Can You Clean Your Sax with Water? The Answer May Surprise You

Saxophone neck

Cleaning is a fundamental part of the sound and playability of a sax. The only problem is that a saxophone has between 23 and 25 felt pads that you should clean around if you use the traditional method of mild detergent and a scrub brush. However, you can clean a sax more effectively if you use the right tools and rinse with water as maintenance cleaning in between the deep cleans.

You can clean a sax with water by using warm water, a pull-through swab, and even a small toothbrush or pad cleaning sheet. There are various methods for each of the saxophone parts, but you can clean them with water. 

A saxophone is one of the most complex and fine-tuned instruments in the woodwind family. Many keys are reliant on other keys. The levers that connect keys along with the rods and other components of a saxophone make up about 600 parts. Most of these parts are moving and require consistent cleaning practices with water to keep them working and playing correctly. Read on to learn about why you can clean a sax with water.

Cleaning Your Sax with Water

The Saxophone has three parts that you can clean with water and other cleaning tools, such as swabs, pad cleaning sheets, brushes, and even detergents or antiseptics. These three parts of a saxophone can all be cleaned with water and generally cleaned every week

Below are the details of the methods of cleaning each of the three parts of your saxophone with water.

Saxophone mouthpiece

How to Clean Your Sax Mouthpiece with Water

The sax’s mouthpiece is the part that gets the dirtiest, and you should clean it the most consistently. Some saxophone players clean their saxophone mouthpiece after each session of playing with it. However, a weekly cleaning should be enough to keep your sax from getting so dirty that it begins to smell.

Below are the steps to take in order to keep your mouthpiece clean with water: 

  1. Start with cold or lukewarm water (never use hot water as this could damage the plastic of the mouthpiece) and run it through the mouthpiece for several seconds.
  2. Next, use the mouthpiece brush to scrub any debris or particles of build-up from the inside corner and surface of the mouthpiece.
  3. Finally, rinse out the build-up you have scrubbed off using warm water. 

Also, always try to store your reed in a reed case after each use. Storing the reed in a reed case will keep bacteria from building up on the mouthpiece and help your reeds last longer, saving you money in the long run.

How to Clean the Sax Gooseneck with Water

Young woman playing saxophoneA saxophone has a long, cylindrical neck that curves from the mouthpiece and connects to the saxophone’s body. The neck also has a cork lining where the mouthpiece fits on and an octave valve with a pad. All of these places need extra special attention when you are cleaning your sax gooseneck with water.

Below are the steps to take in order to keep your gooseneck clean with water: 

  1. You always want to loosen and remove the gooseneck of the sax properly to avoid bending or breaking the connection point screws or lining. 
  2. To loosen the gooseneck correctly, grab the neck by the base and then loosen the bolt holding it in place. Once loose, twist the gooseneck from the bottom and lift up to take it off of the body of the sax. 
  3. Next, run water (lukewarm or room temperature) through the gooseneck to remove any debris. 
  4. Finally, use the swab on a string and drop the string through one end of the gooseneck, then pull out the other side to remove any moisture. 
  5. Pay attention to the cork, which may need oil or grease to avoid needing replacement if it begins to crack. 

How to Clean the Body of the Sax with Water

The body of the saxophone has many pads on it that should be kept clean and dry. The sax’s body is the one area on a saxophone that needs extra special attention on a deep clean. However, when using water to rinse the body of a sax, there are only a few steps.

Below are the simple steps to rinse and clean the body of a sax with water: 

  1. Water will pool at the bottom of the sax, so you do not want to pour water through the body. Instead, start by swabbing the body with a large swab towel and string to pull it through.
  2. Next, using a small dish of water, dip a cloth or small soft toothbrush in the water, and clean the surface of the pad(if sticky) and the areas where your hands are resting on the sax body and keys.
  3. Finally, use a polishing cloth to clean and dry the areas where you brushed. Pay extra special attention to the keys. 
  4. You may also want to keep a guard and in the sax that protects the lower octave and can absorb any leftover water while the sax is stored. 

What are the Best Tools to Clean Your Sax With? 

Saxophone cleaning kitSome saxophones come with a set of cleaning tools. However, you may want to upgrade or add on to the set of cleaning items that you already have in your instrument case. Having the right tools will make cleaning your sax with water much more comfortable and more thorough.

Below are some of the best tools to use for cleaning the mouthpiece, gooseneck, and body of your sax:

  • Sterilization spray with mouthpiece brush and polishing cloth
    By using a fine mist to spritz over the mouthpiece and on the inside edges, you can let the spray sterilize the surface a little better than just rinsing. Also, this kit comes with a tapered scrub brush that is made of durable metal material and is perfect for storing in an instrument case for occasional cleaning.
  • Alto Saxophone Microfiber Round Body Swab
    The microfiber silk material and round shape of this saxophone swab are perfect for convenient storage in your case and quick and effective use on your instrument. This product is a must-have forever player and a must use after every session to keep your sax in pristine condition.
  • Andoer Saxophone Cleaning Care Kit
    This is one of the best all-around care sets for your saxophone and will significantly help you keep your sax in top condition alongside washing with water. This set not only comes with four swabs and a mouthpiece brush, but an adjustable neck strap, a thumb guard, and a small screwdriver for tightening up any components or keyguards that might come loose while traveling or playing.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning is an undeniable part of the care of your instrument. Washing a saxophone with water can be incredibly useful if done regularly and alongside the right tools. You may also want to consider detergent or sanitizer spray for filthy areas like the inside of the mouthpiece. However, water rinse, scrub, and drying can be the best thing you can do to keep your saxophone in excellent playing.

Using water and these steps along with a small kit of sax cleaning essentials like those listed will help you to keep your sax in excellent working order and save you the money it costs to take frequent trips to the music store for cleaning and repairs.


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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