How to Clean or Sterilize Harmonicas

Updated November 21, 2016

The harmonica, also known as the mouth harp, is a reed instrument that was predominately popular among blues musicians in the 20th century. However, rock musicians such as John Popper and Tom Petty have favoured the instrument as well. Regardless of what music you play and enjoy, the harmonica is an easy instrument to maintain. The harmonica rarely needs to be cleaned and the cleaning techniques are quick and simple to execute.

Run lukewarm water through the harmonica.

Rap the harmonica, mouthpiece-side down, against your palm until the instrument stops dripping excess water.

Remove any remaining excess water by playing full-mouth chords on the harmonica. Play about five notes to clear the water.

Wipe down the outside of the harmonica with a lint-free cloth.

Tap the harmonica against the palm of your hand five times.

Wipe the entire outside structure of the harmonica with a lint-free cloth.

Play full-mouth chords on the harmonica with a clean, dry mouth to blow out any excess dust or debris.

Disassemble the harmonica using a screwdriver. The appropriate screwdriver will depend on the brand of harmonica and the screws used in constructing the instrument. Store screws and nuts in a small plastic bag.

Spray the comb, cover plates and reed plates with hydrogen peroxide.

Allow the hydrogen peroxide to remain on the parts for a few minutes.

Wipe the parts with a lint-free cloth to remove any leftover hydrogen peroxide.

Re-assmeble the harmonica.


Running water through a harmonica with a metal or wood comb will damage the material. Do not dip or soak the harmonica in water regardless of the comb material as this can damage the harmonica and cause swelling in the wood.

Things You'll Need

  • Lint-free cloth
  • Water
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Spray bottle
  • Screwdriver
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