If your clarinet is not playing right, or just looks dirty, you’re probably wondering what your options are, and if you should take your instrument to be cleaned by a professional or if you should clean it yourself. For me, like most people, the question is “How much is this going to cost?” Lucky for you, I’ve done all the research for you!
If you take your clarinet to an instrument service professional, the average cost to deep clean a clarinet is $49 – $65 and the average cost for a minor overhaul is $160 – $230. There’s a lot of factors that will affect this cost including the condition of your instrument, what your clarinet is made of, where you’re located, and the repair technician. If you deep clean your own clarinet, you can expect a one-time cost of $11.99 – $53.48 for supplies and tools needed.
Let’s explore what goes into a professional clarinet cleaning to see if it’s worth it. Let’s also look at what factors will affect the price and if you may need a minor overhaul — if your instrument hasn’t been properly maintained, it may need a little extra love. We’ll delve into doing it yourself too. Not only will you save money but you’ll be picking up a valuable skill!
What to expect with a professional clarinet cleaning
When you take your instrument to a trained professional, you’re not just paying for their service. You’re also paying for the convenience, their expertise, and their years of experience. In most cases, they’ll also guarantee their work. In general, a musical instrument repair technician is trained in all areas of instrument repair, not just cleaning. So as they clean your clarinet, they’ll also spot issues with your instrument that you wouldn’t notice such as pads that need to be reseated, faulty cork in your joints, etc. They would then recommend additional work as needed to keep your instrument in optimal playing condition.
Every music store or professional will offer slightly different services with their cleaning. From my research though, most offer the following with their professional cleaning:
- General cleaning: This includes swabbing out each joint, cleaning the mouthpiece, wiping down each joint, and cleaning the key holes and metalwork.
- Checking for proper fit of all joints: The joint corks would be tested and greased to ensure a tight fit but still easy to assemble and disassemble.
- Checking and Lubricating keys: All keys and moving parts would be tested and lubed.
- Checking and reseating pads: Checking the seal of each pad and reseating as necessary.
- Cleaning the case: Cleaning your instrument case, inside and out.
- Oiling & Polishing: Lastly, oiling the wood of your clarinet and polishing all the metalwork.
By the time the cleaning is done, your clarinet will look sparkling and new, your instrument should play a little better, and if there’s anything wrong with your instrument, the technician will spot any issues early. Also, if there is a part that needs to be replaced, like a pad or two, they will probably have those parts readily available for you.
Note that if your music store doesn’t include all the above service in their cleaning, that’s fine – not all stores and technicians are the same. For some pros, lubricating the keys or reseating the pads are part of their more involved overhauls (see below).
Cost for professional cleaning for your clarinet
Researching the cost of professional clarinet cleaning across the country, most shops had their services in the $49 – $65 range. The cheapest service I found was a couple of shops in Las Vegas starting at $30. The most expensive service was up in Washington, starting at $75. Remember, these are the base prices. Depending on the age and wear of your instrument, you can expect some additional costs especially if you need new pads or joint corks.
How long does a professional clarinet cleaning take?
An instrument repair pro will be able to disassemble and clean your instrument in no time at all but if they’re worth their salt, they’ll have plenty of orders ahead of you. Or, they may have a schedule where they only do their cleanings at certain times of the day. Generally though, a professional will have a turnaround time of 24-48 hours. Just make sure to ask them.
Factors that would affect the cleaning cost of your clarinet
As you saw, there’s a pretty wide range in the cost of a professional clarinet cleaning. Let’s go over what would affect the cost so you have a better expectation of how much cash you’ll be shelling out.
- Condition of your clarinet: How old is your instrument and how long has it been since it’s been serviced? Have the pads, keys, and joints been looked at in the last couple of years to make sure everything is working correctly? If it hasn’t, expect that a little extra work will be involved. If your clarinet is damaged in any way, it may need a lot more work.
- Composition of your clarinet: If your clarinet is primarily made of plastic, expect a lower price. If it’s wood, it’ll be in the mid-range. If it’s a higher end clarinet or made from metal, expect to pay more. Also, if you own a bass clarinet, there’s just more clarinet to clean there so expect a higher cost as well.
- Your location: Generally if you’re on the east or west coast, or in another area with a higher cost of living, you’ll be paying more.
- Who you’re working with: There’s generally a higher price tag with more expertise and higher demand. It may be worth a few extra bucks though for a more reputable professional.
As you can see, there’s a few factors that will go into the cost for cleaning your clarinet. If it sounds pretty steep for your budget right now, and your instrument is in relatively good shape, continue reading to find out more about doing it yourself.
Does your clarinet need a minor overhaul?
How much love does your instrument need? Has it been neglected for a while or is it in pretty good shape? From my research, a minor overhaul runs $160 – $230 depending on what pads you choose and how much work your clarinet needs.
I saw some minor overhauls starting as low as $120 and some starting as high as $230. For bass clarinetists, you’re going to be in the $425 range (sorry, that’s just how it is).
So what goes into a minor overhaul? Again, it’ll vary from shop to shop, pro to pro, but this is generally what is included:
- Everything that was included in the professional cleaning
- Replacing all upper joint pads
- Testing and replacing all pads and felts as needed
- Testing and replacing joint corks as needed
- Disassembling and cleaning all metal work, lubing and adjusting keys and hinges as needed
- Wood servicing (if wood)
This service is like a tune-up for your car where the technician goes through everything in depth. After the minor overhaul, you can expect an immediate improvement to the resonance and tone quality throughout your clarinet. Luckily with the cost of this service, you don’t need to do it often.
Find a professional service technician for your clarinet
If you’ve decided that you’d like to have a pro take care of cleaning your clarinet, the next step will be a quick Google search. Just click this link – Google should show you local results but if it doesn’t add your city or region to the search field.
If you’re in a larger city, several locations should display on the Google Map. I usually go with the closest location with high stars.
If that search didn’t yield any results for you, try this more general search for musical instrument repair shops.
You may want to give them a call if you have specific questions. Next, check out their store hours and drop your instrument off with them.
Cleaning your clarinet DIY style: Save money but spend time
You can save quite a bit of money cleaning your own clarinet, especially if you play your instrument over many years. Before you get started, you’ll need to pick up some tools and supplies. Expect to pay between $11.99 and $53.48, for just the cleaning supplies and tools. Compared to a professional cleaning, this is really inexpensive and after you buy them, you’ll have them for many cleanings to come. You’ll also need to invest some time in learning how to clean your clarinet.
For general cleaning and maintenance, follow my “Quick and safe way to clean your clarinet” section on this page. With this guide, you’ll learn how to clean your instrument within about 15 minutes and then actually cleaning your clarinet will take between 10-20 minutes depending on how much time you take.
For a more in depth cleaning, here’s a couple of guides that cover the topic pretty well:
Clarinet periodic (monthly) maintenance (YouTube)
You’ll be surprised at how easy, and how satisfying, it is to clean your own clarinet. And think of the money you’ll be saving. If you do 12 deep cleanings yourself (once a month), you’ve saved about $600!
Where to buy your clarinet cleaning supplies
If you have a local music store, they should have all the cleaning supplies that you’d need. Below, I’ve compiled a list of all the supplies that you’d need to deep clean your clarinet. You can bring this list into your local music store or you can purchase online through the handy links I’ve included. I’ve included a list of full cleaning kits below.
|Product Name||Cost||Amazon Link|
|Clarinet Duster Brush & Key Cleaner||$1.99||https://www.amazon.com/dp/B014S2UKSW?tag=frdm-20|
|Clarinet Pull-through Swab||$2.99||https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0002IL3A6?tag=frdm-20|
|All-Natural Cork Grease||$5.95||https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YJJ0JNG?tag=frdm-20|
|Microfiber Polishing Cloths (5-pack)||$6.99||https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DBSE9GS?tag=frdm-20|
|Woodwind Mouthpiece Brush||$7.19||https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002Q0WU46?tag=frdm-20|
|Clarinet Soft Cleaning Brush||$11.89||https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07R9V87DY?tag=frdm-20|
|All Purpose Key Cleaner||$8.49||https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LWGGMFI?tag=frdm-20|
Rather than purchase each cleaning supply separately, a more cost effective approach is to buy a clarinet cleaning kit. I found several on Amazon that are under $20 and have provided the links below if you’d like to see more details or are looking to buy.
|Product Name||Cost||Amazon Link|
|Herco Clarinet Care & Maintenance Kit + Key Oil||$12.64||https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0002IHFHQ?tag=frdm-20|
|Ravel Clarinet Care & Maintenance Kit||$16.29||https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0051PNY02?tag=frdm-20|
|Cecilio Clarinet Care & Maintenance Kit||$15.99||https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075DP5SMQ?tag=frdm-20|
In Summary, the Trade-offs
You want to keep your clarinet in top condition so you’ll get the best sound out of it possible. Having a local instrument professional clean it for you on a monthly basis would be convenient, they would spot any other issues with your clarinet while they were at it, but you’d be paying more. By investing a little time and money for supplies, you could do all the cleaning yourself and save money.
Whichever option you choose, with regular cleaning and maintenance, you can get more years out of your instrument. Happy playing!