Did you know that the instrument you use every day could be teeming with bacteria and mold? A recent study published by researchers at Oklahoma State University shows that not only do brass and woodwind instruments carry many forms of bacteria, but that the bacteria on them can live for several days – even weeks!
Researchers took samples from several different instruments including saxophones, clarinets, and flutes and the results were staggering. While we all know that our mouths and hands are fervent with bacteria at any given time, we sometimes fail to thinkabout the transfer of those bacteria to our instruments. The study involved 13 different instruments, some of which had recently been played, others that had been dormant for a month. Swab samples were taken from 117 different areas on the instruments and the cases. Researchers in the study found 58 types of mold, 19 types of yeast, and 442 different bacteria (“TuneUp”). Researchers noted, "Furthermore, this study also found that many of these microbes are highly resistant to some or most of the antibiotics normally used in general practice, including methicillin," (“TuneUp”).
"Because these instruments come into contact with the mouth, its no wonder they're a breeding ground for bacteria," says dentist Cynthia Sherwood, a spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry. "As dentists, we see this same growth of bacteria in dentures, athletic mouth guards, and toothbrushes."
"Instruments should be cleaned after each use to reduce the number of organisms," said Dr. Sherwood. "And cleaning should not be confined to the mouthpiece, since the bacteria invade the entire instrument."
So what should a young musician do in order to combat this growth of germs and bacteria in their instrument? The following are recommendations from the Academy of General Dentistry:
- Wipe the instrument's mouthpiece often.
- Take the instrument apart and give it a good cleaning regularly.
- Don't let other people play your instrument.
- If you're going to play an instrument on loan from your school, ask that it be disinfected before you use it.
What can we do at Music and Arts to help you?
- We offer cleaning kits specific to your instrument and your mouthpiece starting at $15.95.
- If you are renting, and have the insurance coverage, bring your instrument in for a deep cleaning and tune up. If one is available, we can even offer you a loaner instrument for your use while yours is being cleaned and maintained.
- If you are going to play a school instrument, consider purchasing your own mouthpiece.
- Check our events schedule regularly, as we hold free monthly classes on caring for and cleaning your instrument taught by our experts.
Thankfully, taking these few measures will help keep your instrument not only in top playing condition, but keep you healthy as well!
"TUNE UP: For Better Health." Current Health Kids 35.1 (2011): 5. Primary Search. Web. 29 Aug. 2013.