Flute Care Cleaning Germs
When it’s cold and flu season, it’s easy to start to wonder about types of flute care- cleaning germs off of our instrument is something to think about, for sure..
Okay, this is kind of a funny subject I know. But, have you ever wondered how many gross germs are sitting on your lip plate?
I’m not sure if I’m a germaphobe, but my gut instinct says that every once in a while I should wipe those germs with something other than a flute rag (that is probably pretty germy from the last 200 times I used it to swab out my flute… ew.)
Many years ago I asked a wonderful flute technician here in Utah what he recommends for cleaning the germs and also for cleaning in general, and he told me to use something called “Denatured Alcohol”.
I’ve been using it ever since, and also recommend it to my students here at Learn Flute Online.
It’s kind of like rubbing alcohol but has only 30% water in it in contrast to rubbing alcohol which is 70% water.
Denatured alcohol comes in a metal can like a paint-thinner can from a hardware store. Its contents are flammable and poisonous just like any substance of this nature. On the container, it lists that denatured alcohol can be used to polish fine metals. It is also used as stove fuel.
It does a wonderful job on our flutes!
It can also be used as a glass cleaner and to remove ink stains (who knew?!), it will remove mold and mildew from certain surfaces and can aid in getting rid of sticky residue (kind of like a goo-be-gone). It’s handy!
This being said, I’ll give you a few directions and some warnings:
- Use the alcohol on the cloth and then rub onto the flute. Do not pour or spray it directly on the flute. We must be very careful with this so that our pads are protected, and the mechanism is free of overspray.
- I like to fill a small spray bottle halfway with the denatured alcohol, spray it on my lint-free flute cloth and wipe away. Do not be tempted to reuse a small hairspray bottle. There will always be a sticky hairspray smell to it and it’ll transfer to your instrument. Purchase a brand new small spray bottle in the travel section of a Wal-Mart-type of store. Perfect!
- Do not touch the flute pads (the underside of the keys) with this alcohol. Only use it to wipe the silver outside. It’ll shine up very pretty and those fingerprints will disappear as well.
Check this article and video to learn more: https://learnfluteonline.com/how-to-keep-your-flute-from-turning-brown-with-tarnish/
- Do not smell/sniff/inhale this stuff. (bad for the body) Enough said?
- Keep out of reach of young children. The container is usually very hard to open anyway. I have a screwdriver handy when I open the denatured alcohol can. Both are important to keep away from children who don’t understand what this is.
- Do not accidentally spill on your furniture or piano bench. I did this accidentally once. The results were not good. The lacquer came right off and it looks pretty bad now. Oops!
During the recent pandemic, I had many people asking me about taking care of their instruments and killing the germs that could be on it. My reply was that you can do your best, but if you’re not sharing your flute with anyone else, it will be just fine.
Also, many germs do not live long on hard surfaces. For example, the World Health Organization reports that Coronavirus germs survive only 4 hours on copper surfaces, but can last up to 72 hours on stainless steel. Either way, if you give your flute a good shine and wipe it down with denatured alcohol after use, and if they were your germs to start with, you will have done what you can.
Denatured alcohol is also a really nice way to keep your flute shiny and finger-print free. I use it a couple of times a week on my instrument, but it’s okay to use it even more often than that. Sometimes we get goobers that just won’t wipe off easily, so this is a great solution.
Caring for your flute is one of the most important things you can learn about if you want to keep it in good condition for many years to come.
It is also something that many people skip over in their education. Remember that your flute IS what produces the sound you are working so hard to create, so treating it with extreme care is very important.
A flute that has been left out and not cared for properly will last months or a year or two is all. A flute that is swabbed out after playing every time and kept in its proper case will last years and even decades.
Be sure to find yourself a good flute technician who will help you keep your instrument in mint condition. It will play well for you and give you many years of beautiful music if you do these things.
There are other things that need to be done to your instrument periodically in order to keep it in great shape. Swabbing it out and wiping it off after playing is step one (and is the most important step), but also your technician will perform what is called a COA (clean, oil, adjust) once in a while to keep everything in tip-top condition.
If your flute is of higher quality to start with, it’ll respond very well to these tips and play well for you for a very long time. If you need help shopping for a quality flute (of any level) let me know, I’m here to help!
Taking care to wipe off the germs, goobers, and fingerprints is just one way to keep your flute in good condition. It’ll turn brown with tarnish much sooner if you don’t keep the oils from your fingers off of there.
Lastly, if you’re really worried about the germs on your flute, you can talk to your technician about doing a full cleaning and UV light treatment to it. The UV light treatment (pre-pandemic) was very rare, but is now actually a standard in flute technician workshops. You can even order a UV light yourself to have at home. You just place it inside the end of your barrel, leave it there for 15 minutes or so and, voilá – germs are dead. I’m not a scientist, so seek proper knowledge on this before calling it 100% truth.
In summary, this type of flute care cleaning germs is pretty important to not only disinfect your instrument well, but also keeps it shiny and in good condition.
Happy flute cleaning!