‘Bagpipe Lung’ – Cleaning Care Advice & Gear for Wind Instruments

23rd August 2016

Many of you will have seen the recent article and report warning players of so-called ‘bagpipe lung’ infections. So, what’s the truth behind the situation and what can you do to ensure you keep your instrument clean and safe…

You don't want to know!

We’ve seen similar come out of instruments we’ve serviced in our workshops…seriously!

The BBC article stated “Trumpeters, saxophonists and pipers beware – playing a wind instrument could damage your lungs, UK doctors warn in the journal Thorax.” Now, I’m no journalist but I’m pretty sure that using the phrase ‘playing a wind instrument could damage your lungs’ is a pretty sloppy and shamelessly ‘attention grabbing’ way to start the article off. Let’s be clear there is no inherent danger in playing a wind instrument at all, the danger is actually in not cleaning your wind instrument correctly, or at all! In the same way not cleaning your kitchen, bathroom, or even your hands presents certain dangers from infections and bugs.

Sterisol Spray - Kills Bugs and Neutralises Odours Sterisol Cleaning Spray – Kills Bugs and Neutralises Odours

The short and tall of it is that leaving any wind instrument without regular cleaning is (perhaps rather obviously) a bad idea. However how seriously do people really take this? Did you know quite the extent of the damage that could be done? The moisture that gets trapped in the instrument or mouthpiece can be a breeding ground for bugs and microbes of all kinds and so we would urge you all to take care, and regularly clean your instruments out!

Top 5 Cleaning Tips for Woodwind Instruments:

  1. Dry and clean out your instrument each day by using a pull through or swab. Various materials are available including cotton, silk and chamois. We find the chamois offer the best moisture clearing.
  2. Wash the swab you are using to clean your instrument! There’s no point dragging a dirty swab through your instrument and re-applying the bugs.
  3. Use a sterilising spray like Sterisol on a regular basis to kill germs and neutralise odours.
  4. Don’t forget to clean your mouthpiece as well. A daily swab can be used and also kitchen cleaning paper can be useful. For plastic mouthpieces you can run them in warm water (being careful to keep the cork area covered), BUT if you have an ebonite (hard rubber) mouthpiece don’t use hot water, lukewarm is acceptable if used sparingly. The hot water can trigger a reaction in the rubber which will make it discolour, smell and taste bad, and can make it dangerous to use because of the sulphur reaction internally.
  5. Try and leave the case open to ‘air’ the instrument and the case internal material. Drying and cleaning your instrument (and swab) and then letting them ‘air’ is a good way to ensure it’s thoroughly dry.

Useful Links:

Clarinet Cleaning Gear

Clarinet Cleaning & Care Advice

Sax Cleaning Gear

Sax Cleaning & Care Advice

Flute Cleaning Gear

Flute Cleaning & Care Advice

Woodwind Cleaning Swabs Woodwind Cleaning Swabs – Call or email us for advice


Top 5 Cleaning Tips for Brass Instruments:

  1. Clean your mouthpiece regularly with cold soapy water and/or use a sterilising spray to help kill bugs and neutralise odours.
  2. Wash out your instrument with lukewarm soapy water. There are specific instrument soaps available, and it’s best to do this in the bath or shower…just be careful to keep hold of any small items and parts before washing, and remove any valves before washing, i.e. don’t let them near the water!
  3. Use flexible brushes to scrub through the inner tubing of your brass instrument. Many of these tubes are ‘hard to reach’ and just the flushing through of water will not be enough to remove any detritus and/or bugs.
  4. Consider using ‘Spitballs’, these are another good way to get to the hard to reach tubing of your instrument.
  5. Allow the instrument time to dry by leaving it and the case open in a safe place. This way you can be sure it is thoroughly dried out, you don’t want to put it in a closed case still wet.

Useful Links:

Trumpet/Cornet Cleaning Gear

Piston Brass Cleaning & Care Advice

Trombone Cleaning Gear

Trombone Cleaning & Care Advice

French Horn Cleaning Gear

French Horn Cleaning & Care Advice

Brass Cleaning Accessories - Call or email us for advice Brass Cleaning Accessories – Call or email us for advice