A very dirty and tarnished Yamaha Bobby Shew Jazz Trumpet mouthpiece in my left hand

How to Clean A Trumpet Mouthpiece in 3 Steps

The one thing that seems to get the dirtiest is also the one thing that we put our lips on. Yes, our mouthpiece.  I’m sure you are thinking that you keep yours clean and sanitary so what’s this guide about?  Cleaning a trumpet mouthpiece is something that doesn’t take a lot of time yet is something I totally fail to do as often as I should.

A very dirty and tarnished Yamaha Bobby Shew Jazz Trumpet mouthpiece in my left hand
Kinda waited too long to clean this Yamaha Bobby Shew Jazz trumpet mouthpiece.

Table of Contents 

Here’s a video of the 3 steps for How to Clean a Trumpet Mouthpiece

Supplies to clean a trumpet mouthpiece

Here are my supplies I use to clean my trumpet mouthpiece.
  • Dish soap. I like to use Dawn regular. It is a degreaser and rinses clean.
  • Mouthpiece brush. I like the one that came in the Yamaha cleaning kit.
  • Soft cloth. I like to use a microfiber cloth like the one that came in the Yamaha cleaning kit.
  • Silver polish. I like to use 3M’s Scotchgard Tarni-shield. It has no abrasives and gets the job done quickly and easily. I don’t have to scrub very hard or very long to get things clean.

Here’s a video of the Yamaha cleaning kit that I bought from Amazon to review it.

Yamaha Trumpet Maintenance Kit review.

Step 1: Wash Your Mouthpiece

The first step is to wash your trumpet mouthpiece. Well duh, isn’t that the whole point of this article? Yes, and the first step is to wash it to remove any dirt etc. that is on the outside. The more important reason that you wash your mouthpiece with warm water and dish soap is to loosen the “debris” in the throat.

A clean and a dirty trumpet mouthpiece side by side looking at the cups. These are 2 of my favorite trumpet mouthpieces, I use the one on the right regularly.
Which one would you rather put on your face? Ugh, can’t believe I just played one of these yesterday.

This is also a great time to examine your mouthpiece to see how the finish is holding up. A trumpet mouthpiece is usually silver plated to protect us from the raw brass. If the silver (or gold) plating is wearing away and showing the raw brass underneath, it may be time to consider replacing it. See our trumpet mouthpiece guide if you are looking for a new one.

The brass our mouthpieces are made of is similar to the the brass that makes up our trumpets. This isn’t unique to trumpet mouthpieces but every brass instrument uses a brass mouthpiece. The silver plating finish (or gold plating in some cases) protects our lips from the raw brass. The reason for this is that over time, the raw brass can poison you due to the metals such as copper in the metal. I’m of course excluding special purposes mouthpieces such as plastic or nylon ones that are used in cold weather for example. That said those need cleaning too. Unfortunately silver plating is prone to tarnishing which turns the surface black. Soap and water won’t remove tarnish but wait til step 3 to see how we get rid of it.

So run your mouthpiece under some warm water. Pay attention to running water through it to help loosen any debris that is in there. Add a drop of dish soap and rub gently with your hands. The water and soap are for cleaning the outside of the mouthpiece. Dry it with a soft cloth like a microfiber cloth. I tend to stay away from paper towels as they can put very tiny scratches in the finish in soft metals like gold plating and can leave lint.

Step 2. Scrub the Inside of Your Mouthpiece

Now that that your mouthpiece is clean on the outside, time to get to cleaning the inside. This is where you’ll need a mouthpiece brush. Just like you use a brush on the end of a long flexible, ideally vinyl covered cleaning rod for cleaning your brass instrument.

My trumpet mouthpiece with a mouthpiece brush inside being held in my left hand.
A mouthpiece brush is the best way to clean the inside of a trumpet mouthpiece properly.

Run some lukewarm water through your mouthpiece. Add a drop or two of dish detergent to your mouthpiece brush and scrub the inside with an in and out motion. I like to use dish detergent to clean my trumpet and mouthpiece because they have degreasing agents and rinse off easily.

Rinse the soapy water out of your mouthpiece and check your work. It should be clean and shiny not dark and crusty. Repeat the scrubbing if the mouthpiece needs more cleaning.

A view of my trumpet mouthpiece when looking at the throat while I hold it in my right hand.
This is what you want to see after scrubbing the throat of your mouthpiece, clean and shiny !

After you are satisfied with your thorough cleaning efforts, make sure to rinse all the warm soapy water away with clean water. Dry the mouthpiece with a dry soft cloth.

Step 3: Polish Your Mouthpiece

This step can be skipped if your mouthpiece’s finish is bright and shiny. If it has some tarnish, removing it is quite simple. I found that 3M Scotchgard Tarni-Shield does a great job of removing tarnish from not only my trumpet mouthpiece but also I use it on my trumpet. I’d recommend it for any musical instrument that is silver plated. The reason is that it doesn’t have any harsh abrasives that could scratch the shiny surface of a trumpet mouthpiece or musical instrument. After cleaning, this polish cleans and best of all, protects the surface from tarnishing in the future.

Holding my trumpet mouthpiece in my right palm while I applied a little 3M Scotchgard Tarni-shield silver polish.
You don’t need much of the Tarni-shield to clean and protect your trumpet mouthpiece

Make sure to read and follow the directions on the bottle of 3M Scotchgard Tarni-Shield.

Pro tip: Put some Tarni-shield on your mouthpiece brush and scrub the inside. It’ll give it a nice shine and protect it from tarnishing as quickly in the future. Just make sure to wash it out completely.

That’s it. You are probably thinking, OMG that is disgusting. Why did this guy wait so long to clean that thing when it’s so easy to do? And you’d be right !

If you found this fun and want to continue onward, see our guide on How to clean a trumpet.

Thanks for playing along.

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