Cleaning a Harmonica

Hi All,

A couple of reeds, the 4 hole and the 6 hole stick.

This is not a matter of mouth or tongue positioning it really seems that the reeds are sticky like too much spit after playing for awhile only this occurs when I first start playing.

Does anyone have experience cleaning their harmonica? Is this even a good idea? Maybe I need a new harp? The one I own, a Hohner Special 20, is only a year old so I wouldn’t think it needs replacing yet.

Any suggestions would be much appreciated.


Cleaning is a snap with the Sp20, the plastic comb isn’t absorbent so there is no worry about it distorting or swelling. Dis-assembly is easy to do with the right tools, a small standard screwdriver for the coverplates, and a small phillips driver for the reedplates will do the trick, some folks mark the plates as a way of remembering which is which in relation to putting the harp back together. If you wish to go this way (recommended) wash the harp parts with warm water (boiling water WILL melt the comb) and a little mild dish soap. An old toothbrush helps, but try to work towards the reed tip as to not snag the brush and bung up a reed. Rinse and allow to air dry before reassembling. The reedplates have a slot cut out that allow them to fit around a plastic post that supports the mouthcover. The bottom (draw) reeds are exposed and the top (blow) reeds are not.
If taking the harmonica apart seems like too much, some folks use a sonic cleaner like those designed for jewelry or eyeglasses. Another technique is to use warm water and some type of effervesent denture cleaning tablet.
If I am working on a harmonica such as a tune up or repair, I’ll often have to disassemble, so I’ll give them a complete take down cleaning. If I have been playing them alot and just want to clean them I use a Branson 200 ultra sonic cleaner and denture tablets.
Many harmonica players admit to a penchant for tinkering on their instruments and cite a better understanding of what goes on “under the hood” as helping them improve as players.


I like the idea of using the ultrasonic cleaner but tell me, do you take the harmonica apart for this kind of cleaning? Probably not, right?

Thanks for the idea!


Another thing…do you drink a can of soda before/during playing? Because I have found that the sugar will get to the reeds and make them stick. I have been trying lately to brush my teeth or at least take a drink of water before playing! Not always easy, but neccesary in my opinion.

Just a thought!


I don’t take the harmonica apart when I use the sonic cleaner. I try to drink a lot of water before I have to play to get properly hydrated. During a performance (usually around three hours playing time) I drink water alomg with a beer or two to keep the “slick-um” going as water alone tends to be too clean and drying on it’s own.