How to Clean Your Harmonica

Cleaning Your Lee Oskar Harmonica

Harmonicas are not exchangeable, refundable, or serviceable by retail stores due to health regulations. Once a harmonica has been played by any person or removed from a store (purchased), it is considered to be used merchandise, and must be returned to the manufacturer by the purchaser for warranty service.

An obvious reason harmonicas are not returnable is the fact that they are mouth-blown instruments, and as such are susceptible to being carriers of germs. Many times a “defective” harmonica needs nothing more than a good cleaning. Why not learn to clean and maintain your own instrument, thereby extending its life, and keeping your cost down?

Since the harmonica is a mouth-blown instrument, the very act of playing it contributes to the deterioration of tone quality, reed pitch and instrument life. The human breath carries with it many contaminants that build up residue on the reeds, inside cover plates, and the comb. Each person’s body chemistry is different, and varying levels of sugar and other chemicals are present in the saliva. These contaminants, together with any others that may be present from eating or drinking, will collect within the harmonica and solidify on the various components. Any build-up on the reeds will obviously cause the pitch to vary. Since the build-up most often occurs on the free end of the reeds, the pitch will flatten.

Heavy residue on the reed plates themselves, as well as the inside surfaces of the cover plates, may cause a loss of tone brilliance. Particles of food, hair, and pocket lint often become lodged between a reed and the reed slot, interfering with the action of the reed. Careful cleaning at regular intervals will help prevent corrosion and preserve your harmonica, extending its life. Also, from an aesthetic point of view, frequent cleaning of the comb cavities and the outer surfaces of the cover plates, will keep your harp looking presentable.

Periodic rinsing of your Lee Oskar Harmonica, which has a plastic comb, in plain water will go far to keep it clean.

For a more thorough cleaning, the following suggested materials are readily available: Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, small spray bottle, lint-free cloth and small round brush (i.e. electric shaver cleaning brush).

Before disassembling your harmonica, spray a light mist of alcohol on both cover plates and wipe clean with a lint-free cloth.

Using your tools, carefully disassemble the cover plates and reed plates from the comb.

NOTE: Any time the cover plates are removed, it is of utmost importance that exposed reeds be handled very carefully, and not disturbed or snagged.

Cleaning the Reed Plates – spray both sides with alcohol and carefully wipe the plates clean. On the side of plates having reeds attached, wipe in parallel direction of reeds, starting at rivet end, being careful to not snag the free ends or disturb them in any way. DO not use a brush on the reed plate, as the brush may get caught or snagged between the reeds.

Cleaning the Comb – spray with alcohol and use small round brush to clean holes and chambers. Then wipe dry with cloth.

Cleaning the Cover Plates – spray with alcohol and carefully wipe inside and outside surfaces with cloth.

When all components are completely dry, reassemble harmonica according to instructions provided in the Lee Oskar Harmonicas Tool Kit Maintenance Manual. DO NOT play harmonica before all alcohol is dry. Inhalation of Isopropyl alcohol fumes may be harmful.