COVID-19 and Instrument Cleaning
The NFHS, NAfME and the NAMM Foundation recommend the following guidelines for handling musical instruments during the COVID-19 school shutdown period. These guidelines are designed for use by music educators and educators may use these guidelines when teaching students and parents how to clean instruments.
Sterilization vs. Disinfection
There is a difference between sterilization and disinfection of music instruments. Sterilization is limited in how long an instrument will remain sterile. Once an instrument is exposed to air or handled it is no longer sterile. However, disinfecting an instrument to make it safe to handle will last longer and is easier to achieve. COVID-19 like, most viruses has a limited lifespan on hard surfaces. Users of musical equipment may be more susceptible to infections from instruments that are not cleaned and maintained properly, especially if they are shared school instruments.
If the cleaning process is thorough, musical instruments can be disinfected. Basic soap and water can be highly effective in reducing the number of harmful bacteria and viruses simply by carrying away the dirt and oil that they stick to.
The NFHS, NAfME and the NAMM Foundation received information from the CDC which suggest the COVID-19 virus can remain on the following instrument surfaces for the stated amount of time:
Brass – Up to 5 Days
Wood – Up to 4 Days
Plastic – Up to 3 Days
Strings – Up to 3 Days
Cork – Up to 2 Days
The CDC recommends general cleaning techniques for instruments that have not been used or handled outside of the above timelines. Essentially, if students are picking up instruments for the first time since school has been closed, those instruments will not need more than general cleaning as stated below.
If distributing instruments for the first time since schools have closed, the NFHS and NAfME recommend, out of an abundance of caution, that all cases be sprayed with an aerosol disinfectant.
Additional guidance on general cleaning and disinfection can be found here https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/disinfecting-building-facility.html
Before distributing an instrument that has been shared, use of alcohol wipes, swabs, or disinfectant solution
to thoroughly clean both the outside and the inside of the mouthpiece is highly recommended. It is also essential to maintain overall cleanliness via the use of cleaning rods, swabs, mouthpiece brushes, etc., as this is necessary to prevent buildup of residue within the instrument.
For wood instruments any excess amount of liquid can be damaging. Please be judicious and sparing outside of the mouthpiece area that needs cleaning. In addition, certain cleaning products that can be used on the mouthpiece should not be used around the pads associated with a woodwind instrument’s keys (e.g. flute, clarinet, saxophone, etc.).
Adhering to the following procedures will help to keep mouthpieces and instruments clean and safe for continued use.
Cleaning the Flute Head Joint
Cleaning Hard Rubber and Ebony Mouthpieces
Cleaning Saxophone Necks
Cleaning Brass Instrument Mouthpieces
Cleaning String Instruments
Choosing a Disinfectant for Musical Instruments
While other potential disinfectants, including alcohol, boiling water, and bleach can be used as general disinfectants, they are not recommended for use on mouthpieces or instruments due to their potential effect on skin, plastics, and metals.
You can find EPA approved disinfectants for COVID-19 here.
You can find other NFHS COVID-19 Resources here.
Click here to download a complete PDF of this document: COVID-19 Instrument Cleaning Guidelines (NFHS, NAfME, the NAMM Foundation)
The NFHS, NAfME and the NAMM Foundation recommend the following guidelines for handling musical instruments during the COVID-19 school shutdown period.