Hohner Key

How should I clean my harmonica?

I have an M. Hohner Key of C harmonica, with an A440 stamped on it. The higher keys are nearly impossible to make a pitch in them, I'm thinkin because it's dirty. How do I clean it?

Warning: work on the insides of a harmonica at your own risk!

This doesn't apply to chromatic harmonicas - they're very different inside.

First take the covers off. If it's a Marine Band they're held on with nails - otherwise probably screws. Put everything in a small teacup so you don't lose nails/screws.

Now, write T on the top reed plate and B on the bottom reed plate with a Sharpie marker BEFORE you take them off. If any reeds are broken off then your harmonica is garbage unless it's worth $75 or more to replace. It's just not worth the cost of repairing it, get a new one. (my opinion, some people don't agree and like repairing their reeds - it's not beginner work)

You need three bowls big enough to submerge your reed plates into. One with clear, room temp water. One with white vinegar. One with room temp water and 1 TBSP of baking soda (mixed in well).

Remove your reed plates carefully (don't bend the reeds, they're touchy) and blow off any debris you find. Soak each one in the vinegar solution then the baking soda solution for about 5 minutes each. Then swish it around the clean water until clean. [The vinegar removes deposits but is an acid. The baking soda neutralizes the acid. The water rinses it clean.] You can repeat this process a couple times if needed but that vinegar acid dip is bad if done too many times.

While it's soaking, clean the comb.

If the comb is wood then DO NOT get it wet. Period. No "ifs". Don't be tempted. Just don't do it. A wooden comb will swell A LOT and be ruined if you get it wet. Just wipe it down and carefully scrape away any deposits of gunk and debris. Did I mention "Don't get it wet!" [some people, in the old days, used to dip their wooden harmonicas in whiskey to disinfect them. I've never tried it and don't suggest it. But, some people swear by it.]

If it's plastic (most are these days) then you can soak it in dish water (NOT HOT!) and take a soft bottle brush to it.

If it's sealed wood then you can wipe it with a lightly damp cloth but don't soak it or scrub it. [sealed wood is shiny]

==[don't forget you have reed plates soaking in acid while you're doing this]==

Let all of the parts completely air dry on a clean (no lint) towel and then reassemble it. [see why we wrote T and B on the reed plates now?]

That's it, a clean and disinfected harmonica.


Now, if while you're in there you find that you need some repair or adjustments; that's not simple enough to cover here in answers. And, if you're not really careful with those reeds, you'll create the need for a repair. Don't scrub the reed plates or you'll bend a reed.

There are instruction sites online all over for learning how to adjust and repair a harmonica. Don't do it with one you care about while you're learning.

PS: If your harmonica is something along the lines of a Blues Band model - just buy a new one. They're only $6 and they wear out pretty easily.

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