Cleaning Your Bassoon Bocal or Crook: A Quick Tutorial with Tips

Bassoon on red background, highlight reed

If you want to keep your bassoon in great shape, it’s crucial to clean your bassoon bocal, or crook, regularly. Many bassoon players might wonder about the best way to clean a bassoon bocal.

To clean a bassoon bocal, first, rinse it with lukewarm water. Then, take a bocal brush and apply soap to it. Insert the brush through the cork end of the bocal, wire end first. Next, pull the brush through the bocal. Finally, rinse the bocal with water again, and dry it with a cloth. 

If you still have questions about how to clean your bassoon bocal, read on! In this article, we’ll go more in-depth with the cleaning process, including what materials you’ll need to clean your bocal and how often you should clean your bocal. We’ll also touch on other kinds of bassoon maintenance, like cleaning your boot joint and oiling your bassoon.

How to Clean Your Bassoon Bocal

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned bassoon player, it’s crucial to keep your bassoon bocal clean to ensure that you’re getting the best resonance and tone from your instrument but also for hygiene. In this section, we’ll discuss what you need to clean your bocal, and we’ll also take you step-by-step through bocal cleaning.

What You Need to Clean Your Bocal

It’s important to have all of your materials at arm’s reach before you get started. To clean your bocal, you’ll need:

The most important thing you’ll need is a bocal brush. You can find these at many music stores but we prefer buying at Amazon because of the convenience. Just make sure that the bristles of your bocal brush aren’t too wide, so the brush fits through your bocal easily.

It’s recommended that you purchase a bocal brush instead of using something you have lying around the house, like a pipe cleaner – some pipe cleaners have rough ends that can damage the inside of the bocal.

Cleaning Your Bocal

Using a bassoon brush to clean your bocalOnce you’ve got your bocal brush, you’ll have all you need to start the cleaning process! Follow the steps below, and you’ll have a clean bassoon bocal in minutes.

  1. Run lukewarm water through your bocal.
    TIP: Make sure the water is not too hot or too cold – if the water is too hot, it could loosen the cement that attaches the cork end to the bocal. But, if the water is too cold, it might not get rid of any dirt or debris as sufficiently.
  2. Apply soap to your bocal brush.
    TIP: You can use the soap of your choice when cleaning. Some bassoonists prefer using antibacterial soap but any mild detergent will work.
  3. Insert the brush, wire end first, into the cork end of your bocal. Pull the brush through the bocal.
    TIP: Make sure to pull, not push, the brush through your bocal. Pushing the brush doesn’t clean the bocal as effectively, and it’s also harder to push the brush all the way through the bocal.
  4. Rinse the bocal again with lukewarm water, and run the brush through again, if necessary.
    TIP: If your bocal hasn’t been cleaned before, you might need to repeat the cleaning process a few times to make sure there’s no remaining dirt or residue.
  5. Pat the bocal dry with your cloth.
    Feel free to use any dishcloth or small towel you have lying around. We prefer microfiber cloths for the absorbency.

How Often Should You Clean Your Bocal?

A good general rule is to clean your bocal once per month. A clean bocal will result in a clearer resonance and tone, so cleaning your bocal more often will literally help you sound better! Not only that, you’ll minimize mold and bacteria buildup in your instrument.

In the next section, we’ll talk about cleaning some other parts of your bassoon, like the boot joint.

How Do You Clean a Bassoon Boot?

You should clean your bassoon bocal pretty often, but that’s not the only cleaning your bassoon will need. In this section, we’ll go into how to clean the boot joint of your bocal.

How Often Should You Clean Your Bassoon Boot?

While you can go a few weeks to months between bocal cleanings, it’s recommended that you clean out the boot joint of your bassoon after every time you play. Because of the U-shape of this joint, it’s easier for moisture to collect at the bottom of this joint, and any moisture can cause a lot of damage to your instrument.

What Do You Need to Clean a Bassoon Boot?

You’ll want to use a pull-through swab to clean your bassoon boot. Some recommend that you use different sized swabs to clean the different bassoon joints, while some players say it’s okay to use a universal swab that fits through each joint.

Cleaning Your Bassoon Boot

Swabbing a bassoonOnce you’ve gotten your swab, it’s time to start cleaning. Below, we’ll go step by step through cleaning your boot:

  1. Insert the weighted end of the swab through the larger opening in the boot.
  2. Hold the boot horizontally, and shake until you hear the swab cord in the bottom of the boot joint.
  3. Flip the boot over so that the cord comes through the smaller opening in the boot.
  4. Pull the cord to pull the swab through the boot joint.
  5. Before pulling the swab all the way through, take some of the swab fabric and dry off the ring joint, moving in circular motions around the joint. This prevents the ring joint from rusting.

Cleaning the Other Joints

You can use this same technique to clean the wind joint in your bassoon. Simply take the weighted end of your swab, insert it through the larger end of the wind joint, and pull the swab all the way through to the other end of the joint.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of the swabbing process, it should only take a couple of minutes to clean out your instrument. Swabbing your bassoon after each use will prevent rust, mold buildup, and any other damage moisture could cause.

How Do You Oil a Bassoon?

Along with swabbing the boot and wind joints and cleaning your bocal, another important part of bassoon maintenance is oiling your bassoon. Oiling helps ensure that the wood of the bassoon stays in good condition, resulting in a better sound.

How Often Should You Oil Your Bassoon?

Your bassoon only needs to be oiled about once per year. A good way to tell if your bassoon needs oiling is to apply a little bit of oil to your bassoon. If the oil is absorbed right away, it’s time for an oil. But, if the oil is not absorbed, the instrument doesn’t need any more oil.

How to Oil Your Bassoon

First, you’ll want to find the right oil for your instrument. There are a few types of oils you can use for your bassoon, but light almond oil or mineral oil are the recommended choices by many bassoon players and technicians since they is easy for the wood to absorb. You can find both on Amazon or at many music stores. We prefer this organic almond oil or food-grade mineral oil found on Amazon.

Although some recommend having your bassoon oiled by a bassoon technician, it’s definitely possible to oil your instrument yourself. If you can, remove the keys from the instrument – this prevents any oil from getting onto and damaging your bassoon’s pads.

When it comes to oiling, less is more. Once the keys have been removed from your instrument, take a cloth and apply a light layer of oil on the wood. Once the oil has been left to dry for a few hours, run a clean cloth over your instrument to remove any excess oil.

You Can Clean Your Bassoon at Home

If you invest in a bocal brush, a pull-through swab, and some mineral oil (see sidebar for links), you’ll have all you need to clean your bassoon bocal, swab your boot joint, and oil your instrument. Follow the steps outlined in this article, and your bassoon will stay cleaner, sound better, and last longer.

Also make sure to check out our other Bassoon articles below. Happy playing!


An ardant fan of acoustic music, I played the clarinet in high school band and even competed in Disneyland. As the son of a music teacher, I know firsthand the importance of keeping instruments clean and maintained. I now enjoy sharing information with others and providing answers where I can.

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