Harp Cleaning Advice

Dear All, I hope this is not a duplicate thread however I am looking for advice of the correct way to deep clean the inside of my harp. I keep it in the case when not using it and and often drink water when practicing so I am trying to take good acre of it. I have just shone a light over the holes to check its condition and wish I hadn’t ! I think it may be an accumulation of moisture and dust, which obviously isn’t great to look at and the thought of drawing on it isn’t good for a clean-freak like myself!
Rather than poking things in the holes to clean it and to avoid damaging the reeds, can anybody recommend a safe way of cleaning the harp, for the harp’s sake and the user? For the record it is s Hohner Special 20 (plastic comb). Many thanks in advance.

As a foot note - Luke, your Beginner to Boss course is awesome - I’m well into Module 2 learning cool solos. As a newbie I am buzzing - thank you !


You need to read this post.

– Slim


Many thanks, Slim - another toy to purchase!


Hello @harveybabes,
I also use an ultrasonic cleaner and it really works.
Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


Hey - I’m not the right guy to answer this as I’m not a clean freak. Probably need to be more of one!

But just wanted to say thank you so much for your kind words, and I’m glad that you’re digging the course!


I’ve been buying second hand harmonicas, so I was concerned about cleaning.
I’d like to know if there’s anything wrong with what I’ve been doing.

Firstly, I use tissues, and wipe the whole thing down with mouthwash, I use one that contains alcohol. I rub and scrub along all of the joins and lines with my thumbnail padded by the tissue, damp with mouthwash.

When I’m happy that nothing else can possibly come off, I’ll dip cotton tips into mouthwash, and…
Edited - …carefully clean the holes as deeply as I can, without actually entering the chambers themselves, just cleaning the ‘face plate’ part.

When a cotton tip stays perfectly clean and nothing at all is coming off, I pour mouthwash through the harmonica, both from the front, and through the back.

I let that sit for a few minutes, and then rinse it through thoroughly with plenty of warm water, again, from the front, and from the back.

Then I tap it on my leg a few times, wipe it and shake it using a towel, then let it sit near a heater, where it will dry quickly, but not become hot, or really, even warm (It’s winter here).

So far, so good, and I feel confident in playing them. I haven’t sucked up anything yet! :crossed_fingers:

Does that sound okay?

Hi @Dave_Dunn

I strongly advise against sticking anything into the holes of your harp! My preference is to remove at least the cover plates (and best is to also remove the reed plates from the comb).

Mouthwash is frequently sticky and I think it would be less effective at disinfection than, e.g. someting like Lysol® or a disinfectant from a pharmacy that does not contain any sticky compounds.

I and @stevenlois1 have described our own preferences concerning harp cleaning in several posts elsewhere in this forum. Have you not seen them yet?

– Slim :sunglasses:


Thanks Slim. It can be sticky, but I don’t let it dry, and rinse it very thoroughly. I really wouldn’t want to use anything not meant to go in your mouth, that would worry me more than germs would!
I don’t actually poke the cotton tips deep into the harmonica, I’m just cleaning the holes in the comb, so I’m penetrating perhaps 5mm at the very most.

And yes, I have seen your method, you take them apart and put the parts into an ultrasonic cleaner. Not everyone has one!

Some more practical advice is what most people are looking for I think. Even if planning to buy an ultrasonic cleaner, they still need cleaning in the meantime.

I’ve seen advice that flushing them with warm water won’t damage them. If so, I should think it would be fine to use mouthwash, and flush it out thoroughly with warm water. The getting the insides wet is my main concern, but the advice that it’s okay comes up regularly. After seeing that your method involves getting the parts wet, and that doesn’t cause any damage, I went ahead with flushing them with warm water.

Perhaps I should take them apart to clean them, but that would be a little bit intensive, especially with the ones held by nails, and I didn’t feel it necessary at the time.

Points taken though, be aware that mouthwash can be sticky, so perhaps look into a different disinfectant, and don’t stick anything actually into the body of the harmonica for fear of messing up the reeds. I don’t, but I found it hard to put what I was doing into words properly.

Thanks for the feedback, and perhaps one day, I’ll buy an ultrasonic cleaner, until then, I need to do something else. :slightly_smiling_face:


Here’s JP’s perspective: How to Make Your Harmonica Last a Long Time – Maintenance & Cleaning Tips

If I get a stuck reed, I generally run it under water and then tap gently and repeatedly against my palm, alternating with blowing and drawing all the holes, then more tapping, to get all the water out.

Years ago I used to soak them in a glass of Listerine mouthwash before rinsing under water.

I ran into a killer harmonica player last week named Kat. Here’s a vid of her:

She said she washes hers in a large bowl of warm water with just 2 drops of Dawn detergent and swishes them around in the bowl before rinsing them out and tapping against palm to dry.

Hope that helps!


Not sure about this but I use non perfumed hand sanitise. It is mostly alcahol. Then I rince it. It is also the best thing ever for cleaning your phone and your glasses. No need to rinse.


That stuff is way more sticky than the mouthwash I use, I don’t even like it on my hands! I carry my own sanitiser around the supermarket and other stores, just for that reason. Hopefully you’ve read Slims comment.

Anything like that can be rinsed off though, and I think that’s the key part, rinsing thoroughly.

I feel like I was a bit disrespectful in my reply to Slim, I certainly do appreciate his input, and respect his knowledge, it’s just that next minute, he might be telling me that Pale Ale is a poor choice of disinfectant and lubrication! :wink::+1:


Hello @Dave_Dunn, why are you making cleaning so complicated?
Normal washing-up liquid diluted with the appropriate amount of water is completely sufficient and disinfects sufficiently! This is proven by tests in kitchen cleaning, and it is also inexpensive.
By the way, Dave, you write about your dentures. A drop of washing-up liquid on a wet toothbrush also makes all kinds of dentures sparkling clean and hygienically clean. Then rinse thoroughly, done.
I am friends with a dentist and he gave me this tip. Of course not in the mouth… Then it could be quite nice :whale:. Bubble, Bubble :joy:
Greetings from Astrid :woman_in_lotus_position:


Now you’re on the right track, @Dave_Dunn ! Only wrong word was “poor”. Much better than mouth-wash – and a good dry IPA with 7% ABV or higher is the way to go! :crazy_face:

– Slim :sunglasses:


Yeh the perfumed ones can be sticky. The bulk one we use is really just industrial alcohol. It’s not sticky. Unfortunately our water here is full of calcium so it doesn’t dry clear. Trial and error depending on your situation as with everything.


You make a good point, that didn’t occur to me. I keep distilled water on hand, precisely because of the mineral content of our tap water. Distilled water leaves no residue, I didn’t think to use it as a final rinse, but I can definitely see that it would be advantageous to so.
Good thinking 99! :slightly_smiling_face::+1: