Are your reeds a little old? Maybe you haven’t been brushing your teeth before you play? They could look a little discolored but play, or you can see a little bit of…something inside. If you can relate to any of these situations, I have the perfect solution for you: use a pipe cleaner to clean your reed!
You can’t just use any pipe cleaner you have lying around. It needs to be small in diameter and the fibers need to be short and firmly wound into the wire so they don’t shed. You can’t just go to your local craft store, you need smoking-pipe pipe cleaners. The pipe cleaner should be no larger than 2 mm in diameter when uncompressed and should be soft.
Pipe cleaners in many different lengths and colors, and Amazon has many brands to choose from. Make sure that you get a narrow, soft, lint-free product. I recommend buying from your local cigar store if possible.
Once you get your hands on some pipe cleaners, you can use it to clean the reed.
How to clean your reed with a pipe cleaner
We know that our reeds are super delicate, so we can’t just wash them with soap and water like a clarinet mouthpiece! Here are my step-by-step instructions on how to clean your reed with a pipe cleaner. (These instructions will help remove any foreign objects or built-up stuff from reeds safely, NOT sanitize/sterilize reeds.)
WARNING: Never put a pipe cleaner into a dry reed. NEVER pull the pipe cleaner out through the cork. Doing these two things could destroy the tip!
Soak the reed until it’s wet enough to play.
Select a pipe cleaner that’s straight, and longer than your reed.
Dip the tip of the pipe cleaner into water (it’s ok to dip it into your reed water cup)
Gently insert the pipe cleaner into the cork of the reed, and slowly push the pipe cleaner through the reed until it comes out through the tip.
Keep pushing/pulling the pipe cleaner out through the tip until it comes out.
Enjoy your newly clean reed! You can reuse the pipe cleaner, or discard it.
If you found this helpful, and you'd like to get weekly tips, exercises, and observations about playing oboe in your inbox each week, you can sign up for my newsletter!