How To Clean A Harmonica?

Harmonica is an instrument quite familiar to us, especially music lovers. Regular use of this instrument will cause it to become dirty and in need of cleaning. How to clean a harmonica? This article will give you the most accurate answer!

Why Should You Clean Your Harmonica?

Image: Pixabay

Harmonicas are mouth-blown instruments, which, unfortunately, makes them quite unhygienic. Since you have to blow into them to generate music, the instrument is sensitive to infection or uncleanliness. 

Over time, the accumulated junk builds up and affects the tone of the harmonica. It can freeze the sound-producing elements and lower the instrument’s pitch. 

Therefore, it is essential to clean the harmonica regularly to extend its lifespan and preserve sound quality and cleanliness.

Needed tools to clean a harmonica

The following are some materials that will assist you in cleaning your harmonica thoroughly:

  • A Phillips-head screwdriver, a dental pick, and a toothbrush are spread out on a white towel.

  • A fresh towel

  • Suitable screwdriver

  • A dish or pan in which the reed plates can be soaked

  • For soaking, use lemon juice or vinegar.

  • Baking powder (optional)

  • A cosmetics brush or a soft toothbrush

  • Dental instruments (nothing to sharp)

  • Alcohol spray containing isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol

There are also harmonica cleaning kits available, which include beautiful spatula-like blades for cleaning under the reeds. However, you’ll be good with only a toothbrush and a soaking. If you don’t have all the items listed above, you may still clean your harmonica thoroughly with a little acidic cleanser and a soft brush.

Once you have all the tools, let’s get started!

Image: Canva

7 steps to deep clean a harmonica


1. Open your Harmonica

Choose one harp and begin disassembling it. The screws on the top and bottom frequently interlock with one another. As you unscrew the cover, the bottom will come out with it. Make a mental note of which screws go where.

Remove the reed plate screws and set them aside to reinstall them in the correct sequence. You should take photographs while disassembling the harp to remember and keep the pieces in a tight hierarchy. This procedure will save you time when it comes time to reassemble your harmonica.

2. Soak the reed plates

Soaking the reed plates in a moderately acidic solution for 15-30 minutes helps loosen and break up any filth left on them after lengthy usage. A moderately acidic solution will accomplish most of the cleaning but only enough to interact with stray particles.

Because of the stricter treatment these harmonicas have had, I’ll use a little stronger solution of lemon juice and warm water here. However, vinegar works just as well.

Soaking in a more robust solution is usually unnecessary. Cleaning your harp is just about common sense and caution. Allow the vinegar or lemon juice to conduct the majority of the cleaning for the delicate reeds.

3. Clean the cover plates

Clean the cover plates with rubbing alcohol or another basic instrument cleaner while the reed plates are soaking. The well-known Formula 65 for guitars likewise effectively cleans a harmonica cover plate.

Wipe the cover plates down with a clean cloth, both inside and out. Take care not to bend the plates, which can happen with less expensive harmonicas. You should also use alcohol to clean the cover plate screws. Just remember to keep note of where each screw goes.

4. Clean the comb

You can wash metal or plastic combs under lukewarm water with soap and use a soft brush to clean them. To clean wooden combs, a gentle scrub with a dry, soft toothbrush is usually enough.

Mold or severe discoloration on a wooden comb is usually caused by too much moisture remaining after playing. Playing a moldy harmonica can make you sick, so it is often best to replace the comb in these cases.

Some harmonicists suggest applying a bit of sesame oil on wooden combs after cleaning. Sesame oil is known to have antifungal and antibacterial properties, and it can also provide a moisture barrier. These factors help keep the comb clean and prevent mold.

5. Clean reed plates

It is time to clean the reed plates with a brush after soaking them. A few important points to remember are:

  • Be gentle and use very little pressure while brushing the reed plates.

  • To brush downwards and never across the reeds.

  • To avoid bending the reed plates, even damaging one reed can make the harp unplayable.

  • If tough grime is on the reed plates, scrub them with some baking soda for 30 seconds and then rinse with lukewarm water while lightly brushing downwards.

Note: Let the cleaning solution do most of the work. If you have difficulty cleaning the harmonica, it may be because you have not cared enough to clean it regularly after playing. Even my 10-year-old harmonica, which children have used, is not too dirty because simple steps were always taken to keep it dry and free of particles.

6. Allow the harmonica pieces to air dry.

Remember that moisture is not our friend in this situation. The last thing we want to do is reassemble the harmonica while it is still moist.

Spread the harmonica pieces out on a clean cloth to air dry. Depending on the humidity level, the components usually take 20 minutes to an hour to dry thoroughly.

You might be tempted to dry the portions by hand with a towel. However, doing so may leave tiny towel fibers behind, which may appear in your mouth later during play. If you are eager, use canned air (typically CO2) to dry the pieces faster.

7. Reassemble to the original

Assuming you have kept track of all the pieces, reassembling your harmonica should be straightforward.

Check the reeds one last time to make sure they are dry and clean. Then, put them back into the comb. Be careful not to overtighten the screws by reversing the order in which you insert them. Make sure that everything is in place before attaching the cover plates.

Blow and draw into each hole while using a tuner or a tuning app on your smartphone to check if everything is working correctly. Find the right notes for your harmonica key and ensure that each blow and draw corresponds to the correct letter.

How to keep a harmonica clean?

Image: Canva

The first thing you should remember to keep your harp clean is to avoid eating soon before playing! If you must eat first, properly rinse your mouth or, better yet, wash your teeth. This easy procedure will protect your harmonica from being too difficult to clean. Simply keeping your tongue clean before playing will keep your harp considerably cleaner.

The second thing to keeping your harmonica clean is limiting the amount of moisture remaining in it after playing. When you’re done playing the harmonica, please give it a friendly tap with the holes against your hand to get as much spit out as possible.


1. Should you soak harmonicas in water?

Hohner advises against wetting your harmonica. Most wooden-bodied harps get louder for a brief period of time after being submerged in water, but this causes the comb to expand and can quickly render the instrument unusable.

2. Should I clean my harmonica with rubbing alcohol?

Cleaning the Comb – spritz with alcohol and clean the holes and chambers with a little round brush. Then, using a cloth, wipe dry. Cleaning the Cover Plates – spritz with alcohol and wipe inside and exterior surfaces with a clean cloth.

3. How often should I clean my harmonica?

You should try to clean your harmonica every six weeks to two months.

Final words 

Cleaning the harmonica is very important because it ensures the health of the player as well as the quality of the product. Hopefully, through this article, you will learn how to clean the harmonica and know how to keep it clean!

Author: Geraldine Ben

Do you have any idea about what are some popular musical instruments? What about your favorite band? Do you know anything about any particular bands or musicians? There are so many musical instruments available for sale that it would be challenging and time-consuming for customers to compare many items among them and choose the best. I am Ben - a lover of all things musical. I synthesize the best instruments to help anyone with their equipment needs.

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