How to Clean an Instrument Case

open clarinet instrument case on table with clarinet inside. the case is dirty and we need to know how to clean an instrument case

How to Clean an Instrument Case

by | Mar 14, 2022 | School Band Instruments

Caring for your instrument is an essential part of being a responsible musician, no matter your level. Instrument care includes keeping your instrument case clean. Cases that are dirty can start to grow mold that can cause damage to your instrument, not to mention it will begin to give off an unpleasant smell. Here are some tips for how to clean an instrument case that will have your case like new again!

When Should I Clean an Instrument Case?

If you’ve purchased a brand new instrument, the case should be squeaky clean. You can extend the life of your case and instrument by always putting your instrument away after properly cleaning it when you’re finished playing. Depending on your instrument, that could mean emptying spit valves, running a cloth through the body, wiping off oil from your fingers, and drying the mouthpiece. Over time however, a case will still need to be cleaned or you might start to notice a “funky” smell or it can start to look visibly dirty. Dirt inside your case could leave scratches on your instrument. If you have a used instrument, there is no telling when the last time the case was cleaned. So even if the used instrument is new to you, cleaning it’s case will give you a fresh start. 

Steps for How to Clean an Instrument Case

Remove Everything from the Case

Don’t leave behind any valve oil, reeds, cork grease, or sheet music. Having an empty case will allow you to see where there could be dirt hiding. Gather up your cleaning supplies:

  • Vacuum or lint roller
  • A few clean cloths
  • A clean dry sponge
  • Mild detergent 

Tips Before Your Begin:

A few beginner tips on how to clean an instrument case; If you’ve never cleaned your instrument case before, when using the cleaning solutions, do a test spot first in an inconspicuous area to make sure it won’t cause any damage to the material. Avoid getting anything too wet or you will soon have a smelly case again. 

Vacuum the Case

If you have a handheld vacuum cleaner, this should work great to get into the nooks and crannies or your instrument case. A full-sized vacuum with a hose and angled attachment will work great as well. If you don’t have access to a vacuum, a lint roller can be used to lift most of the dirt, hairs, and debris out of the case. 

Find a Cleaning Solution

Here is where you will want to use some caution. Avoid grabbing the first cleaner you can find under the sink. Instruments cases are generally lined with a soft material, which could be made out of a variety of things. If you know what the case interior is made of, look for a mild cleaning solution meant for that specific material. If you aren’t sure, start with something very mild that is safe for most materials. Two fairly safe options are Dawn dish soap or a mild laundry detergent, which will be diluted with water. 

Start Wiping the Interior

Follow the directions of the cleaning solution you have chosen. If you are using a dish soap or laundry detergent, mix 1 drop with a cup of warm water. Wet a clean cloth with the solution and wring out as much water as possible. You want to avoid getting the interior soaking wet because it may not dry out quickly and start to grow mold. Wipe out the case, getting into all the nooks and crannies. If you find a spot with some stuck dirt, grab a clean toothbrush and gently work on that area until it’s clean. Rinse your cloth with clean water, or get a fresh one if it’s too dirty, wring it out again, and give the interior another wipe to remove any leftover soap residue. Repeat this part if needed. Then, grab a dry, clean sponge and press it into all areas of the case to soak up the bulk of the remaining moisture. 

Clean the Exterior of the Case

Once you’ve cleaned the inside of the case, you can move on to the exterior. 

Hardshell Cases

If you have a hardshell case, using a mild cleaning spray should do the trick. Spray it onto a clean towel and wipe (rather than spraying directly onto the case). Otherwise, using a mixture of Dawn dish soap and water should be safe for most hardshell cases. Similar to the interior cleaning process, you can dip your cloth into the soapy water and wring it out as much as possible. Wipe it down thoroughly, and follow that up with a clean cloth dampened with just water to remove soap residue. 

Fabric Exterior Cases

For cases that have a fabric exterior, you can use a similar process that you used for the interior of the case. Instead of vacuuming, though, you can simply brush any dirt or hair off the case, then follow that up with the mild detergent mixture, a clean damp cloth, and a clean dry sponge. Again, avoid getting the case too wet or it may not dry out fully. 

Leather Exterior Cases

The process for how to clean an instrument case with a leather exterior should follow basic leather cleaning procedures. You can use a cleaning solution made specifically for leather or do a test spot using the Dawn dish soap cleaning solution. 

Let the Case Dry Out

Once your case is all cleaned up, you will want to give it plenty of time to dry out. Leave the case open in a well-ventilated room. Use a fan if you have one available to help speed up the drying process. Avoid using hot air to dry the case, as this could melt synthetic materials or cause leather to crack. Don’t place your instrument back in the case until the interior is completely dry. 

Need Your Instrument or Case Repaired? Call CIOMIT!

We love instruments! We understand the financial and sentimental value that these beautiful music makers hold, and we don’t take that lightly! We handle your instruments with precious care through every part of the repair process. That includes your instrument case! Stop by, visit the website, or give us a call at 303-663-4084!