure that your saxophone stays in tip-top shape.

Key Leaves

how to clean a saxophone

Saxophone players know that the keys can quickly get dirty and sticky, especially if they are left out in the open without a cover. This is why it’s essential to clean them with key leaves.

Key leaves are thin pieces of leaf-shaped material that come in many different colors and sizes. 

However, all have one thing in common: They play well with saxophones because they don’t scratch or damage them as other materials might do.

Key leaves make great cleaners for your instrument because they not only remove grime and grease from your instrument’s surfaces but also won’t break down like cotton swabs or paper towels might over time.

Plus, you can use both sides of the same leaf! When you’re done using it, simply fold it up and put it back in the container for use another time.

The best part about key leaves is that they come in so many colors and patterns, so you can have a whole collection of them without being monotonous. 

They also tend to be more affordable than similar materials such as toothbrushes do.

Someone might even have a set of key leaves sitting around their home right now that they could give to you, or you can simply buy them at your local music shop or online.

Now, we will move to the most crucial part of the article: steps on how to clean the saxophone

5 Steps On How To Clean The Saxophone

The saxophone is a very intricate and fragile instrument. Because of this, it’s essential to take care of your instrument so that it will last forever. Here are five steps on how to properly clean the saxophone:

Get The Right Tools

how to clean a saxophone

Like we’ve mentioned before, here are some tools that we think you should include in your cleaning boxes. 

Key leaves are optional; if you have them, it’s great. If not, that’s okay. Two essentials you should have are a soft, damp cloth and a toothbrush.

Remove Excess Moisture From Your Mouthpiece By Using A Cloth Or Tissue Paper. 

how to clean a saxophone

This is a significant step to take before you start playing. It’s surprising how many people forget this, but it can make all the difference in your sound.

If there’s too much moisture on your mouthpiece, then you’ll have trouble getting the right kind of airflow for good tone quality.

If there isn’t enough moisture on your mouthpiece, then you may find that your sound is fragile and harsh with slight projection.

The perfect amount of moisture will provide an even balance between these two extremes. Once you get used to practicing this habit, it will seem like second nature!

The best way to do this is by using a soft cloth or tissue paper. Using saliva can lead to premature corrosion and even mold growth in the metal parts of your instrument, so it’s not recommended.

You should also keep your hands away from any moisture because it will only create an unpleasant sound on the instrument.

Scrub Off Dirt And Other Particles From The Saxophone’s Body

how to clean a saxophone

It’s time to clean your saxophone! You’ll need a toothbrush and some water, as well as soap. Also, avoid using any kind of abrasive tools such as toothbrushes or scrubbers that could damage the finish on your instrument.

Start by scrubbing the body of the instrument with a toothbrush and soapy water. Be sure not to get any water in the keys as this can cause corrosion over time.

Next, you’ll need to use an old toothbrush with water and soap to scrub off dirt and other particles from the saxophone’s body.

If you don’t have one handy, just use your fingers or an old cloth that’s been rinsed in water if needed. It is best not to get any water in the keys as this can cause corrosion over time due to humidity, so be sure to do so carefully.

Wipe Down The Entire Saxophone

how to clean a saxophone

Get your cloth wet with warm water and wipe down the entire saxophone, both inside and out. This is where you can use a bit more pressure but still be gentle not to damage the instrument. Take care not to get any moisture into the pads.

Gently wipe down each key with either the cloth or rag, taking care not to scratch the instrument’s finish by rubbing too hard. Pay special attention to the touch and pitch pads, as these can be potential sources of bacteria.

Dry And Polish Your Saxophone

how to clean a saxophone

Use a dry cloth to dry the saxophone before putting it away in its case. Once again, avoid getting moisture into the pads.

Lastly, once everything is dry, you need to apply a light coat of oil onto the instrument. You can use either an oil or slide cream.

You should polish keys with cleaner and a clean, lint-free rag, taking care not to leave any residue behind.

If you are doing it for the first time, this video could be a great help to you

Now, we will give you some tips on how to clean your saxophone perfectly

Tips How To Clean Your Saxophone

Know Your Saxophone

how to clean a saxophone

First of all, you should understand what your instrument is made of. There are many different saxophone models on the market, and each one has a slightly different build to it.

This means that cleaning instructions can vary from model to model, and it’s good to be familiar with yours ahead of time!

If you have an old saxophone, you should look for any engravings that are on the instrument. If there are no engravings, take a picture of the inside, so you will have it available later when you clean!


how to clean a saxophone

You should never use solvents such as turpentine, petrol, or acetone to clean your saxophone. 

These will dissolve and remove the lacquer (the shiny protective coating on your instrument) and expose the bare metal, which could corrode.

Therefore, do not use any chemicals or strong cleaners to clean your saxophone. If misused, these can cause damage, and it’s easy to avoid them by using warm water and a cloth.

Water Type

how to clean a saxophone

When it comes to which type of water to use, distilled is the best option; this still contains minerals but not in such high concentration that they can cause damage when your saxophone is dry.

If you do not have access to distilled water, you should run your instrument under lukewarm water after using it to ensure it is properly cleaned.


If you do choose to use soap, make sure that it is a gentle one. Some dish soaps are okay, but most are not strong enough for the amount of material that needs removing. 

You can also opt to use a specific saxophone cleaner if you have it handy.


Saxophonists should also occasionally research what oils or rods they should use during cleaning sessions to ensure that the instrument’s finish isn’t damaged by cleaning it too much or in the wrong way.

During Cleaning

how to clean a saxophone

Using a lint-free cloth, you should wipe over all of the keys, pad cups, and key guards after every time you play, getting into all of the nooks and crannies.

It is also important to clean around the key rods if they are affected by dirt or corrosion, affecting their smooth movement.

You should avoid touching the metal surface unless strictly necessary because your skin contains oils that attract grime!

So always wear cotton gloves when handling brass instruments if you are not cleaning them. To clean the saxophone’s body, you should use a soft cloth or chamois leather to wipe down the lacquer after every time you play.

You should now wipe off all of the excess water, so your saxophone does not have any streaks left on it.

After wiping off the soap with water, be sure to apply some oil onto the areas that you have cleaned. This will help protect the instrument’s finish and also give it a nice shine.

Padding material should also be replaced because it will eventually break down.

Even if broken pads haven’t been spotted yet, it may be a good idea to replace all of the paddings because there might be some small cracks that can grow over time.

By following these tips, your instrument will remain in good condition for many years, and any repairs required will likely be minimal!

A saxophone is an instrument with soft keys and complicated mechanisms, so it needs to be cleaned regularly to maintain its condition.

But with all these factors working against you, how often should you clean your saxophone? And what do you need to know about cleaning a saxophone before starting this process?

These are just some of the many questions people ask when considering whether they should take their instrument to a professional for cleaning instead of doing it themselves.

How Often Should You Clean Your Saxophone?

No Time Frame For Cleaning A Saxophone

how to clean a saxophone

Let’s talk about each question in more detail below. First of all, there is no set time frame for how often someone should clean their saxophone every.

It’s different for single musicians, and it depends on how often they play their instrument and what type of environment they live in.

Suppose you live in a place with dry heat, such as the desert region or another world area where humidity is low year-round. 

In that case, your saxophone needs to be cleaned more regularly than if you live in a humid climate or another tropical destination.

The humidity level in an area is directly related to the amount of dirt and debris that will get into your saxophone.

Moisture breeds bacteria; it causes your instrument to rust more quickly, and it makes it harder for you to play your saxophone if there is too much gunk inside of it.

Seek For Professional Help

By taking your instrument to a professional for cleaning every six months, you’re essentially giving it a “spring cleaning.”

how to clean a saxophone

You should do this at least once during the first year that you own your saxophone because you want to get rid of any dirt and debris hiding there since the factory.

But if you play your saxophone every day, you should take it in for professional care twice a year. 

But if you haven’t touched your instrument for six months or more, then that’s the ideal time to take it in to have it checked out to make sure that there aren’t any problems with it.

If you notice corrosion building upon the keys of the saxophone, deep scratches in the metal, or if it becomes too hard to play your instrument for any other reason, then you’re going to have to take it into a professional, whether that’s for cleaning or if you need repairs.

You should also have it checked out at least once a year because problems only arise over time. 

The primary point to maintaining your saxophone is to look after it after each use and also ensure that you clean it regularly.

Moreover, your saxophone should be looked at by an expert about once per year to maintain the sound quality.

Below in this section, we will talk about some other ways to maintain your saxophone, some of which you may not pay attention to them.

How To Maintain Your Saxophone

how to clean a saxophone

The saxophone is an instrument that requires professionals to care for it. If you are not a professional, then you should only use the instrument in moderation.

The saxophone should not be played in any heated place, such as your car, because this will cause the exterior of the horn to become brittle and chip away.

You also need to be careful when drawing the mouthpiece out of your mouth so that you don’t bump it against anything or knock it on something accidentally.

The best way to avoid damaging your instrument is to buy a rubber protector for the instrument’s tip. These protectors are available at most music stores and can help shield your saxophone from damage.

Another thing that people commonly do not know about is that if you play your instrument with a case as you travel, this can warp the metal.

This happens because the case traps in heat and places pressure on the saxophone’s body for a too long time at a time.

People need to know how to take care of old saxophones; these instruments require a special oil to keep them in shape and prevent the metal from rusting.

Finally, here are some points you should avoid while cleaning the saxophone.

Cleaning the Saxophone: Things you should avoid doing!

how to clean a saxophone

If you’re trying to look after your instrument and ensure that it remains in top condition, then there are certain things that you should try and avoid doing.

One thing that you should never do is use a dry cloth to wipe down your saxophone after you’ve finished playing it. This usually results in the build-up of dirt, dust, and grime from all sticky fingers that touch it throughout the day.

Another big no-no is putting the sax into an already damp cloth. This could lead to discoloring, staining, and an overall mess that you’ll likely not want to deal with.

Also, be sure to steer clear of any products or tools designed specifically for cleaning musical instruments. You don’t want to use anything harsh on the metal parts or keys since it may damage them somehow.

Doing these actions can lead to discoloring, staining, and an overall messy situation that the owner doesn’t want to deal with.


Like we’ve mentioned a lot previously, the saxophone is a delicate instrument and requires regular cleaning and caring.

However, we don’t think the cleaning and caring part is too challenging for you anymore. Thanks to this article, now you know five simple steps to clean your saxophone and some tips you should use to optimize your saxophone’s life span.

And, now, you have already obtained some advice on how often you should clean and how you should maintain the saxophone. We hope that after this article, you can keep your instrument in mint condition and excite your playing experience.

And sadly, we have come to an end. Thank you for staying with us through the entire article. Goodbye and see you in the following article!

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