Mouthpiece Hygiene


Those of you who don't regularly clean your mouthpieces should read this article I came across recently before you next stick one in your mouth:

How is your mouthpiece?

Or don't panic Mr Mannering ... This is the summary of a note about bugs found in mouthpieces written by Christopher Woolnough-King of Newcastle University. It is not for the faint hearted. The paper does not appear to have been published in a peer reviewed journal.
Swabs were taken from a range of musical instrument mouthpieces and from the instrumentalists' nose and throat. The swabs were vortexed in maintenance medium then plated onto blood agar and mannitol salt agar culture media then incubated at 37C. The quantitative and qualitative information obtained during the survey was compared to the length of time elapsed since the instruments were last used.
Viable b haemolytic streptococci were present in high numbers (>10^5 cfu/ml-1) 96 hours after use of the mouthpiece and viable staphycocci were present in high numbers (11x10^4 cfu/ml-1) 72 hours after use.
The target organisms were found in higher numbers in a soprano saxophone mouthpiece at four and twelve hours after use than immediately after use.
Seventy representative strains of presumptive staphycocci were identified using the tables contained within Cowan and Steel's Manual for the Identification of Medical Bacteria (1985). The prominent Staphylococcus species isolated from the mouthpieces were Staphylococcus capitus, Staphylococcus cohnii, Staphylococcus epiderminus, Staphylococcus hominis and Staphylococcus saprophyticus.
It was evident that growth of staphycocci and b haemolytic streptococci occurs within the mouthpieces after they have been used and stored, and that potentially pathogenic bacteria can remain viable for relatively long periods inside musical instrument mouthpieces. High infective doses of these pathogens, caused by growth inside the mouthpieces, may explain why musicians suffer frequently from throat infections.


Justin Chune

Well-Known Member
The Athens of The North
It's a wonder I'm still here. :) I remember when I took up playing again, that the first thing my new teacher did was inspect my mouthpiece. He poked around inside it and produced something organic on the end of a cocktail stick. "Whats this" he inquired? "It looks like a bit of macaroni to me" I replied. I've been more careful ever since.



Well-Known Member
I have always instinctively washed my mouthpiece and reed every other play - seemed like a good idea :D


Enfield, North London
While I can't question all the extremely long words in this piece. And I do admire their length.
I can't help feeling 'get a grip, be sensible' is my reasoned response.

We are all dripping in bacteria, all of the time.
How many of those long worded bacteria are natural/neccessary to us, or even beneficial to us?

Our beds are alive with microbes.
We even pay a lot of money for tiny pots of microbes because TV adverts tell us they are beneficial.

Be sensible folks.

In a supermarket I buy cheese which has a 'best by' and 'sell by' date on it.
Cheese MATURES for goodness sake!
I have a perfectly good lump of Stilton in my fridge that I bought three or four weeks ago, when Tesco marked it down to half price. I'm still enjoying it.
There is still a block of their very nice Genoa cake that I haven't started which has an end date of February '09 which I am looking forward to eating sometime soonish.

My point is, we have stopped using our common sense.
If it looks or smells off, don't eat it!

If you haven't washed your mouthpiece in the last twenty five years it probably won't sneak up and kill you now.

Be sensible.
Do what you think is right for you and don't be scared by such sensational things you read.

ps. Mr Mainwaring didn't panic.
pps. I've just re-read the original post and doubt that one person in a million would understand it.
ppps. What about the rest of the instrument? Disinfectant?
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Well-Known Member
I can't help feeling 'get a grip, be sensible' is my reasoned response.

We are all dripping in bacteria, all of the time.
Yup. Agreed. There's poo everywhere. As demonstrated on a TV programme called mythbusters, there are faecal coliforms (which more or less, means poo, to you and me) everywhere. Ok, we need a good sensible level of hygiene, but we also need to have a balance between an obsession with sterile conditions and the real world reality that we can cope with background bacteria of even harmful types. There's a growing body of evidence that failing to let our kids get exposed to a bit of dirt actually stores up more problems for the future.

For what it's worth, I occasionally wash my mouthpieces in cold running water only. Hot water, Milton and denture cleaners can all ruin the surface of eebonite mouthpieces, and even the bit plates in metal one.
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