Can Saxophone Mouthpieces Be Washed In The Dishwasher?

We all want to look for the most practical and straightforward way to get jobs done. Some people are not fond of cleaning chores and could be particularly grossed out by the thought of washing their saxophone mouthpiece. They would have to do it eventually, though, which may then bring up the following question:

Can saxophone mouthpieces be washed in the dishwasher? Washing saxophone mouthpieces in a dishwasher is discouraged, as even metal mouthpieces have plastic parts that can warp or melt under the dishwasher's intense heat. Furthermore, dishwasher detergents are corrosive and can potentially harm the mouthpiece's finish.

In this article, we'll discuss the reasons you ought not to wash your mouthpiece in the dishwasher. In addition, I'll be providing you with tips on how you should go about cleaning and maintaining this important saxophone component.

Related articles:
• Top 11 Best Saxophone Brands On The Market
• Top 11 Benefits Of Learning & Playing Saxophone

How Do Dishwashers Work?

Before we analyze the suitability of dishwashers for mouthpiece cleaning, we should at least understand what dishwashers do and why we should be careful when using them for cleaning our saxophone parts and accessories. This section may be obvious, but it's worth going through.

Since the invention of dishwashers, people would get relieved from doing kitchen chores for hours. Furthermore, these appliances are extremely valuable whenever you need to clean up after a large gathering. However, as we'll see shortly, dishwashers are not infallible and can only go so far.

A dishwasher is an appliance that receives very specific instructions. You'll have to add a special detergent to a small dispenser, load the dishes, and set the cycles. After turning it on, the dishwasher will perform the commands.

This is what a dishwasher does during a cleaning session:

  • It adds water.
  • It heats the water that enters the system to an optimal temperature.
  • It opens the detergent dispenser.
  • It sprays hot water through its spray arms and drains the used water (this is done twice).
  • It blows hot air to dry the dishes (this is an optional feature).

After reading this, you may already detect a problematic element: Hot water.

Hot water is utilized often during washing tasks because heat enables the water molecules to move faster and drag stuck grime and stains with them. Hot water also has the ability to sterilize an object and free it from germs that aren't able to resist heat. Nevertheless, heat can also break down the chemical bonds in certain polymers, such as those present on most mouthpieces available on the market.

Why We Shouldn't Wash Our Saxophone Mouthpieces In The Dishwasher

As said before, most mouthpieces have polymer parts that can melt or distort under heat.

Some mouthpieces are made of ebonite, which is essentially organic vulcanized rubber (hence, with high sulphur content). This type of polymer is very resistant to heat, and it's, for this reason, employed on a plethora of electric components such as plugs. Regardless, ebonite mouthpieces are susceptible to discolouration and are liable to emit a foul sulphurous odour when exposed to hot water.

Plastic mouthpieces suffer an even worse fate, for they could melt or warp when exposed to the dishwasher's high temperatures. Admittedly, the temperatures reached during a dishwasher's cycle are not as hot as boiling water, but they can still hover around the 180º F area, which is enough to cause concern.

To learn more about mouthpiece material, check out my article Are Metal, Plastic Or Rubber Mouthpieces Better? (Woodwinds).

Some people on the web have commented how they have been able to subject their mouthpieces to a dishwasher cycle, and they would not get damaged. I would, however, suggest that you proceed with caution.

Some damages are not apparent initially, but you could start witnessing a weakened mouthpiece performance. You should be able to benchmark it against other mouthpieces to notice this.

There's another factor to be mindful of, and that is the detergent used for dishwashers. Dishwasher detergents are prone to contain alkaline salts that are very corrosive. Some modern detergents are not as alkaline, but they're not much less dangerous. In short, these chemicals should not be utilized for mouthpiece cleaning.

Finally, most often than not, dishwashers will not do all the heavy lifting in terms of cleaning. In many instances, human intervention is necessary to rid dishes of all the stuck dirt and grime. The degree to which the dishwasher is able to eliminate these impurities is wholly dependent on its particular capabilities and features.

Due to their peculiar shape, saxophone mouthpieces require additional cleaning methods to rid them of certain types of contaminants that won't loosen up easily with soap and water alone.

For example, we would have to take extra measures to eliminate limescale residues from our saliva. For this purpose, acidic chemicals may be indispensable, such as vinegar and water peroxide. Manual cleaning strategies may also be required.

For all these reasons, you're better off doing the whole cleaning yourself. Cleaning a mouthpiece is not extremely hard, and you'll probably save a lot on water and electricity as you move forward.

Related article: Can Saxophone Neck Straps Be Washed In A Washer & Dryer?

How Do We Clean A Saxophone Mouthpiece?

Saxophone mouthpieces can be cleaned with lukewarm water, dish soap, and a handy toothbrush with clean and firm bristles. I'll emphasize that the water should be lukewarm, not warm or hot. Remember what was stated earlier about heat and its effect on polymers.

To proceed, fill a sink or bucket with enough water to immerse the mouthpiece and pour some dish soap into it. Next, submerge your mouthpiece in the soapy water solution for 20 minutes.

Afterwards, withdraw the mouthpiece and rub it gently with the toothbrush. If you still find rough dirt or grease spots, submerge the mouthpiece again for a few minutes. Repeat this process until all the gunk loosens up and allows for easy removal.

For limescale removal, you would have to immerse the mouthpiece in a water and hydrogen peroxide solution for a couple of hours. However, you ought to take precautions to avoid damaging the mouthpiece's finish, so you must make sure not to leave your mouthpiece exposed to these chemicals for longer periods.

This article has been approved in accordance with the My New Microphone Editorial Policy.


Arthur is the owner of Fox Media Tech and author of My New Microphone. He's an audio engineer by trade and works on contract in his home country of Canada. When not blogging on MNM, he's likely hiking outdoors and blogging at Hikers' Movement ( or composing music for media. Check out his Pond5 and AudioJungle accounts.

Recent Posts