Wooden Clarinet Cleaning

Just got a Selmer USA Signet 100 Clarinet for cheap. I want to disassemble it and give it a good cleaning, oiling, new pads and corks etc. May keep it to play or practice repairs on as a hobby.

Took some lessons on clarinet in college and had a wooden Selmer Paris made Clarinet then but pawned it for money. Was a broke college student then and wasn’t going to pawn my Conn 10M Sax for anything. :slight_smile:

I searched the web and YouTube and found a plethora of deep cleaning plastic clarinets, mouthpieces, cases, routine maintenance for (oiling the inside etc) wooden clarinets and some conflicting information on what is safe to use on them.

So what are some best practices or safe options when it comes to cleaning wooden clarinets?


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In a prior life, I did some apprentice level work doing cleanings on instruments like that. There really wasn’t much to it. Damp Q-tips to get in the tone holes or pipe cleaner in the smaller ones like the register. They used olive oil for oiling the bore. Although the pro tech I took mine too didn’t recommend oiling. Generally speaking, I think the older the wood is, the more accustomed to climate it should be the less need for oiling. I could be way off though.

What is the conflicting information you found?

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My woodwinds repair tech buddy Jordan recommends oiling the bore before the dry winter weather hits (now). He uses this product.

My repair man buddy Ned uses a mix of paraffin, orange and almond oils.

I have no opinion of my own.

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Just some of the conflicting information: :slight_smile:

One said don’t use Olive oil or any vegetables based oil, but mineral oil was OK. The local repair tech said organic oil is fine. Another said don’t use alcohol, yet another suggests alcohol mixed with water.

I’ve used some olive oil on my old hard rubber saxophone mouthpieces and haven’t smelled anything “rancid” yet. A couple of them were old pre-owned pieces and started changing colors. The oil helped a little on them .

I know this clarinet isn’t anything special or worth a lot of money. But it is a musical instrument and I like to take care of them the best I can.

I did check out the local music store and he didn’t have any for sell.

With keys off dish soap and water at the same temperature as the wood. Dry immediately after and oil the wood inside and out preferably in the winter when the humidity is low. Traditionally boiled linseed oil was the go to oil but newer bore oils tend to be thin like yamaha’s bore oil. Wood breaths, it absorbs moisture and releases moisture which expands and contracts the wood. The theory is that this fast expanding and contracting can cause the wood to crack. Water moisture causes this quickly. The idea is to choose a time of year where humidity is low meaning the wood is dryer and will accept oil better. You want to replace water moister in the wood for oil because oil blocks the absorption of water moister therefore making the wood more stable and less likely to crack.

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I strip the keywork off and wash the body with dish soap or washing up detergent and a soft toothbrush. Pay attention to the joint corks, they gather a lot of crud. I use a soft bottle brush on the bore.Dry with kitchen roll or tissues, then allow to airdry completely. Clean the tone holes with a QTip and alcohol. If the pads are showing their age the consider at least a partial repad. Replace joint corks as necessary. Clean mouthpiece using warm (not hot) water and dish detergent, soak in lemon juice to remove deposits. I oil wood bores lightly with sweet almond oil with a 5% addition of alcohol to aid penetration. Olive oil will torn rancid with time, so I don’t use it. I polish the wood using a paste wax intended for cleaning gun stocks.

Finally got around to working on the Clarinet these past two weeks. It cleaned up easily with no cracking so far. :slight_smile: For oil I found a cleaning kit for wood Clarinets at WWBW. The oil seems thin and appears to dry quickly leaving the bore looking dry again. Is this normal?

I replaced all but one pad on it and just tried playing it. Had to make a few pad adjustments but it does play. Since I got this to practice with I used hot glue to do the pads so I wouldn’t use up the shellac I have. The hot glue seemed a little more for giving but took a little bit longer to harden. Or so it seemed.

Other than getting way to much glue in the first few I done, I thought it was easier to work on than the Saxophones.
For pads I found some budget Selmer “Prestini” pad sets on eBay. All of them appeared to fit the keys just right. Got some for the Alto Saxophone I’m working on too but several of them did not fit. Can’t really comment on how good the pads are yet. It plays but feels very restricted. Then again the Alto Saxophone feels restricted after playing on the Tenor and Baritone Saxophones.

It was interesting, a little fun and helped me forget about work last week. Was so stressed last week I didn’t even feel like practicing.

Thanks for the help / information. :slight_smile:

Recently a new Backun Cocobolo clarinet came into my possession. The warranty/care card recommends Pure Almond Oil and specifically says NOT bore oils.

I done some more reading on it last night. That almond oil has come up a lot on forums and the internet. Was about to check out WWBW for the stuff gquarrie posted above. Is there a specific kind of almond oil I need to look for? :slight_smile:

That I don’t know. All it says is Pure Almond Oil.

Got some almond oil today and so far so good. The bore doesn’t look dry any more.


Glad it cleaned up nicely! I’m a repair tech (11 yrs experience, presented repair clinics online and at my previous shop) and I’d say you’re on the right track- I use mineral oil when the seasons change. When I disassemble/do COAs/repads/overhauls, I wash with Murphy’s oil soap. If you’re in the Georgia area and if you’re interested, I can offer you some repair lessons- let me know!

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I’m interested but your a little far away for me. Just started another job and am not trying to make too many plans yet for my days off. I want to see how staffing is going to workout for a little while. They’ve been really short handed for a some time with everyone working a lot of days off. :slight_smile:

The Walnut oil appears to be working well. I took it out today and the bore still looked black and some what semi glossy.
It plays well too! Really like the mellow tone of the clarinet but it’s just can’t project like a Saxophone.

I would like to repad it one more time. The top half I got way too much glue in the cup but the bottom half looks fine.

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