Musical Instrument Mouthpiece Sterilization

The news is rampant right now with the current COVID-19 Coronavirus situation and its impact on everyday life. With musicians, there has always been a segment of the population that is wary of testing out mouthpieces and instruments that had been previously tested by other people. Now, that fear has grown as a result of the virus spread and media coverage. Whether you are concerned about mouthpiece sterilization or not, it is important to be able to trust that your music store is keeping you safe!

So I wanted to take a moment to cover what we do here at Kessler & Sons Music to protect our customers.

Why do people test mouthpieces?

Mouthpieces (and flute headjoints) are a very personal thing with musicians. The mouthpiece is where your sound starts and arguably has more impact on your performance than the actual instrument. This important tool is not a “one size fits all” because players are all unique. As a result, musicians want to TRY these things out to see if they are the right fit for them!

Therein lies the question: How do you protect yourself from germs and what not when trying a mouthpiece/headjoint, especially one that has been tried out by someone else?

What do we use to clean and sterilize?

In my family’s business, we use several different types of cleaning agents and solutions in order to ensure our customer’s and employee’s safety. Here is a list of the primary substances that we use and their purpose:

  • Cleaner: Etch Klenz EZ
    This is commercial cleaning agent that has a primary ingredient of Phosphoric Acid, which will remove organic material. This is not used for mouthpiece sterilization, but it is an excellent cleaner. However, we do not recommend this on hard rubber or ebonite mouthpieces as it will turn the material green and bring it a strong sulfuric smell to the mouthpiece. We use it primarily during instrument repairs as our go-to cleaning agent on metal and plastic instruments. However, we will use it occasionally on metal mouthpieces if the mouthpiece has relevant organic material that needs to be removed.
  • Cleaner: AR-19
    We refer to this loosely as “silicone spray” in our shop. It’s active ingredients are Isopropyl Alcohol (10-20%) in a Silicon Emulsion (less than 5%). This combination serves as a great general cleaner and mild disinfectant. This is not used for full mouthpiece sterilization (as it does not contain a high enough amount of Isopropyl Alcohol) but it does help clean off oils, greases and general “gunk” from just about anything.
  • Sterilizer: Sterisol or Mi-T-Mist
    There are several different mouthpiece sterilization sprays in the industry designed specifically for this purpose. The primary products of this type that we carry in shop and use are Sterisol and Mi-T-Mist (used to be called Sanimist). These are true sterilizers.

Our mouthpiece sterilization and cleaning process

When a customer tests out a mouthpiece and does not buy it (whether in store or returned from out of state), we clean and sterilize the mouthpiece with the following steps:

  1. First, we spray the entire mouthpiece with AR-19 and scrub clean with a soft cloth.
  2. After the mouthpiece/headjoint is dry, we will use the non-scented Sterisol Spray on woodwind mouthpieces or the Mi-T-Mist (or comparable product) on brass mouthpieces and flute headjoints.
  3. Each is allowed to sit on the mouthpiece or flute headjoint for the instructed length of time (2 minutes on Sterisol and until evaporated on Mi-T-Mist)
  4. The mouthpiece/headjoint is then sprayed and cleaned again with the AR-19.
  5. Finally, the mouthpiece/headjoint is dried with a different soft cloth (not the same cloth used in step 1).

This process provides effective cleaning and sterilization of mouthpieces and headjoints for our customers.

Additional Steps Effective March 14, 2020

As a result of the current COVID-19 situation, we will be performing ALL of these cleaning and sterilization steps to mouthpieces and headjoints on flutes BEFORE these items are sent out or handed to a customer. This will be done on any mouthpiece/headjoint, regardless of whether it is new or has been tested previously. This also means that any “factory sealed” mouthpiece will be opened in our shop before processing.

In the case of woodwind mouthpieces, we install a protective tooth patch so that customers do not worry about scratching the mouthpiece while they are testing it. This patch will be installed and present on the mouthpiece during the cleaning and sterilization process so that the patch is also sterilized.

With these steps, you can rest assured that ALL of our products that are sent to you or tested in store are clean and safe.

Free Mouthpiece Sterilization

As we always have, we will clean and sanitize customer mouthpieces/headjoints for free at any of our locations. Simply come on in during store hours and our staff will gladly clean and sterilize your mouthpiece or flute headjoint free of charge while you wait.

If you have any questions, concerns or additional suggestions, please feel free to reach out to me directly at dave.k@kesslerandsons.com.

Be safe and sane!
Dave Kessler

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